Belpre's head boys basketball coach Jordan Thornhill and sophomore point guard Jake Ullman have been selected as the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division Coach of the Year and co-Player of the Year, respectively.
The Golden Eagles, in Thornhill's very first year as a high school head coach, went 15-6 and won the TVC Hocking.
Ullman, who shared Player of the Year honors with Southern's Andrew Roseberry, thought ''it fit for both of us to be honored together, because he's worked with me a lot.''
Ullman, Belpre's leading scorer and assist leader this past season, has been tutored by Thornhill ''for about five years now and we have a pretty good relationship, both on the court and off,'' said the coach. ''When we step on the court, it's strictly a player-coach relationship. But the minute practice or a game ends, he's like a brother.''
Thornhill was ''not surprised'' by Ullman's Player of the Year nod, because ''the work that he's put in beats everybody. He spends hour after hour on his shooting, his ball-handling and his footwork.''
''Jake was very coachable this year - he wanted to learn, he wanted to get better. He made huge strides on both ends of the floor, and may have been our most improved player defensively.
The TVC Hocking is comprised of nine teams, and ''there's a lot of juniors and seniors that were deserving of the award,'' said Thornhill. ''But this year, Jake was the most deserving player. He was best all-around player on the best team and the fact that we won the league didn't hurt.
''But being the Player of the Year as just a sophomore, he should be proud and I'm pretty proud of him too because I feel like I'm a part of it, since I've been able to help him get to where he is now.
''He shot a high percentage from the field, he limited his turnovers, he was just solid. He wasn't fantastic yet, but he will be at some point in his career.''
Ullman said the POY award ''inspires me to work even harder next year, because I want to go out there and prove that I deserved it.''
To which Thornhill added that ''over the next two years, I want him to become a great all-around player - not just a scorer - and he wants to do that too.''
Thornhill won more than twice as many games this year as Belpre did last season, but credits assistant coach Todd Engle with making some of that happen too. ''We wouldn't have won as many games as we did if it wasn't for Todd,'' said Thornhill. ''He gave us a little bit of a tougher edge. What I was lacking, he brought.''
Thornhill was ''happy'' with his award, ''because there's some very good coaches in this league,'' singling out such coaching peers as longtime Eastern coach Howie Caldwell, now at Federal Hocking, Tom Simms at Waterford and Jeff Caldwell from Southern, ''all of whom I respect.''
''But you have to have good players to be a good coach, and I definitely have those.
''I'm happy for Jake, and for Dakota (Hoffman) and Drew (Nestor) too, as they were also first-team All-TVC (Hocking) selections.''
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org