After posting a 4-16 overall record in 2009-10, the Marietta High boys basketball team bounced back with a 15-7 mark this past winter.
One of the reasons for the Tigers turnaround can be traced back to the development of 6-foot-11 pivot player Jon Sewell. He got his confidence and appeared to get better and better in every game as the season progressed.
"It's hard work, working all through the summer and everything - and trying to get some weight down," said Sewell after scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 boards to help MHS defeat Gallia Academy 56-37 in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League game at Suttom Gym on Jan. 29.
All that hard has paid off in a big way as Sewell has decided to continue his education and play basketball at nearby Ohio Valley University. On Wednesday in a signing ceremony in Sutton Gym, he inked a National Letter of Intent to attend the Vienna, W.Va.-based school. Sewell said he will be receiving a scholarship, "half athletic and half academic."
"I wanted to stay close to home, to family, and to the hometown fans," Sewell said. "I like the coaches over there."
OVU is an NCAA Division II school and a member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC). The Matt Snell-coached Fighting Scots were 8-19 last season and have not enjoyed a winning campaign on the hardwood since 1995.
One of Snell's assistants this past winter was Ben Howlett, a former Marietta Tiger basketball standout.
"It'll definitely be a lot tougher in college," Sewell said. "You have to prepare more."
Sewell is planning to major in special education at OVU.
"I'd like to come back to teach and coach at Marietta," Sewell said.
At 6-11, Sewell could have an immediate impact at OVU.
"If Jon puts the time in and does what he's asked of, he can contribute there," said MHS head boys basketball coach J.D. Secrest. "The West Virginia Conference is a very athletic-oriented league, and Jon has shown here (at Marietta) that he can get up and down the court for an extended period of minutes and be a factor."
Sewell averaged 8 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks per game in his senior season at Marietta. Against visiting Athens on Dec. 23, 2010, he scored a season-high 18 points and collected eight rebounds in a 71-63 Tiger triumph
Defensively in the paint, Sewell's very capable of altering or blocking opponents' shots, and discouraging guard penetration.
Offensively, Sewell could be a force to be reckoned with in the low blocks. He also has a nice baby hook, and can knock down a medium-ranged jumper to keep defenders honest.
"This is good for our program, for a young man to be able to continue his career at the next level," Secrest said. "He's worked very hard, and we're extremely proud of him. His stamina and endurance really improved during the year.
"In the second half of the season, he became a force at both ends of the floor. He's probably going to be one of the toughest kids for us to replace."