Jun. 10—NEW BOSTON — At his signing ceremony, inside the Tigers' den of Homer Pellegrinon Gymnasium and one day before New Boston's commencement exercises, a blonde-haired — and care-free — Kyle Sexton spoke about playing college basketball in the same way he played his high school game.
Smooth, free-flowing, and right to the point.
"Ah, goodness. It all feels great, and I wish we still could have won a state championship ring, but we have been to places where New Boston boys basketball hasn't been to or seen in a long time," said Sexton. "I'm just glad I was a part of bringing the program back to life. It's been amazing."
But, not only was Sexton part of four Tiger teams as New Boston boys basketball revived itself, but he was indeed the top Tiger — in a six-man regular rotation with several standouts.
Now, Sexton — the two-time Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year and Ohio's Division IV Player of the Year as selected by the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association — takes his all-around game from the Scioto Valley to the Ohio Valley, as in Ohio Valley University for the Fighting Scots.
That's because Sexton — in front of his Tiger teammates, his mother Melody and New Boston boys basketball head coach Adam Cox —spoke to the assembled crowd, and officially announced his intention to play for OVU, which is moving from the NCAA Division II level to the NAIA.
Sexton signed that same day alongside Tiger teammate Tanner Voiers, who will continue his basketball career at Kentucky Christian University (see related story).
As for his decision to attend OVU in Vienna, W. Va., which is just outside of Parkersburg and can be compared to the short distance from New Boston to Portsmouth, Sexton said it was simple —despite strong interest expressed from such schools as the University of Rio Grande, Ashland University, Tiffin University and various NCAA Division III programs.
Sexton will now play for Fighting Scots' head coach Mike Snell, whom the future Fighting Scot emphasized was "a big (West Virginia University head coach) Bob Huggins fan."
"They (OVU) showed that they believed in me, they offered me a full-ride scholarship, and they wanted me to come in there and try to make an impact as soon as I get there. Plus it's a small school like New Boston, they are a smaller Division II school," said Sexton. "I was 12 years old and I told myself that I wanted to be a college basketball player. I wanted to make it to the next level and compete and see what I could do."
Actually, as OVU announced at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year, the Fighting Scots have left the NCAA Division II's Great Midwest Athletic Conference —and in February were granted provisional membership in the River States Conference, pending the NAIA's final approval.
With the inclusion of OVU, which will be made official on July 1, the RSC will have 15 member institutions representing five states — Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
OVU will be immediately eligible for conference and national postseason competition for the 2021-22 academic year.
For Sexton, that's more opportunities to collect even more hardware.
Standing six-foot and five-inches tall, the senior Sexton ran the point, shot from the wing, played in the post, and put up consistent — and strong — scoring and rebounding numbers night after night.
He was the two-time Southeast District Division IV POY, and thus was a strong candidate for twice winning the state's top player honor —which he rightfully won with April's announcement.
Sexton became just the third boys player from all of Scioto County to win state POY accolades, joining Portsmouth's (in Division III) Dion McKinley in 2012 and Ky're Allison in 2016 as the only others.
This season, in fact, Sexton spearheaded New Boston's boys postseason tournament run —all the way to the Division IV state semifinals where the talented and highly-touted Tigers lost 58-53 against Columbus Grove.
For the second straight season, he averaged at least 19 points per game —posting a 21.4 points per game average over the opening 21 games.
The Tigers, in winning their second-ever regional championship but first since clear back in 1960, ended the season at 24-3.
He also set the Tigers' new career scoring record at 1,707 points in their regional championship win over Hiland, and finished his decorated New Boston career with 1,721 points — while also averaging 13 rebounds and seven assists per game in his senior campaign.
"Kyle has meant so much to this program. His work ethic and his dedication to being a Tiger started day one when he was here. We were here in the gym sometimes six o'clock in the morning doing workouts, and dreaming of being state Player of the Year, dreaming of making it to the Final Four, dreaming of being the school's all-time leading scorer. Watching him achieve all of those goals has been amazing," said Cox. "He and Tanner (Voiers) are two amazing kids, two great young men, two great teammates and were dedicated to making those sacrifices needed for our program to be successful. That's the most important thing I am proud of them about. The chemistry that they wanted, wins more than anything, is what makes them special."
Sexton's four years as a Tiger featured back-to-back outright and undefeated Southern Ohio Conference Division I championships, two Elite Eight appearances in three seasons, and finally the Final Four this year.
Oh, and the Tigers captured 82 wins in a four-year span, which is an average of over 20 per season.
"Ah man. I'm gonna love to look back on it. I can't wait until I'm about 30 years old sitting around with my friends talking about it," he said. "We just had an amazing journey with all the ups and downs. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
But now his journey takes him across the mighty Ohio River, and into the Ohio Valley, where he should settle in as a wing or even a shooting guard for Snell.
Sexton said he is actually looking forward to being a newcomer, and not exactly the go-to scorer, rebounder or even distributor.
"I'm going to be a wing, either a 2-guard or 3-guard. I'm really excited because here in our conference (SOC I), in the regular season, I could usually be the big man, go out and get my 20 points per night and we win by 20 points," said Sexton. "Now it feels like I am going to be a freshman again, and do what I have to do to get on the court. My freshman year, I rebounded the crap out of the ball, and I led the team in charges taken. That's how I knew I was going to get on the court then, and that's the same approach I'm taking now. Do what I have to do to get out there and help us win."
And, Sexton pretty much did it all at New Boston —and is "excited about going to college" and transcending his outstanding overall game even more.
He said he will enter OVU as undecided upon a major, but is considering one of three areas of study — Special Education, Accounting or Business.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved