We’re a week removed from the circus being in town, and Vermilion administrators and coaches had nothing but positive things to say about the show.
Lavar Ball, his son, Lamelo, several national media outlets, and the rest of SPIRE Institute’s Division I-ready roster visited Vermillion last weekend for the school’s Athletic Booster Club Tip-off Tournament, and left the place just as they found it.
Having seen the commotion caused elsewhere by the Ball family, Vermilion will take it.
Sailors coach Kurt Habermehl said there were no logistical issues caused by the larger-than-usual crowds, which neared capacity each night; he credited Athletic Director Andy Stillman with preparing the school and volunteers for the attention brought on by SPIRE’s presence.
Stillman said those national media outlets included Slam, Deadspin, Overtime, Bleacher Report, Ball Is Life (YouTube channel with 2 million subscribers), Mars Reel Media and Ball in the Family (reality TV show on Facebook). Lavar Ball, meanwhile, was hospitable to fans who wanted to meet the larger-than-life personality, whose oldest son, Lonzo, plays with LeBron James for the Lakers.
“The Balls were fantastic,” Habermehl said. “You hear a lot of negative things about Lavar, but he was a class act all weekend. He signed a ton of autographs, took a lot of pictures, and even gave our student-run media group a great interview. We had zero issues with them.”
And there’s the matter of the on-court action: SPIRE beat up on Bay, a perennial standout in Northeast Ohio, before Vermilion took it to a young Oberlin squad in Friday’s nightcap. On Saturday, the Sailors hung with SPIRE until midway through the fourth quarter, which pleased Habermehl.
SPIRE led by eight at half and 12 after three, and to get most of his roster experience against a team the caliber of SPIRE’s, Habermehl subbed in reserves for the remaining moments. In addition to Lamelo Ball, SPIRE boasted several other Division I commitments and recruits, including Mark Watts (Michigan State) and 6-foot-9 Isaiah Jackson, who has multiple offers from blue-chip college programs.
At one point, Habermehl said, SPIRE had five players on the court standing 6-3, 6-6, 6-7, 6-9 and 6-11.
“We didn’t stack up height-wise at all, but we played with them for over three quarters,” Habermehl said. “Our kids gained a lot of confidence playing a team like that and staying with them for as long as we did. Our kids were never intimidated during the game.”
Habermehl heaped praise on SPIRE and its players, who despite their lofty status, were respectful as they were talented. The Sailors hit a school-record 14 3-pointers, and committed just 16 turnovers against SPIRE’s constant, full-court pressure.
“(SPIRE players) were great. They just played,” Habermehl said. “(Vermilion standout) Mason Montgomery said it was the experience of a lifetime.”
Vermilion also received a jolt from the return of senior leader Seth Hurd; Hurd, one of the top point guards in the area, earned some minutes after coming back from a broken leg in Week 3 of the football season. He had surgery eight weeks ago, in which doctors inserted a plate in his leg; there was fear he’d be out the entire season. He started against Oberlin in the Sailors’ first game.