Toledo Basketball Diaries

In the Fall of 2010 I stepped foot on the campus of Bowling Green State University for only the third time ever, ready to embark on my college experience in an area that quite frankly I didn’t know anything about. With my best friend as my roommate and with an already present and continually growing passion for basketball at both the High School and college levels, I thought up E Hoops Ohio, a website and platform I could use to share my passion with whoever would care to listen. At this time my ‘connections’ if I had any at all were in the Dayton and Columbus areas, two places I still consider home to this day. It was through sheer luck that what I had to offer was discovered by the wonderful people of Northwest Ohio.

Where my roots began to dig deep was a quick drive down the road from my dorm room on campus, to Bowling Green High School. It just so happened the recruiting geek that I was and still am, I had checked the ESPN.com recruiting database and noticed two kids on the list played in town; LaMonta Stone II and Vitto Brown. Soon after I attended my first game at BGHS as they played host to Perrysburg, I can admit at the time I had no idea where Perrysburg was. Using a video camera that had been ‘donated’ to me in the winter time from my mom and grandma I filmed my first game from the bleachers. Right then I was hooked. I became a staple of sorts in that gym and because of great people like then BGHS Coach Von Graffin, and BGSU Assistant Coach at the time LaMonta Stone introducing themselves to a shy 19 year old, I began to meet and connect with people in Northwest Ohio and Toledo.My videos continued to be my ‘go to’ in the coming seasons over the next two years and producing highlight tapes allowed me to make even more connections. I began to realize there was much more great basketball to be had in the area and would MapQuest gyms daily to take in games whenever I could. By this time Vitto Brown had become a name in Ohio, gathering offers from Big Ten schools, however, he was overshadowed by two young men named Marc Loving and Nigel Hayes in Toledo. What a time to be alive right? Needless to say I found myself in the Titan Dome at Toledo St. Johns and the Sullivan Center at Toledo Central Catholic, as well as numerous other gyms across the area. All the while I was continuing to gain more traffic on my website and gain more attention on social media. My networking skills began to polish themselves up and my connections continued to grow as I still had a presence in Columbus and Dayton, as well as Northwest Ohio, from Lima to Toledo.As one can imagine, trying to cover this big of an area can be quite the task, especially for a 20 year old full-time college student. So as if I wasn’t busy enough, I decided to coach an AAU team of 17 year olds in Columbus. Driving to Columbus and back on Tuesday and Thursday nights began to take its toll and I eventually had to step down, but what an experience it was while it lasted. It was around this time that a few other young men such as myself began to get in the business of basketball, they were from Columbus and began to cover that area better than I ever could, and so my focuses began to shift on my ‘backyard’ of Toledo and Northwest Ohio in general. My connections and quite frankly my bravery continued to grow, as I can be a bit shy by nature to those I don’t know. Now I was venturing to games in the City League, attending showcases in Lima, and still cementing my spot along the baseline of that BGHS gymnasium. I was meeting players, coaches, parents, and fans on a regular basis and was humbled beyond belief.College basketball coaches have always been my heroes of sorts, you have your celebrities in music and television, mine were college basketball coaches; still are. Anyways, you can imagine how struck I was getting to rub shoulders and hold conversations with guys like Louis Orr, the coach of BGSU at the time, a legend in his own right playing at Syracuse University and eventually the New York Knicks. You can throw the previously mentioned LaMonta Stone into this category as well. I didn’t know it at the time initially, but he had served as Assistant Coach at the Ohio State University prior to coming to town, and coached Brent Darby at River Rouge High School in Detroit before that. Darby just so happened to be one of the favorite players of a young teenage Ethan Knopp.Eventually this staff here would be let go and a new one would be brought in, through a late night Facebook message I was invited by new Assistant Coach Mark Downey to the BGSU basketball offices as this new staff got settled in. So the following morning I may or may not have skipped a class, and I walked to the Stroh Center and took a seat in the office of a DI coach for the first time. Could this really be happening I thought to myself? Yes it was; a dream. Over the following year these visits became pretty regular as I got to know the entire staff and was even one of two individuals not directly tied to the team that was asked to help at camps that summer. While all this was going on I was continuing to cover Northwest Ohio and Toledo as best I could, while building relationships that will last a lifetime. Now I could show up in virtually any gym in Toledo and know somebody, a pretty special feeling. Kids began to recognize my face, know my name, interact with me, and relationships continued to be developed and grow. It is in these moments that I experience the greatest fulfillment.It has since become bigger than basketball and that my friends, is what this whole thing is all about. I have had the opportunity to play a key role and be a vital piece in numerous young men realizing their dreams of playing college basketball and that has been more than anything I could have ever asked for out of this thing. Unfortunately, as many of us know, basketball and sports in general is one of the main ways young people in Toledo can escape their sometimes unfortunate surroundings. ‘Getting out’ is a familiar term we have all grown accustomed to. I certainly haven’t pursued this for money or fame, but for every young man that may read this or that I have had the chance to get to know and help over the years. Over the years I have had many chances to leave the area and start a new beginning in one of the many places I consider home as I mentioned previously in this article, but at the end of the day, right now for me, this is home.This is my story of Toledo basketball and my path from an unknown, shy teenager; to whatever it is I may be considered now. I came up with the idea for this website so that the many others could have a platform to share their story. Those of you that grew up in Toledo may not realize how special and how rich the culture and basketball community of the area is now, and you may not realize it tomorrow, but someday you will. It has allowed me to live a dream and for that I will forever be thankful.
Your friend in Toledo and Northwest Ohio basketball,
Ethan Knopp