Persistence pays of for Ashtabula grad Aponte
By CHRIS LARICK
Determined to play college basketball but hindered by his family’s financial situation, Carlos Aponte wasn’t about to leave his fate in the hands of other people.
So Aponte took action. He went to the guidance office at Ashtabula High School and laboriously copied down information about college coaches from three-by-five filing cards.
Using the information gleaned there, Aponte made personal contact with the coaches.
“That got me a few phone calls,” he said.”It was a long process. There weren’t a lot of offers. But by the end of the year, two colleges showed an interest. Bob Huggins, who coached Walsh at the time, said he’d visit, but wanted to wait until the basketball season was over. Meanwhile, the coach at Dyke College, Michael Friedman, in Cleveland called and came down for one of my tournament games. I had 36 points and 15 or so rebounds, the best game I ever had. He called me that week and offered me a scholarship.”
Waiting for Walsh’s offer, Aponte, the son of Emilia and Domingo Aponte, didn’t accept immediately. But when all that school could come up with was a half-scholarship, his course was decided. Aponte would be a Dyke Demon.
Aponte had enjoyed a fine career for Ashtabula’s Panthers, then under the tutelage of ACBF Hall of Fame player and coach Bob Walters.
“He was very astute in the fundamentals of the game,” Aponte said of Walters. “For me personally, learning the fundamentals of how to shoot, dribble, set picks and play defense — all those things — were the basis of my going forward in the sport.”
At the time (Aponte graduated in 1985), there was no shortage of basketball talent at Ashtabula High School, and Aponte had to wait his turn. By his junior year, though, he was starting alongside Terence Hanna, Louis Taylor and Terry Thompson. That group took the Panthers to the brink of the Northeastern Conference championship that year. Only a loss to Madison in the last game of the season prevented a title.
“We had mixed success my senior year,” Aponte said. “Edgewood and Geneva beat us out. Those two teams lost only to each other and Ashtabula. We beat a lot of teams, but couldn’t sustain it. We had lost a little size from the last year. We played as hard as we could and made a run at it.”
Aponte and his siblings had been encouraged to take part in athletics from a very young age.
“My mother was all about ball sports,” he said. “She got me and my sister and brother involved. (Youth) basketball was not as well organized as it is today. I remember losing at basketball when I first started in elementary school. In sixth grade I’d run and run, shooting and passing the basketball. When I got to junior high I wanted to try out for the basketball team. I used to go down to the West Street courts. The kids were all bigger. The littler kids (like me) couldn’t play ’til the sun went down.
“In the seventh and eighth grades I tried to play against the high school kids. Playing with older kids helps you learn the game a little better.”
Aponte also played midget league and football with his mother’s encouragement.
“She was the greatest spectator in Ashtabula County,” Aponte laughs. “Me and my brother (Jason) and sister (Maria) all did ball sports.
When he was a freshman, Aponte broke his foot playing football and didn’t play that game anymore. He did continue playing basketball and baseball all through high school. In baseball he played first base and was voted all-county his senior year, batting over .400. He would later try out for the Cincinnati Reds when they recruited in Ashtabula County and made the first cut. But he didn’t get a contract.
“My baseball dreams ended right there,” he said.
In basketball he deferred to Hanna as a junior, averaging about 12 points and 10 rebounds and making second-team all-county and all-conference. But he became the main scorer after Hanna graduated and averaged about 20 points and 15 rebounds as a senior, earning first-team honors.
That raised his stock so that he received the scholarship offers from Walsh and Dyke.
Ten games into his freshman year, he became a starter with the Demons.
“That year we made the national finals of the NLCAA (National Little College Athletic Association),” Aponte said. “In the championship game we lost to Bristol College in Tennessee. I started at center at 6-foot-5 or 6-6, playing against guys 7-feet or 6-10. I started the last three seasons as well. I ended up as the second al-time leading rebounder with 1,046 rebounds and fourth-leading scorer with 1,471 points.
Dyke later became Myers University, then, after a financial scandal, Chancellor University.
“They discontinued the sports program, so I’m probably to this day the second-leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer,” Aponte said. “I’m only the second player in school history to get 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.”
His sophomore and senior years (1987 and 1989) he was named to the NLCAA All-American team with 14 other players and went on a tour to Caribbean islands like Aruba and Curacao, playing teams there.
Aponte majored in marketing at Dyke, a business school. His first job was around Cleveland with a company called Captain Tony’s, a chain of restaurants. In 1992 he moved to Chicago and work at the Lodge Management Group, a night club chain. Then, in 1996, he returned to Ashtabula County to take a job with Premix, which is now named A. Schulman, where he now serves as Global Key Account Manager.
“This is the best job I ever had,” he said.
He played basketball in summer leagues for a while after graduation, including a stint on a team that included former Cleveland Cavalier Ron Harper. He also played recreation league softball.
As a child, his dad had taken him to the races at Raceway 7. At some point, his interest in racing rekindled.
“I was talking with my wife (Kimberly) 10 or 12 years ago and she said I should try it,” Aponte said. “I bought a car and we worked on it. I got out on the track and (raced) for 10 years. I won the track championship at Raceway 7 in 2009. It was a neat experience, very enjoyable.”
Carlos and Kimberly (nee Luce, who also played basketball at Ashtabula), a teacher, have two children: Ayden, 19, a freshman at Kent State University; and Carly, a senior at Lakeside, who plays basketball for the girls team there.
“She has had a good career there,” Aponte said of Carly. “She has 885 career points.” Carly had also amassed 814 rebounds and 284 blocked shots at the time of this writing (with two games remaining in her career). “She could be (Lakeside’s) leading rebounder.”
Carlos’s brother, Jayson once scored 43 points in a game, an Ashtabula High School record. Carlos himself holds the rebounding record for rebounds with 26 in a game.
“I got 26 on 6-9 Fred Galle, who played for Edgewood,” Carlos said. “He works for A. Schulman too. Of course I brag it up.
“My daughter had 21 rebounds the other night. I thought, ‘You’d better stop. I don’t want you to get 26.’ “
Carlos dunking over St. John’s Steve Petro, at victory lane at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, with Lakeside AD Michael Cochran, Carly, and wife, Kimberly