Center of attention
All it took was arrival of HOFer Jon Hall to unleash Edgewood’s Jeff Cicon
By KARL PEARSON
There is probably a time for every athletic program that can be pinpointed as the factor that laid the foundations for whatever successes it enjoyed thereafter.
When Jon Hall arrived at Edgewood High School to coach its boys basketball team for the 1979-80 basketball season, the Warriors hadn’t enjoyed any real success on the court since the 1964-65 season when Ashtabula County Basketball Hall of Famer Dan Foster led them to the district finals. In fact, in the prior two seasons, Edgewood had won just six games for the late Dave Cline.
But Hall changed all of that. In the course of that one season, the Warriors achieved what is still the greatest one-year turnaround in Ashtabula County boys basketball history, leading them to a 20-3 season for a 16-game improvement, a Northeastern Conference championship and a spot in the Class AAA district tournament at Euclid High School.
One of the key elements of that transformation was Hall’s realization that the Warriors possessed a difference maker in 6-foot-4 senior Jeff Cicon. Until that point, Cicon had been regarded as a good player, but Hall molded him into a great player, a force as a terrific inside scorer, rebounder and defender.
JEFF CICON of Edgewood powers to the rack during a game at Geneva during the Warriors' NEC championship season of 1979-80.
“Jeff was a leader before I got there, but he was looking for some direction,” Hall, an inaugural member of the ACBF Hall of Fame, said. “The thing about Jeff was that if you showed him something, he was willing to learn. He really paid attention. He really worked.
“Jeff was a sponge. He was hungry for knowledge. He was probably one of the smartest players I coached. He picked up the fundamentals so quickly.”
Cicon remembers taking in Hall’s direction. What he craved most was discipline, and Hall gave it to the Warriors.
“It was more or less his way or the highway,” the 48-year-old Cicon recalled. “I needed that discipline. I really needed it because I loved basketball.”
Through the iron of Hall’s will, Edgewood became what Cicon truly desired — a team.
“We played unselfish basketball,” he said. “I think I was a good player and a smart player, but it was all about all five of us on the court.”
Cicon appreciates the fact the 1979-80 Warriors have set the standard for turning basketball at any Ashtabula County school around.
“I thought finding out we’d had the biggest turnaround was special,” he said. “I never realized it was 16 games.”
He is truly proud when it is noted that his Warriors set the stage for the achievements of future fine Edgewood teams coached by Al Goodwin, Dick Heath, Tim Essig, Al Runyan and Kevin Andrejack. At the same time, no Edgewood team has reached the 20-victory plateau since, not even Heath’s 1991-92 Warriors who reached the regional tournament.
“I am proud that we laid the foundation for what happened later at Edgewood,” he said.
But, when the subject of Cicon’s induction into the ACBF Hall of Fame on April 10 is brought up, he reverts to the notion that it was not by his efforts alone that he has achieved that status.
“It’s a great honor, but I wouldn’t be inducted without my teammates,” he said.
Cicon is pleased to be reunited with Hall and Goodwin, who was his junior high coach, in the Hall of Fame. Joining other great players of his era and that he played with or against in later years also brings a smile to his face.
“It’s great to be honored with Coach Hall and with Coach Goodwin,” he said. “It means a lot that I’m going in with (Ashtabula’s) Deora Marsh (this year) and joining Tom Hill and David Benton from their great team. I know those were special players.
“I had the chance to play later with (Harbor’s) Andy Juhola and Joe Rich (another Class of 2011 member). It means a lot to be joining someone like (Ashtabula coach and athletic director) Adam Holman because he always encouraged me, even though he was at Ashtabula.
“It’s a great honor.”