Deora Marsh got a late start in basketball, but he made up for lost time as an Ashtabula star
By KARL PEARSON
Some people might say Deora Marsh put all of his eggs in one basket in making an impact on basketball in Ashtabula County.
But it can also be said that Marsh showed an uncanny sense of timing in flourishing as a basketball player for the 1977-78 Ashtabula team of coach Bob Walters. Because of his willingness to work tirelessly to improve his skills, that one extraordinary season paid off in a truly bountiful way.
His emergence as a high-flying force for the Panthers of that special season, a team selected as the greatest county boys team of all time in the Star Beacon’s “Hoop Dreams” tournament, provided opportunities the son of Veora and Pearlie Marsh probably couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams.
Because of his performance in that one season, capped by a near upset of the mighty St. Joseph Vikings featuring future Ohio State and NBA standout Clark Kellogg, doors opened for Marsh into Division I college basketball and an ongoing professional basketball career in Europe, including twice being selected Most Valuable Player of his league. Even at age 50 and moving into a coaching mode, the willowy 6-foot-6 player still has an impact on the Loftus Recycle team in Ballina County Mayo, Ireland.
“I’m still involved with the team, doing different things at the moment, trying to keep the younger guys involved in playing,” Marsh said by email from the home he has made with his wife, Gabrielle, son Lamar and daughters Sebai and Tyra. “I just stopped playing this year, but I might go back next year for one last go, if the body holds up, which is feeling pretty good at the moment.”
DEORA MARSH attacks the rack during the memorable 1977-78 season for the Ashtabula Panthers. Marsh will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on Sunday.
The 1977-78 team was blessed with great players and received great coaching. Tom Hill, the point guard, also went on to play Division I college basketball at Austin Peay, while David Benton, who generally played center, went on to junior college basketball. Both are now in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame, along with Walters for his playing and coaching exploits.
But Marsh, who didn’t play varsity basketball until his junior year and then only made a limited impact with 34 points in the 1976-77 season, added an electrifying element to the group of Panthers who came together for that special senior year. Having sprouted from 5-11 to 6-4 over the course of that summer, he provided the element of flight to that team with his serious vertical skills that supplied soaring dunks on his way to a 16.4 scoring average and extra rebounding.
“Deora just exploded on the scene for us,” Walters said. “He didn’t even play as a sophomore and played only a little as a junior. But his senior year was amazing. He probably was one of the most explosive players I ever coached.
“Before their senior year, that whole group (which included Harrison “Scooby” Brown, Roger and Stanley Ball, Hank Barchanowicz, Jewel Hanna, Lou Murphy, Tony Powell, Perry Stofan and Robin Thomas) got together on their own in the summer before their senior year and played constantly. When we got together for our first official practice in the fall, the transformation was amazing. Deora probably surprised me the most of the whole bunch with his development.”
“Deora was one heckuva player,” Benton said. “He was one of the strengths of that team. He was our special weapon. That whole team got along together well. Deora made us that much stronger.”
Now, Marsh is joining Benton and Hill, as well as Walters, as a member of the ACBF Hall of Fame. He will be inducted Sunday at the ACBF’s annual awards banquet at the Conneaut Human Resource Center.
“It’s a great privilege and honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Marsh said. “I was delighted when my sister (Queenie Marsh) informed me to be with all the many greats who went before me.
“To join my teammates David and Tom, along with Mr. Walters and (retired Ashtabula High School athletic director Adam) Holman, is a great honor because they all played a part in the great team we were. Mr. Walters was a great coach who taught us to play together and never give up. Mr. Holman was like a father to us, who looked after us and kept us all on the right track.”
Marsh is also pleased to be joining some of his opponents in the ACBF Hall of Fame like Geneva’s Jay McHugh and Edgewood’s Jeff Cicon, who is part of the Class of 2011 with him.
“To be inducted with Jeff and Jay is special because they were special players for their teams and were great for the league,” he said. “They were players you had to take note of and respect all the time.”