By CHRIS LARICK
Terence Hanna wanted badly to play on the West Junior High School basketball team in Ashtabula.
How else was he going to get a chance to become the next Dr. J?
But Hanna had to pass his first obstacle to make the team, a hurdle devised by coaches Joe Rich and Roby Potts.
Hanna, along with the other candidates for a spot on the West team, had to make a left-handed layup.
"No one could make one, so (Rich and Potts) said if we couldn't make one by the next day, our likelihood of making the team was not very good," Hanna said.
"After the tryouts I went home. We had a basketball hoop outside and I practiced my left-handed layup."
He passed the test, but does Hanna think Rich and Potts really would have cut him?
"Some guys didn't make the team," he said. "I know I made it."
That anecdote points out the determination of Hanna, who made a big enough splash in the realm of county basketball that he will be inducted in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation's Hall of Fame on Apr. 3 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center.
It also serves as a tribute to Rich's and Potts' ability to mold good players.
"I probably played (junior high basketball) at 5-8 or 5-9," Hanna said. "I played guard, even when I got to be 6-foot and over. I give credit to Coach Rich and Coach Potts. They helped me become a better ball-handler for a big man. When I got to college, none of the big men knew how to handle the ball. When I got to Baldwin-Wallace I was the only one who knew anything except playing down low."
The West Junior HIgh team was not a great one ("We won some and we lost some," Hanna said), but it served as a foundation for Hanna's success in high school, where he started with the junior varsity as a sophomore, but became a starter (along with his brother Kevin) as a junior. Those teams were coached by Bob Walters, already in the ACBF Hall of Fame as a player and coach.
"I had heard things about Coach Walters being a good coach," Hanna said, "that he was demanding and made sure the players were physically fit, so I got myself mentally and physically prepared for that."
Among other things, Walters taught Hanna a facet of the game that few players were proficient at, or even attempted.
"He taught me how to use the backboard on outside shots," Hanna said. "In high school and at Baldwin-Wallace I was able to use the backboard. I used it from all angles, but definitely from the side."
The Panthers were a running team at the time, pressuring the ball and changing between man-to-man and zone defenses.
During those years (Hanna graduated in 1984), the Northeastern Conference was a very competitive league. Harbor had players like Andy Juhola, Dana Schulte and Raimo Kangas, Geneva had Rick Malizia and Ralph DeJesus, Edgewood countered with the Weltys and Conneaut featured Matt Zappitelli, the leading scorer in the county at the timed. Madison was also tough with big man Craig Utt.
"We played so many good games," Hanna said. "(My senior year) we wound up playing Madison for the NEC championship. The gym was so packed the court was roped off. I think we wound up losing to Madison.
"The Harbor game at Harbor I think we wound up losing to them, playing against Raimo Kangas and (Dana) Schulte. I also remember playing Conneaut, which had the Stage Crew. When you shot free throws, they'd say anything and everything to you."
Hanna, the son of Jared and Goldie Hanna, averaged about 20 points a game as a senior and wound up as Co-Player of the Year with Juhola.
Baldwin-Wallace, where Walters had starred many years earlier, sent coach Steve Bankson to recruit Hanna, attending the Panthers' game at Madison. Hanna considered John Carroll and B-W.
"My brother had looked at John Carroll and Walsh," Hanna said. "When I was a sophomore we took a trip to John Carroll to visit.
When he was a junior, Hanna visited Baldwin-Wallace and fell in love with the school.
A Division III school, B-W could not give athletic scholarships, but he did get an academic scholarship and some grant money.
At 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 by that time, Hanna was usually positioned in the "3" spot (small forward).
"Our positions were interchangeable except for the 4 and 5 (power forward and center) though," he said. "I played the 1, 2 or 3, handled the ball more than normal."
He split time between the JV team and varsity as a freshman, dressing for the varsity games but playing sparingly. He played a bit more varsity as a sophomore, before moving onto the starting team as a junior.
"We had some very good players there," he said. "I played with Bernard King, an unbelievable guard and ball-handler whose skills were right up there with Pete Maravich's. He had some problems with alcohol abuse, though.
"I told him to stay away from alcohol, but he said, 'It's got ahold of me."
Hanna averaged about 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game his final two years at B-W. One of the highlights of his career came when the Cleveland Cavaliers recognized him as one of the outstanding players around the city of Cleveland. He still has the plaques he received for that.
At Baldwin-Wallace Hanna took a Bachelor of Arts in speech, communications and theater, with an emphasis on television and radio broadcasting. He took theater, radio and television classes and got to work with Mark Koontz, Tim Taylor and Dick Goddard at Fox 8 and sat in on tapings of "Big Chuck and Little John." He also worked with Wayne Dawson in the mornings.
Two weeks before he graduated in 1988, Hanna was hired to work in the Baldwin-Wallace admissions office. He was there for 13 years, working his way up from an admissions counselor to Assistant Director of Admissions.
In 2001 he decided to come home to Ashtabula and work as admissions counselor for Kent State University-Ashtabula Branch Campus.
That might not seem to be much of a change, but Baldwin-Wallace chooses its admissions selectively. KSU-Ashtabula is open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED.
"It was an eye-opening experience that all anybody had to do was apply and get in if they had a high school degree or GED," Hanna said.
He left KSU-Ashtabula in 2008 to work for Educate on Line, part of the No Child Left Behind program. A year later, he took a job with General Aluminum in Conneaut.
"I'm a molder," he said. "I do a wide variety of things, molding parts for BMW, Cadillac, Chrysler and Jeep."
That might seem like quite a departure from his jobs in education.
"I'm the type of person that likes to do a wide variety of things," Hanna said. "I had been in academics for 20 years. That takes a toll on you. I like a change of pace. I find (this job) challenging. It's good experience."
Hanna admits that his desire to play basketball was influenced by the success of Bob Walters' teams of 1976-1979, particularly the team that included Tom Hill, Scooby Brown and others that made a great tournament run before being defeated by St. Joseph's Clark Kellogg's squad.
Hanna's idol was always Julius Erving, Dr. J, though. He was fortunate enough to meet that idol.
"When the (NBA) All-Star game was held in Cleveland, I went there with my good friend, John Kazmerski," Hanna said. "We were sitting at a restaurant talking about the NBA when, all of a sudden, Dr. J walked in with Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana. He shook my hand and said hello. I'll never forget that until I die."
Hanna lists his coaches — a group that includes Rich, Potts, Walters, Bankson and Don Hughes — as some of the biggest influences on his life.