BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
OAK HARBOR — Living in Put-in-Bay gave Blake Booker limited options when it came to playing high school sports. So he decided to transfer to the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District to play basketball this year for Oak Harbor.
Unfortunately, the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled Booker ineligible for the second half of the season and the postseason, too, putting an abrupt end to a very good season for the sophomore.
The B-C-S School District made a tremendous effort to have Booker instituted for the entire season, arguing there were extenuating circumstances because he was from a school with limited athletic teams. The OHSAA didn’t see it that way.
“It was early fall (when the decision was made). We got word from the OHSAA that Blake was going to be deemed ineligible because of the transfer rule. We did appeal the ruling and we tried to use some of the rulings that were shown in the by-laws,” said Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet. “Our superintendent, Dr. Guy Parmigian, went down to Columbus (and) Blake went down with this mom and dad. We obviously lost the appeal. We feel like we did everything we could of. I tried to read every rule that I could find. It wasn’t a (normal) school to a school transfer like 99 percent of the transfers. The state viewed it as a normal transfer and that’s why we lost the battle.”
Booker gave his thoughts on the ruling.
“I respect that the OHSAA has certain rules and restrictions on eligibility, but i was hoping that they would see my unique situation coming from Put-in-Bay and not being able to play varsity athletics,” he said. “I knew the consequences coming into the transfer and I had it set in my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to play the second half of the year, which would have made a possible exception a huge bonus.”
Athletes had to previously sit out the first half of a season but that rule was changed last May when a vote of 450-244 from the member schools was levied to take away the second half of the season and the postseason from a transfer student. The idea was to reduce the number of students transferring, effectively acting as a deterrent.
On the court, Booker made his presence felt, shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip and averaging 10.5 points per game. His best game came in a win over Old Fort that saw him make six 3-pointers while finishing with 24 points. Booker had another good outing in a win over Woodmore, connecting on four 3s and scoring 18 points.
“First and foremost, I knew he could handle the basketball, I knew he could shoot it well,” said Sweet. “He has a high-basketball motor, he loves the game, he works his tail off, he kind of got cold towards the end of his run, but I think that’s because (opponents) realized what a good shooter he was. That’s something he’s going to work on this summer. He worked extremely hard.
“The area where he lacked was defense. That was something new to him. Offensively, he shoots the ball very well and he handles the ball very well,” said Sweet. “He’s a tremendous young man, a tremendous player. We’re looking for him to step up at the point-guard position to help out Jac (Alexander) next year. His skill set is extremely high.”
With two years left of eligibility, Booker can work on his game in an effort to one day play at the collegiate level.
“That’s something I definitely think Blake wants to do. I think he could play Division III basketball. In the next few years, things could change. I think a lot of colleges would love to have him,” said Sweet. “I think he’s going to get better. What he can control is his work ethic and attitude. He is great in those departments. I think that’s something he wants to do, too.”
“Living on the island my whole life, I wasn’t able to compete on organized and varsity basketball teams,” said Booker. “I decided to make the transfer as I one day have the goal of playing college-level basketball. I am excited to be able to play the whole upcoming season of high-school basketball and I will certainly work hard and learn from last season.”