When the Smithville Smithies’ undefeated run through the basketball season ended with a 59-54 loss in the regional final to eventual Division III state champion Cleveland Central Catholic, it seemed as though the high school careers of center Kenny Kornowski and his senior teammates were complete.
Though the postseason run ended earlier than the Smithies would have liked, Kornowski will get one final chance to finish his high school career with a victory. He was one of 20 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III and IV players selected for the Ohio North-South All-Star Game.
The Division III/IV game is one of four scheduled for Sunday at Capital University.
“It’s a great honor,” Kornowski said. “I don’t think many people from my area have ever even gone and played in the game. It’s pretty cool.
“I just want my team to go out there and play [well]."
There will be a learning curve for the 6-foot-8, 220-pound center. Playing in the Wayne County Athletic League means facing teams from other divisions. As is the case for most of the players suiting up, Kornowski does not know much about his teammates.
However, he will be familiar with one of the girls playing in the Ohio North-South Girls Division III/IV All-Star Game.
“If they were down at state, I’ve seen them play, but I don’t know any of them,” he said. “My girlfriend, Kara Koch from Northwestern, is playing in the girls game though.”
With his physical style of play and his strong build, Kornowski plans to use the same gameplan he did in high school in the all-star game. Above all else, Kornowski wants to leave his mark on the glass.
“Maybe over half of my 15 I averaged per game were offensive,” he said of his rebounds. “It’s [about] using my size and refusing to get boxed out.”
Over the summer, Kornowski is going to learn how to use his size even more. The future Walsh University Cavalier will spend time in the off-season trying to improve his game with former Ohio State University center Kosta Koufos and West Virginia alum Joe Alexander.
“I liked the campus more than the other schools looking at me and offering scholarships,” Kornowski said of Walsh. “They’ve got real good, young coaches. Kosta Koufos works out there, so I’ll be able to play with him a little bit. It’s definitely an advantage.
“I haven’t played against him yet. He called me though during the recruiting process, him and Joe Alexander. They were all real high on the coaches at Walsh. They’re going to work out there in the summer.”
In addition to working out against top-flight competition, Kornowski wants to become a more versatile post player.
“[I plan on] hitting the weight room hard and working on my shooting with the coaches a lot,” he said. “They don’t want me to just bang in the paint. They want me to go out, shoot threes and do it all.
“I mix it up a little, but when the going got hot, I just went down to the block because I could pretty much score at will in the league down low,” added Kornowski. “It’s just getting more efficient outside.”
Even with the tradition-rich Walsh Cavaliers anticipating his arrival after Sunday’s game, Kornowski is not worried about pressure. No matter what he sees from defenses in college, he will enjoy the challenges that await.
“It was great because it was playing with my friends that I’ve grown up with my whole life,” Kornowski said of his last season with Smithville. “Really, Smithville basketball wasn’t anything until we got to high school.
“We saw everybody’s best game and a lot teams started to press us because we didn’t have much depth,” he concluded. “That got us ready to see a lot of pressure come tournament time.”
Football: USA roster announced
The IFAF Junior World Championships are coming to Canton, Ohio, at the end of June and Team USA has chosen its members for the eight-team tournament.
Thirty-six players were named to the initial roster, with a maximum of 45 expected to be reached in the near future.
Of the 36 players currently slated to wear the red, white and blue, four are from Northern Ohio. Team USA and St. Ignatius Wildcats head coach Chuck Kyle will lead the team and has a familiar face under his command. Former Wildcats safety Pat Hinkel will play in the all-star tournament.
Joining Hinkel on Team USA are Newark Licking Valley linebacker Storm Klein, Toledo St. John’s offensive lineman Jack Mewhort and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit offensive lineman Brian Smith.
Hinkel, a Miami of Ohio recruit, will team up with two future Ohio State Buckeyes (Klein, Mewhort) and a Northwestern Wildcat (Smith).
The tournament gets underway June 27 and will have a championship game on July 5 at Fawcett Stadium just outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Matt Florjancic currently works as a freelance reporter and sports announcer for WOBL and WDLW Radio.