Catching up with French and some other good people

A few years ago, Warren High boys’ basketball standout Evan French wrote and mailed a thank-you card to me for covering the Blane Maddox-coached Warriors.

What was special about it is that he took the time to do this in his own hand-writing.

Honestly, I felt like French had just passed the ball to me for an easy layup. If he’d been there when I read the card, I probably would’ve given him a high five.

Little things, like thank-you cards, really do mean a lot.

Fast-forward to today, and French is a fifth-year senior on the Ben Howlett-coached West Liberty University men’s basketball team. (Howlett’s a former Marietta Tiger.) He currently wears a bulky brace on his right knee.

A couple of years ago, French tore his ACL and received a medical redshirt for the 2016-17 campaign.

Rehabbing the knee, he bounced back with a breakout junior year, averaging 8.2 points a game. He had 15 double-digit scoring games.

Then, in French’s senior season, he tore it and had surgery again.

Long story short, he rehabbed the knee a second time.

Meanwhile, French graduated from WLU with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology last spring.

Still eligible to play college basketball, he is back on the Hilltoppers’ hardwood this winter, and has played in five games. He is averaging 6.4 ppg.

French is currently working on a master’s degree at West Liberty in Physical Therapy.

With his commitment to and love for basketball, I can see French someday maybe coaching the game — maybe even in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

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Derek Duckworth is another class act I’d like to recognize.

Currently, he is a senior starting guard on the J.D. Secrest-coached Marietta High boys’ basketball team. In the spring, he’s a standout pitcher and middle infielder for the Josh McKitrick-led Tigers’ baseball squad.

Like French, Duckworth also wrote and mailed me a thank-you card. (Don’t these guys have homework to do or something? LOL)

The Marietta Times occasionally features a fun Q&A in its Rally Thursday sports section, and I interviewed Duckworth not too long ago.

Here’s a little bit of what he had to say in the card about the Q&A, “I truly appreciate you giving me this once in a lifetime experience.”

Wow! No sports journalism award is better than that.

Duckworth is planning to play baseball at the next level after graduation, and I believe he’s definitely going to be an asset to a collegiate program somewhere.

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And, then, there are good people like Ashley Stewart, Tom Simms, Cathy Borich, and Eric Huck to name but a few.

Stewart, an MHS swimmer, thanked me sincerely after an interview for being at the December tri-meet at the Parkersburg YMCA.

Simms, the Waterford High boys’ basketball coach, always lets you know after an interview how he appreciates the coverage.

After the Marietta College women’s basketball team won its first Ohio Athletic Conference championship last winter, Borich, a Hall of Famer and former Pioneer star, ran across the floor, to thank me personally for all the coverage. Her daughter Brooke was a senior on the Pioneer roster.

And, after a Fort Frye football win last fall, Huck, the head coach, expressed his condolences to me on the passing of my mom.

It meant a lot to me.

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Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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