5 OVAC Legends selections to be honored
WHEELING – Three highly-honored high school basketball players plus two standout football players will be feted in the ninth class as Legends of Ohio Valley Athletic Conference schools.
Tom Rataiczak, Executive Secretary of the OVAC, announced the five Legends selections will be honored at the 10th annual OVAC Hall of Fame banquet on Aug. 17 at WesBanco Arena.
The honorees include Cambridge’s John (Zip) Behen, one of the first 1,000-point scorers in Ohio history; East Liverpool’s Ken Cunningham, an Ohio Player of the Year honoree; Martins Ferry’s Russell (Tuss) Edwards, a record-setting and honored Purple Rider; Bob Hugh of Scio, a two-time All-Ohio and record-setting scorer; and Joel Jones, who starred at segregated Weirton Dunbar before playing for Michigan State.
Three will be honored postumously – Behen, Edwards and Hugh.
The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by Bob Robinson Chevrolet-Cadillac in Wheeling, and the OVAC Sports Museum are located inside WesBanco Arena.
“The Legends of OVAC schools is a conference effort to recognize athletes and coaches who competed prior to the OVAC origins in 1943 or while their schools were not members of the conference,” Rataiczak said.
Capsule summaries of the honorees follow:
JOEL JONES (Weirton Dunbar, 1954) – The first graduate of a segregated high school to be honored by the OVAC, he was a three-season football standout for the Raiders before competing in the Big Ten Conference as a member of a nationally-ranked Michigan State team.
At Dunbar, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Jones was a fullback for coach Jim Wares from 1950-53 and served as captain of the once-beaten 1953 teasm which defeated the other Ohio Valley segregated school, Lincoln of Wheeling, twice by 28-6 and 19-0. He was the team’s leading scorer and ground-gainer his last two seasons and was a multiple-year all-star.
In an era when many college athletic teams were segregated, his talents were noticed by scouts from Penn State, Indiana and West Virginia State, then a national contender in the Black college ranks. He enrolled on his own at Michigan State and walked onto the football team. In his four seasons at the school, the Spartans played in two Rose Bowl games including the 17-14 win over UCLA on Jan. 1, 1956 as Jones played defensive end. He lettered two seasons and played guard and tackle in the fall of 1956 when he earned some all-star recognition.
The Spartans were 9-1 in 1955 and 7-2 in 1956 with Jones in the lineup.
After college, he remained in Michigan, where he currently resides, as a high school educator and was a counselor at Henry Ford High School in Detroit.
BOB HUGH (Scio, 1950) – The most honored athlete in Scio High history, he set school and Harrison County basketball scoring records which remain six decades later. He was the second Eastern Ohio athlete to twice earn first team, five-player Associated Press All-Ohio Class B honors-the first was one year earlier by OVAC charter Hall of Famer Ken Alessi of Yorkville. He was the second leading Ohio Class B scorer both his junior and senior years. He scored 744 points in 30 games as a junior-second best in Ohio to Alessi, a senior. Hugh scored 1,386 points in 55 games for an average of 25 points his last two seasons.
The 6-foot-3 forward scored a school, anc current Harrison County, record 60 points in a 96-50 win over New Athens. He also scored 50 in an earlier 96-36 rout of New Athens.
In his senior season, he led the Panthers to their best-ever season of 24-1. Scio won its first 24 gamesw, and Harrison County and sectional tournaments, before bowing to Strasburg in the district tournament.
In his four seasons on the varsity, Scio went 88-13 with records of 24-1, 26-4 and a regional tourney berth, 22-5 and 16-3.
Hugh also playedon the Scio six-man football team which went unbeaten (9-0) in 1949 and 8-0 in 1947. The four-year record was 26-5-1.
He played freshman basketball at Ohio University.
JOHN BEHEN (Cambridge, 1918 Class) – The former Bobcat was one of the first 1,000-pont scoers in Ohio, and Ohio Valley, hoops history. He finished his four-year high school career with 1,271 points, which still ranks fifth on the all-time Bobcat scoring charts.
In his senior season, Behen rewrote school and Ohio Valley records by scoring 68 points against Woodsfield. The mark remains as the Bobcats’ school record and was the record standard for OV schools until Yorkville’s Ken Alessi, a charter member of the OVAC Hall of Fame, broke the OV record with 70 points in 1949 versus Shadyside.
Behen wound up with 454 points as a senior while leading the Bobcats to a second straight 18-2 record.
As a junior, he scored 386 points. His sophomore totals for a 10-10 record team was 302 points. He started his career as a freshman with 129 points for a 16-2 recod squad. During his four-year career, the Bobcats posted a combined 62-16 record.
Behen played one season at West Virginia University, lettering as a freshman forward and scoring 123 points for an 8.2 per game average.
In 2007, Cambridge High School retired Behen’s jersey number 18.
KEN CUNNINGHAM (East Liverpool, 1961) – A three-sport Potter athlete, he earned All-Ohio honors in basketball and football and was the Ohio High School Basketball Player of the Year selection for 1960-61 by The Associated Press, the only Potter ever accorded the honor. He also was selected to the Scholastic Coach All-American teams.
During his prep career, he became the Potters’ all-time leading scorer in basketball including a school record 41 points in a game while scoring 439 season points for a 24-point per game average. He also led the Potters in scoring as a sophomore and junior.
In football, he was a quarterback-defensive back and earned All-Ohio and team Most Valuable Player in 1960 while also being honored on the All-Eastern Ohio and All-County selections. He also played three baseball seasons for the Potters.
He accepted a basketball scholarship to the 1961 NCAA national champion University of Cincinnati and the Bears repeated as titlist in 1962 when he was a freshman. As a sophomore on the varsity, the Bearcats went 26-2 and finished as NCAA runnerup to Loyola-Chicago.
Cunningham led the Bearcats in assists as a junior and the three-year letterman was elected team captain as a senior.
He later returned to Cincinnati as an assistant coach and was head coach at Akron University for three seasons before leaving the coaching ranks. He currently resides in Stow, Ohio.
RUSSELL EDWARDS (Martins Ferry, 1923) – He was an honored, record-setting Purple Rider athlete who served as team captain of football, basketball and baseball as a senior. He was an All-Valley halfback as a senior after two years as an All-OV end. In his senior season, he set record which was listed as a Valley record for several years. He scored 56 points on eight touchdowns plus eight conversion kicks in an 81-0 blanking of Coshocton.
He enrollod at Washington & Jefferson College, then a “major college” football power under coach John Heisman, for whom the Heisman Tropphy is named. He played his final three years as a regular end for coaches Allie Miller and Andy Kerr. As a senior, he was All-East and earned some second team All-America honors.
After rejecting an offer to play pro football with the Philadelphia Yellow Jackets, he returned to the Ohio Valley to coach high school at Adena, Warwood and Linsly. At Adena, his 1927 football team went 10-0, the girls basketball team was 18-0 and the boys hoop team had a winning season. He coached OVAC Legends’ honoree Jim (Monk) Moscrip, a Stanford U. All-American who started in three Rose Bowls, at Adena.
His 1930 Linsly boys basketball team took a 21-0 record to Chicago to compete in the National Scholastic Basketball Tournament. The Cadets won two games before bowing in the quarter-finals.
He helped found the Wheeling Midget Baseball League in 1950 and served as president from 1953-68. He was named Wheeling Jaycees’ Citizen of the Year in 1956.
In 1984, he was inducted into the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Hall of Fame.