By Brad Morris
Clayton Rhyne can still remember experiencing emotions he had never felt before.
The senior guard was inside a locker room at Zane Trace High School on Thanksgiving Eve, putting on his New Hope Christian Academy uniform for the first time in preparation for the season-opener in the Tip-Off Classic against Eastern Brown.
“I thought I was going to throw up before the game and I could barely stand in the locker room, because I was so nervous,” said Rhyne, who previously had played at Amanda-Clearcreek. “I never felt that way leading up to a game before, but as soon as the game started then I felt fine. I scored 38 points that night, shot the ball probably 25 times and it was so much fun and we got a big win to open the season against Eastern Brown (63-61 in overtime).
“After the game, I was thinking how could my teammates trust me so quickly? They were so happy for me and knew that’s how we were going to win this season. I felt so thankful to be playing with a group of guys like this, because they don’t care about stats and neither do I. All we care about is winning, because that’s the only stat that really matters.”
Rhyne has remained thankful for his teammates and showed that his performance in the Zane Trace Tip-Off Classic was just a preview of coming attractions.
The six-foot guard had a senior season to remember, averaging 26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in helping to propel the Statesmen to a 19-win season and Ohio Christian School Athletic Association championship.
Rhyne was recently recognized for his outstanding season by earning the Bob Bowsher Memorial Trophy, presented to the top senior boys basketball player in Pickaway County.
“It’s an honor to win this award and I am very happy,” Rhyne said. “I hope this also continues to earn respect for our program here at New Hope, because we play some pretty good basketball.”
New Hope coach Shane Roese had coached against Rhyne twice when he previously played at Amanda-Clearcreek and knew he was adding a scorer to his program. Roese, a 1988 winner of the Bob Bowsher Memorial Trophy, came to have a high regard for the type of person and teammate that Rhyne was for the Statesmen.
“I knew Clayton could score the basketball, because he has a good first step and also has a good mid-range game, which has become a lost art at the high school level,” he said. “Getting to coach Clayton this season and spending a lot of time with him, I learned three things about him.
“First, he’s a worker, and he was intense all season long, whether if it was in a game or from practice-to-practice. There are players who work hard and there are players who compete hard, and Clayton competes hard every time he’s on a basketball court. Second, he’s a winner. He wants to win as much as any player I’ve had and he wants to win as much as I do, which I’ve always had a tremendous desire to win. We just give each other a look and day, ‘Let’s go’. Finally, he’s a great teammate. He came in with a humble spirit, worked extremely hard every day and he earned the respect of his teammates. He loves his teammates and his teammates love him and accepted him into our program.”
The Statesmen picked up steam after Christmas, going on a stretch where they won eight of their next 12 games and finishing the season by prevailing in 14 of their final 19 contests.
“I feel so blessed to have been able to play on this team and be part of this program,” Rhyne said. “This is the most unselfish basketball team that I’ve played on, where everyone has accepted their role and works hard to excel in that role so we could have the type of success that we did.
“Lane Bruning would rebound the basketball and score 13-to-15 points a night, Hunter Cavanaugh was our point guard and could really hit the three, especially from the corner. I’d score 20-to-25 points a game and then we had Andrew Swank and Adam Rink really getting after it on defense, harassing the teams we were playing and generating some turnovers for us to get into transition.”
Rhyne consistently scored 30 points or more nine times during that stretch, helping lead the Statesmen to wins over eventual district runner-up Northmor and Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division champion Vinton County.
He also scored his 1,000th career point during a 54-49 win over Pickaway County rival Westfall in mid-January.
One of the games that stood out to Rhyne during the run was bouncing back from a loss to Eastern Pike the previous night to go on the road and hand Cincinnati Christian its first loss of the season, 69-65.
“We had to travel two-and-a-half hours down there the following afternoon and they looked a lot better than us,” Rhyne said of the Cougars, who finished the season at 21-3. “They outsized us at every position, they were more athletic, but we found a way as a team to beat them. That was a special win.”
The Statesmen won four games during the OCSAA tournament, including finishing the state championship game on a run of 22 straight points to defeat Community Christian 65-36 on the campus of Ohio Christian University.
Rhyne scored 16 of his game-high 34 points during the decisive fourth quarter run.
“We breezed past the first three opponents we played during the tournament and figured the last game would probably one-sided, as well,” Rhyne said. “We really struggled shooting the basketball and it was a seven-point game early in the fourth, where we knew we needed to do something.
“We started attacking from the wing to get into the lane and had success with it. I knew that if I missed the shot, Lane was the tallest player on the court (at 6-foot-7), and he would grab the rebound and score.”
Rhyne finishes his high school career with 1,359 points, a statistic that comes as a byproduct of countless hours of hard work. The senior guard spends 90 minutes daily during the spring, an hour shooting the basketball late into the twilight of summer and two hours a day during the fall to hone his craft.
“When I go out and shoot the basketball, I take my time and work on scenarios on how I am going to score, anticipating what the defense is going to do and reacting to how they are going to try and defend me, especially if I am driving to the basket,” Rhyne said. “I watch a lot of basketball on television, and I try to pick up moves from different players and try to develop them into my game while knowing my limits as a player.
“I don’t try to have 15 different moves that I can do. I try to do between five-to-seven as well as I can, along with developing my left hand so I can score off either hand.”
Roese would often grab a couple of players at the end of practice and watch from the opposite end of the court how Rhyne went about his work.
“I wanted them to watch Clayton put his ear plugs in, visualize those shots, how the defense was going to play him and go through those end of game scenarios where he kept winning the game time and time again,” Roese said. “Clayton is the type of player who makes a coach look good with his ability and his ability comes from the work he puts into his craft. No one is going to outwork Clayton.
“If the game is on the line, I was going to put the basketball in Clayton’s hand time and time again. I don’t care if he had missed 20 shots in a game, he was going to get that 21st shot because he put the work in to prepare for that opportunity. We need another two-to-three guys to be like that moving forward and want to follow in Clayton’s steps, so that’s why I take guys aside to show them what he does, because his success comes from all that preparation.”
Rhyne had the opportunity to play six times this season inside the Maxwell Center and was so comfortable that he will play the next four seasons collegiately for Ohio Christian University.
“I knew I wanted to stay close to home, so that was the best opportunity to play the game I love for four more years,” Rhyne said. “I’m also excited about getting a degree in sports business management and trying to become an athletic director, so I can be around sports my whole life.”
Roese presented Rhyne with the Bowsher last Monday at the season-end banquet for the Trailblazers and recently rewatched the senior speech that Rhyne gave to his teammates and general audience in attendance.
“Clayton was thanking everyone and was getting emotional and then he suddenly changes from emotional to passionate,” Roese said. “He said, ‘Listen guys, you have got to work so we can win five more of these’. Clayton has played his last game for us, but he’s still saying we and setting standards, because he cares about our program and his teammates who are coming back.
“It was so passionate that I had to watch it again. People in the crowd got to see what I saw every day from Clayton.”
Bob Bowsher Memorial Trophy winners
1948 — James Picklesimer, Williamsport
1949 — Robert Pontius, Walnut
1950 — William Rowley, Darby
1951 — Lester Sanders, Monroe
1952 — Harley Evans, Atlanta
1953 — William Evans, Pickaway
1954 — Kenneth Kirk, New Holland
1955 — Harold Gerhardt, Atlanta
1956 — Gene Stonerock, Williamsport
1957 — Dave Smith, Pickaway
1958 — Richard Hoover, Ashville
1959 — Gary Valentine, Saltcreek
1960 — Robert Hoover, Ashville
1961 — Robert Eitel, Jackson
1962 — Thomas Rathburn, Ashville
1963 — Rick Pond, Williamsport
1964 — Tom Seeley, Monroe
1965 — Bill Fortner, Teays Valley
1966 — Neil Coleman, Westfall
1967 — Russ Merrin, Logan Elm
1968 — Charles Palmer, Westfall
1969 — Tom Lightie, Westfall
1970 — Dale Lambert, Teays Valley
1971 — Mark Knece, Logan Elm
1972 — Terry Morrison, Circleville
1973 — Tom Sykes, Logan Elm
1974 — Craig Pontius, Teays Valley
1975 — Perry Hoskins, Circleville
1976 — Biff Bumgarner, Circleville
1977 — Chuck Cave, Logan Elm
1978 — Toren Bensonhaver, Circleville
1979 — Terry Wright, Logan Elm
1980 — John Sanders, Teays Valley
1981 — Jerry Mowery, Westfall
1982 — Brad Rivers, Westfall
1983 — Doug Hoover, Teays Valley
1984 — Luke McConnell, Circleville
1985 — Marc Gothard, Teays Valley
1986 — Kyle Wolfe, Westfall
1987 — Trond Smith, Logan Elm
1988 — Shane Roese, Teays Valley
1989 — Mike Miller, Teays Valley
1990 — Donn Rathburn, Teays Valley
1991 — Chris Strawser, Circleville
1992 — Ashley Hoskins, Circleville
1993 — Brian Dollison, Westfall
1994 — Brandon Lambert, Teays Valley
1995 — Tony Picklesimer, Westfall
1996 — Trevor Younkin, Teays Valley
1997 — Thom Patete, Westfall
1998 — Lee Gunn, Logan Elm
1999 — Brad Brooks, Logan Elm
2000 — Tyler Schleich, Westfall
2001 — Adam Stewart, Teays Valley
2002 — Matt Fosnaugh, Teays Valley
2003 — Craig Stewart, Circleville
2004 — Drew Shaw, Westfall
2005 — Tyler Evans, Logan Elm
2006 — Evan Blake, Logan Elm
2007 — Cory Cooper, Circleville
2008 — Steve Largent, Logan Elm
2009 — Tim Congrove, Logan Elm
2010 — Adam Blake, Logan Elm
2011 — Nate Anderson, Teays Valley
2012 — Nathan Moats, Circleville
2013 — Alek Stonerock, Westfall
2014 — Dillon Young, Logan Elm
2015 — Preston Gothard, Teays Valley
2016 — Michael Camp, Circleville
2017 — Ridge Young, Logan Elm
2018 — Isaac Roese, New Hope
2019 — Ryan Wolfe, Teays Valley
2020 — Jay Wyman, Westfall
2021 — Isaac Ward, Logan Elm
2022 — Cameron Dyas-Rogers, Teays Valley
2023 — Clayton Rhyne, New Hope
— Bob Bowsher was an outstanding student-athlete from Circleville who died in World War II serving his country.