By Brad Morris
Maren McCallister can often be bound on the premises of Marvin Webster Memorial Park in South Bloomfield, playing basketball and pushing herself to loftier heights by taking on all challengers.
“Playing over at the park is where I really improved my game and pushed myself, especially playing against boys from Teays Valley and boys from Logan Elm,” said McCallister, a 5-foot-11 senior forward. “I wasn’t afraid to mix it up with them since I am a taller and longer player and that really helped me with the physicality of the game, along with making moves to get to the basket and scoring under the rim.”
McCallister’s hard work paid off during her four years of starting varsity, including leading the Statesmen to an 18-win campaign this season where she averaged 24.5 points, 9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
She was recently recognized for her exploits by earning the Jeff Sheets Award, presented to the top senior girls basketball player in Pickaway County.
“This award means a lot to me and it’s quite an honor to win it,” Maren McCallister said. “To be the first girls player from New Hope to win the award shows that you can play at a small school and still be recognized and gives younger girls coming through our school something to shoot for if they want to.
“I also have to thank my teammates and coaches, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of their help and support.”
Besides spending countless hours on the basketball court in South Bloomfield, McCallister also credits playing AAU basketball for the Buckeye State Blast, coached by Tyler Bates, for helping to develop her game.
“I play for a team based out of Akron, so there is a lot of travel but playing that competition has also challenged me to become a better player,” McCallister said. “Most of the girls are from northern Ohio and we have a pretty good team. I’ve become more comfortable moving without the basketball, cutting, screening and rebounding comes natural to me since I am a longer player.
“It’s fun to keep track of those girls to see how they are doing during their high school season and for them to keep track of me and what I am doing.”
McCallister has been the centerpiece for the New Hope over the last four years, driving to the basket, rebounding, helping to handle the basketball and creating offense for her teammates.
The Lady Statesmen have posted a 53-33 record over her tenure, including beating Ohio High School Athletic Association opponents Westfall (three times), Amanda-Clearcreek, Grandview Heights, Chillicothe, Columbus Academy, Whitehall (twice), Fairfield Christian (twice), Heath, Huntsville, Ark. and Washington Court House.
“Thanks to Maren and the rest of our senior class for leading the way, we’ve been able to step up and play mostly OHSAA schools the last few years and earn some respect for our school and the program we have,” New Hope coach Brian McCallister said. “Obviously, if you can play teams like Amanda, Logan Elm and Westfall, those games mean more to us because they are local rivals, and you see those girls around town or in open gyms.
“We are trying to build a platform and we want to be good neighbors to the public schools in the county and the area. Obviously, New Hope is a Christian school and we want to live by Christian principles of being a good neighbor, working with our neighbors and having everyone benefit from playing each other and working together.”
McCallister discussed coaching his daughter for the last four years and some of the moments they have shared together.
“Honestly, there have been some ups and downs and sometimes I have to remind myself that I am probably setting the bar a little high for Maren, because she’s my daughter,” he said. “I am a pretty laid back guy until the scoreboard turns on and then I am pretty intense. Maren’s mom is athletic, so she has qualities from the both of us.
“Maren is as strong of a competitor as anyone I have been around, so that’s something we have in common. She’s a quiet competitor, but she has a strong will to push and challenge herself. I’ve really enjoyed coaching her the last four years and the success we’ve had together, but I am also looking forward to becoming a fan again and watching her from the stands.”
Added Maren: “We banter back and forth in the car riding home from a game and sometimes we have different opinions on some things. Overall, I am grateful to have my dad coach me and push me to become a better player. I appreciate the support from my parents.”
One of the highlights of the season for the Statesmen was a trip following Christmas to Florida.
Unfortunately, they were caught in the avalanche of canceled flights after the holiday and had to drive to Florida, missing one of the three games they were supposed to play.
“It started off being a little stressful with all of that stuff going on, but once we got down to Florida we had a blast,” Maren McCallister said. “We got to play a couple of games, we had some pool time where we could hangout and bond as a team and we also got to go to Universal Orlando.
“It was definitely one of the highlights of the season that we had.”
McCallister reflected on her fellow seniors — Jenna Tripp, Eden Leist and Ivy Hines — and the run that they have had together.
“Three of us have been playing basketball since the fifth grade, so we’ve been friends for a while and they are all good teammates,” she said. “We’ve grown to trust each other on the court over the years, knowing what each other is going to do and we’ve had a lot of fun playing basketball and being friends, especially this year since it was our last together here at New Hope.”
McCallister finished her career with 1,752 points, which puts her fifth all time on the greater Pickaway County scoring list behind Shayna Harmon (1,893, Teays Valley), Ridge Young (1,798, Logan Elm), David Myers (1,796, Williamsport) and Alyssa Evans (1,776, Amanda-Clearcreek).
“We lost some games my freshman season to COVID. It would have been awesome to be at the top of that list, but there are some outstanding players on that list and I am honored to be (in the top five),” McCallister said. “God blessed me with some talent and a hard work ethic.”
McCallister will next suit up for Concordia University, an NAIA school situated in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just minutes from the campus of the University of Michigan.
“I’ll make sure to pack some scarlet-and-gray, so everyone knows that I am from Ohio,” McCallister laughed. “I like the school, the campus and there is a lot to do around there.
“I wanted to play at a school away from home, but still be close enough for my parents to come watch me play and to also come back home to Circleville and visit.”
McCallister is undecided on a major but is considering social work and business as potential two potential avenues to explore.
Jeff Sheets Award winners
1982 — Melissa Azbell, Westfall
1983 — Teresa Musselman, Westfall
1984 — Teena Keith, Teays Valley
1985 — Holly Hastings, Teays Valley
1986 — Laura James, Teays Valley
1987 — Amy Wright, Teays Valley
1988 — Paula Everts, Teays Valley
1989 — Lesley Wilson, Logan Elm
1990 — Amy Colborn, Teays Valley
1991 — Ursula Stonerock, Circleville
1992 — Trina Muzingo, Teays Valley
1993 — Gail Adams, Logan Elm
1994 — Julie Good, Logan Elm
1995 — Mindy Fusetti,Teays Valley
1996 — Bridget Oberer, Teays Valley
1997 — Anna Musselman, Teays Valley
1998 — Laurie Barr, Teays Valley
1999 — Kristin Griebel, Circleville
2000 — Tara Wright, Westfall
2001 — Ashley Palmer, Circleville
2002 — Kelsey Schleich, Westfall
2003 — Samantha Hood, Teays Valley
2004 — Kristen Tisdale, Logan Elm
2005 — Amanda Angles, Westfall
2006 — Keri Callihan, Teays Valley
2007 — Andrea Anderson, Logan Elm
2008 — Casse Mogan, Circleville
2009 — Kellie Willis, Circleville
2010 — Alyvia Clark, Logan Elm
2011 — Emily Robinson, Logan Elm
2012 — Caitlin Cain, Teays Valley
2013 — Taylor Saxton, Logan Elm
2014 — Rebekah Branham, Circleville
2015 — Mallory Grabans, Teays Valley
2016 — Shayna Harmon, Teays Valley
2017 — Jordin Blakeman, Circleville
2018 — Jill Congrove, Logan Elm
2019 — Reagan Willingham, Teays Valley
2020 — Abby Hatter, Logan Elm
2021 — Kenzie McConnell, Circleville
2022 — Jenna Horsley, Teays Valley
2023 — Maren McCallister, New Hope
— The award is named in honor of former Teays Valley coach Jeff Sheets, who amassed a 313-103 record in his 18 seasons leading the Vikings. Teays Valley won nine Mid-State League titles, five Central District crowns and finished as a regional runner-up twice during his leadership of the program. Sheets went on to serve as superintendent of Teays Valley and is currently serving as superintendent of Westfall.