Basketball has always been in his blood, from the first time he picked up a ball.
He learned the game from his father, uncle and cousins. Year ’round, year after year. So it was inevitable Matt Votino would blossom into a ’baller.
“I don’t remember never being at a basketball game,” Votino recently related. “Both my dad and uncle coached, so as soon as I could walk I was in (the gym) watching and learning.”
Following a stellar scholastic career at Hickory High, Votino will matriculate at NCAA Division III University of Mount Union to continue his education and cage career.
“It just seemed right. I really love the coaches and really wanted to play for them. They seem like genuine guys,” Votino explained.
The 2012-13 Purple Raiders recorded a 13-15 ledger under head coach Mike Fuline, but advanced to the Ohio Athletic Conference title tilt before bowing at Marietta (80-76).
Votino visited the Alliance, Ohio campus, and after considering Allegheny, Juniata and D-II Slippery Rock University, he opted to matriculate at Mount Union.
“It just seemed right. I really love the coaches, really wanted to play for them. They’re real, genuine guys,” Votino said.
After securing 2nd-Team honors as a sophomore for Hickory head coach Nick Cannone, Votino vaulted to a 1st-Team District 10 All-Region berth as both a junior and senior. Ultimately he was chosen to the All-D-10 1st-Team (all classifications) as a senior. He scored 1,243 points for the Hornets, who qualified for the postseason all 4 years.
He honed his skills during that same span playing for the New Jersey Cyclones coached by Mike Cervillino.
“I traveled to New Jersey evey weekend during the the AAU season for four years (about 50 games a season) to play against the top AAU teams in the country, and was one of the leading scorers on the team,” Votino related. “Mike Cervillino has coached close to a hundred Division I and II players and a handful of NBA players.”
A standout for his father at the former Notre Dame elementary school, Votino recalled,
“Coming in to Hickory, they had a lot of really good players on that team, but my dad told me if I worked hard, I’d play varsity. I thought he was crazy — a freshman coming in and playing varsity? I didn’t think that’d be possible. But as my career went on I set goals for myself, and a lot of them I achieved.”
As time progresses at the next level — ideally, winning the OAC championship and qualifying for the NCAA D-III Tournament — Votino envisions continued improvement.
“The (Purple Raiders’) offense is fast-paced, but the coaches stress defense,” Votino explained, noting, “but they also have a place for shooters, a lot of three-point opportunities.
“The first year, maybe just a couple minutes (per game), working myself in(to the rotation). But after that,” Votino forecasted, “hopefully becoming a bigger part of the building process.
“I had other options, but ... this was the best fit basketball-wise and education-wise,” emphasized Votino, who is trying to decide between sports business management of exercise science for a career path. He was an honors student at Hickory.
Votino recalled his introduction to the sport, when he watched his cousins Ryan and Danny McElhinny helping Kennedy Catholic claim numerous commonwealth crowns.
“I remember all the Kennedy games, the playoffs, the trips to Hershey. That really made me like the game, and watching (his cousins) succeed just made me want to do more,” he related.
Votino expressed gratitude to Cannone, his right-hand man Rick Ladjevich and the remainder of Hickory’s coaching staff, Cervillino, and particularly his first mentor.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my dad (Bob),” Votino emphasized, “it’s been my whole family (mother Kim and sister Courtney), but particularly my dad. He’s been there through everything — basketball and everything else. I’m so grateful to have him.”
Basketball has always been in his blood, from the first time he picked up a ball.
SPORTVIEW: Johnny Football claims he has learned from his 'rookie mistakes'
HERE ARE some thoughts from a guy who might have made a few “rookie mistakes” in his life, ala Johnny Manziel.
Johnny Football admitted this past week that he made some rookie mistakes. Really?
Usually rookie mistakes for most NFL newbies are throwing into coverage or fumbling the football because you don’t tuck it tightly to your side.
NFL NOTEBOOK: Ex-Sharon star Austin hopes to spark Lions' defense
THE TALENTED — albeit underachieving — Detroit Lions commence camp July 27 in Allen Park, Mich. as the National Football League prepares for the 2014 season.
Racing to fight cancer
Former Hickory High athlete Amanda Budzowski is on the run — the run to raise money to fight cancer.
Budzowski is part of Team in Training, an organization that has raised more than $1.4 billion for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since forming in 1988. Her division is known as IRONTEAM and she is currently training for the 140.6-mile Ironman triathlon in Mont Tremblant, Canada, in August.
SPORTVIEW: Pirates, Indians need fast start after All-Star break
SO FAR, so good. I’m referring to the start of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians after the All-Star break on Friday night.
Both teams rallied to win. The Buccos beat the Colorado Joints — err, I mean Rockies — by coming from behind in the 8th inning. Since they legalized marijuana sales in that state, it gave new meaning to John Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High.”
Rutters earn spot in national motocross event
The brother-sister racing duo of Elijah and Dannah Rutter of Mercer are set to travel to Hurricane Mills, Tenn., to compete soon in the prestigious 33rd annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships presented by AMSOIL at Loretta Lynn Ranch.
Elijah, 18, and Dannah, 16, earned a ticket to the event with their performances at qualifiers and then regionals and are among the top 5 percent of riders in the U.S. Overall, 20,000 hopefuls from across the U.S. competed and there are only 1,446 qualifying spots at nationals.
Notebook: Sharon football greats meet, reunite at inaugural golf scramble
Mid-July, with the temperature 80-plus degrees at Avalon at Buhl Country Club; however, it felt like a fall, football Friday.
The inaugural Sharon Football Boosters 4-man golf scramble took place recently, and served as a Who’s Who in the Tigers’ triumphant tradition.
SPORTVIEW: All is right with the world - LeBron has come home!
HAPPY DAYS are here again. The prodigal child has returned!
The announcement that “King James” is returning to Cleveland has created a level of euphoria not seen since the Browns won the city’s last major sport championship a couple of years ago.
What’s that? Oh, yeah — make that 50 years ago (1964).
Full text of LeBron's essay in SI
LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in an essay that he wrote for Sports Illustrated. The following is the full text of that essay.
Snyder, Gordon, Popatak named to All-State team
Grove City High’s David Gordon, Sharpsville’s Greg Popatak and Lakeview’s Logan Snyder recently were named to the Pennsylvania High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state team.
Synder was selected 1st-Team in Class A as a designated-hitter, while Gordon was honorably-mentioned in Class AAA and Popatak similarly was honored in AA. Gordon gained his laurels as a pitcher; Popatak as a 3rd baseman.
Oprah lands first interview with Jerry Sandusky's adopted son, Matthew
Matthew Sandusky, the adopted son of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, is breaking his silence for the first time since his father's 2012 conviction on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, sitting down with Oprah to tell his story.
Little League Tournaments
Sharon won the District 2 Major Division (12-year-olds) Championship, while Greenville 9-10 and West Middlesex 11 teams notched tournament victories in recent action.
Hermitage Brennan Chiropractic won the Mercer County 14-under championship recently.
Following are game reports:
The First Tee of Sharon celebrates 15th anniversary
Professional golf star John Cook has received many honors and awards in his illustrious career, but probably none mean as much as those similar to the one he received Monday afternoon at The First Tee of Sharon.
During a special ceremony to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the local program, a permanent plaque was unveiled in his honor describing the contributions he has made to junior golf.
SPORTVIEW: John Cook here Monday for First Tee; other celebs on July 11
THE RETURN of Tiger Woods to a PGA event sparked a lot of interest this past week. The return of John Cook to Buhl Farm Golf Course Monday will do the same locally.
Cook, a standout on the Champions Tour and outstanding TV golf analyst, will conduct a clinic at 11 a.m. Monday at the course to help celebrate the 15th anniversary of The First Tee of Sharon program.
It is open to the public at no charge.
Hickory honors Tri-Athletes
Hickory High honored its 2013-14 tri-athletes in a recent ceremony, the latest installment in a program that began in 2003-04.
Fifty student-athletes (grades 9-12) were cited for having competed in at least one sport in the fall, winter and spring while maintaining a minimum B (85 percent) grade-point-average during the first three 9-week grading periods of the academic year.
SPORTVIEW: Ex-Greenville man to enter Bedford County Hall
HUGHEY TATE was the greatest baseball player that ever lived — hitting 10,000 home runs and never making an out in 50 years on the diamond.
OK, that’s not true of course. But that’s the way Hughey would have told it before bursting into laughter.
Tate, a Greenville man who was as good at spinning a yarn as well as he was in hitting home runs, will be inducted posthumously into the Bedford County (Pa.) Hall of Fame Saturday. Some of his relatives from this area will attend the ceremonies.
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