MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Some would consider it the best kind of early gift to get on graduation day. For South Gallia senior Joseph Ehman, signing his name to paper signaled a lifelong goal finally reached.
Before receiving his diploma later that evening, Ehman extended his basketball career on Friday, May 29, after signing a letter of intent with the University of Rio Grande in the high school gymnasium at SGHS.
Ehman — a 6-foot-1 guard — turned into a one-man wrecking crew during his senior campaign, averaging 20.1 points per game while guiding the Rebels to an 18-6 overall mark and a second district tournament appearance in three years.
Ehman — a four-year letterwinner for the SGHS basketball program — also set the school record for points in a game after netting 40 markers against visiting Eastern in a 74-59 victory back on January 5, 2016.
For his efforts last winter, Ehman became the only South Gallia player to ever win Player of the Year honors within the TVC Hocking Division — which the Rebels have been members of since the fall of 2010.
Ehman, though it was a late addition, also participated in the OHSBCA North-South Basketball Game this past spring. Ehman was also the 2016 District 13 Player of the Year in Division IV and garnered an All-Ohio selection during his final prep campaign.
A two-time AP all-district and District 13 selection, Ehman finished his prep career with 967 points — with roughly half of those coming this past winter. The 2015-16 season also marked the only time that Ehman ever earned All-TVC Hocking honors in his career.
After working so long and finally having the hard work pay off, Ehman couldn’t help but feel humbled in having another chance to play the game he loves.
“This is honestly a blessing, having the chance to play basketball a little longer after high school,” Ehman said. “I really just want to thank the coaches at Rio Grande for providing this opportunity to me and for having the faith in me to play for them. I also want to thank Coach (Larry) Howell for all that he has done in helping me reach this point.
“It’s definitely a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to play college basketball since I was little. It’s been a long journey, but I do feel blessed that this has happened.”
Larry Howell — who has coached Ehman during all four years of his time at SGHS — notes that Joseph has always been willing to do whatever was needed for the Rebels to have a shot at winning — regardless of which side of the court he was asked to contribute more on.
Howell believes that Joseph’s willingness to succeed, as well as his work ethic, is what will really set him apart over the next four years with the RedStorm.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for Joseph to get this opportunity, mainly because he’s been so coachable over the years,” Howell said. “There were a lot of times that he had to play Robin with someone else starring as Batman early in his career, but he wasn’t afraid to take the big defensive assignment and surrender points. It was more about giving us the best chance to win.
“This year, though, he literally elevated his game and elevated that team at the same time. A good portion of what we accomplished this year was due to how much better of a player he became, and everyone benefited from it. That is the type of player that Rio Grande is getting, a guy that makes people around him better … one way or another.”
And, as Ehman mentioned during his interview process, the decision to choose Rio Grande wasn’t a hard one to make. In fact, it was one decision that he quite enjoyed for several reasons.
“It’s definitely familiar to me because I kind of grew up there,” Ehman said. “My mom graduated from Rio Grande and pretty much my whole family has graduated from Rio Grande. The feeling to know that I’ll be playing for a program that I’ve been around so long, it’s just really great.”
Besides basketball, Ehman also lettered twice in football at South Gallia while also earning a letter apiece in both cross country and track.
Ehman missed out on the Rebels playoff run in 2015 as he focused on getting in shape for basketball while participating in cross country. Needless to say, that decision paid off nicely — as did most things about his final year with the Red and Gold.
As Ehman put it, his senior campaign couldn’t have gone much smoother. He’s also hoping for more of the same over the next four years.
“Honestly, there isn’t much that I would change about the way things went during my senior season at South Gallia,” Ehman said. “I truly think that this past year will be one of the best memories I’ll ever have, and there are a lot of people to thank for that. With that said, I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead at Rio Grande and I hope that there are some more lifelong memories waiting to be made.”
As Coach Howell watches this signing unfold, he can’t help but wear an ear-to-ear grin in thinking of how far Ehman has come in a relatively short span of time. He acknowledges that Ehman’s story will be used as inspiration in his days ahead, but he is also proud of seeing his point guard receive some a great opportunity.
“From where he was at the end of his junior year to where he is now, it’s just phenomenal. It’s a story that I’ll be able to share for a long time with the younger guys that I coach,” Howell said. “If you work hard and you are dedicated to being both a good player and a good teammate, you can get to other places. I wish him nothing but the best, and I’m proud of him.”
Ehman carried a 3.0 grade-point average at South Gallia and plans to major in Sports Medicine Science while attending URG.
Ehman is the son of Jennifer Ehman of Crown City, Ohio.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.