Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Singleton has arrived

When Matt Vespa took over the Kenston boys’ basketball program last winter he initiated a new program to recognize the team’s hardest worker by awarding him with a red practice jersey to wear during the week.

Through the first three weeks of the 2016-2017 season, junior combo guard Elijah Singleton has worn that red jersey and he has shown no signs that he’s willing to give it up.

“We have a tradition that we have one red practice jersey and the rest of them are blue. The guy that best represents us gets to wear the red practice jersey for the week,” Vespa said. “He's had it the first three weeks so far and somebody has to take it from him. I don't think he wants to give that thing up. He's playing like he wants to keep it all year and I think he's got a chance to do it.”

Singleton, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward, has come off the bench to average seven points, six rebounds, three steals a block and three floor burns per game for the Bombers, who are 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Western Reserve Conference.

Vespa couldn’t be more pleased with how Singleton is playing in the first month of his varsity career.

“We didn't really know what to expect,” Vespa said. “We knew he was always going to play hard but I guess we didn't realize the impact that he'd have on the games that he does so far. In all three games, when he's come in the game has changed. That kid just doesn't stop.”

Singleton’s success isn’t based solely on his basketball skills.

His work ethic and desire to get involved in the action have made the difference in the first three games.

“He's the type of guy that you hate to play against and you can't really game plan for him because he never stops moving,” Vespa said. “He's constant energy and he's such a spark for us. He brings it to practice and the games every time.”

Singleton’s role is constantly evolving but Vespa doesn’t plan to slow him down.

“We try and control him and give him some directions and things to do but he almost does a better job when he goes all out,” Vespa said. “It's something you don't coach that he does. He's able to make plays that you don't really see coming because you think he's out of the play. He's one of those kids who pops out of nowhere and gets a deflection or gets a rebound or keeps an offensive rebound alive. He does a lot of stuff that doesn't show up in the box score to help the team win. He's a guy that you want to get the ball to. I think everyone else kind of appreciates that. He finds a way to get the ball himself and make plays.”

Since initiating the red jersey program, Singleton is the first player to win it multiple weeks in a row.

“He talks about not wanting to give that jersey up and he plays like it,” Vespa said. “We like the role he's in because three minutes in or four minutes in and you put him into the game and it just changes the way the game is played. Everyone kind of relaxes for a second and get in the flow of the game he comes in and messes the whole thing up for the other team, which is nice.”

Vespa expects Singleton to continue to improve as he gains more varsity experience.

“We want him to play with that same energy and same intensity but at times I think he tries to do too much,” Vespa said. “That's a good problem to have but almost recognizing things and playing a little bit smarter as opposed to just playing hard and through athleticism. That's nit-picking. Having a little bit better understanding of the game, I think he's going to really be hard to handle.”

Kenston travels to Madison on Tuesday and expect Singleton to do his best to keep that red jersey.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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