Edgewood's Kanicki named Ashtabula County boys basketball Player of the Year

Edgewood's Hayden Kanicki (23) shoots over Geneva's Grant Mihalick (left) during the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Senior Classic earlier this month at Edgewood High School. County coaches voted Kanicki the county's player of the year for the second straight season.

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Edgewood’s Hayden Kanicki etched his name in the county basketball history books quite a few times this past season.

The senior helped guide the Warriors to a 24-2 record, an All-American Conference Blue Tier title and a Division III district championship, Edgewood’s first since 1991. He became the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 career points during an AAC matchup at Campbell Memorial on Feb. 1.

He is now a two-time Ashtabula County boys basketball Player of the Year.

“It feels good. I feel like I don't deserve it, though, because we played so well as a team this year and it wasn’t just me,” Kanicki said shortly after Edgewood coach John Bowler informed him of the news during the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation’s Senior Classic earlier this month. “Everyone contributed every game and we got it done as a team night in and night out. I do feel honored about it, though. It does feel good.”

Kanicki, who earned the honor last year, is only the third player since 1974, at the earliest, to be named the county’s player of the year a second time. Geneva’s Richard DeJesus earned player of the year honors in 1985 and 1986 and Jefferson’s Sam Hitchcock did so in 2016 and 2017.

The Edgewood senior averaged 18 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game and made 102 3-pointers a senior. He scored at least 20 points eight times and had two games of 30 or more.

A third-team All-Ohio selection, Kanicki reached such numbers while spending most of his fourth-quarter minutes on the bench, as his team outscored opponents by an average of 29.5 points per game.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Bowler said. “To win back-to-back anything, it’s hard to do and he put the effort in, he put the work in, so he definitely deserves it. He’s a coach’s dream. He does all the little things, he can score, he can rebound, plays defense. He’s just a pleasure to coach.”

Kanicki entered his senior campaign as a marked man. Fans knew of him, coaches game planned for him and opposing players drooled at the idea of trying to stop him — until the time came to do so.

County coaches like Pymatuning Valley’s Ryan Shontz and Lakeside’s Rob Pisano gushed over Kanicki before and after games against Edgewood. Poland’s Ken Grisdale said Kanicki has “the smoothest stroke I’ve ever seen” after a non-conference contest in February.

When Poland’s basketball announcer introduced Kanicki prior to that game, a Bulldog student could be heard asking “Him again?”

Kanicki said he began to notice that he carried such a reputation and noted that it was “pretty cool,” but he did not worry about the recognition. He only cared about winning with his teammates.

“What we did as a team this year, winning districts, that’s without a doubt my answer,” Kanicki said when asked what accomplishment he’s most proud of. “I wish my teammates would get more recognition, because we all did it this year. Everyone contributed night in and night out and what we accomplished as a team this year will go down in history.”

Kanicki has played with many of his teammates for years. He won a fourth-grade travel ball championship with fellow seniors Aaron Anderson, Ricky Baldwin, TJ Johnston and Jacob Zappitelli, as well as junior Alec Katon.

Ending his senior year the way he did, winning a district title with the people he did it with, outweighs every accolade and honor bestowed upon him.

“It makes it so much more special,” Kanicki said. “Our chemistry is unbelievable, we understand each other very well. We’re like brothers out there, even outside of basketball. We’re with each other all the time, they're like family to me. We would do anything for each other and we showed that on the court and it turned out into winning a lot of games the past few years and I’m really proud of that.”

Kanicki is still unsure if his basketball career will continue after his time at Edgewood comes to an end. If he does call it a career, Kanicki’s resume will still be stronger than most.

He will forever be a part of the team that won 78 games in a four-year span. He has a lifetime membership to the 1,000-point club. He will never lose the title of two-time player of the year. And, most importantly, he will always be a district champion.

“It’s going to be hard to replace him,” Bowler said. “He’s one of those kids that, I don't think I had to raise my voice to him the whole season. Everything I asked him to do, he did and he did a little extra too. He comes from a great family and I’m not going to be able to replace him, ever.”