History in the Making

Jon Diebler is just 43 points away from breaking Jay Burson's 23-year old all-time Ohio scoring record. His journey to 2,916 points didn't always seem so likely. Learn more about Diebler through his father's eyes and how he had other hobbies beyond basketball at an early age.

Keith Diebler already knew he had one record-setter in his household. He may have bargained that he would end up coaching a second.

What the then-Gibsonburg head coach didn't realize is that there was a third.

A third that might become the biggest of all.

Diebler started a routine day early to rise. He put on his clothes and headed to the school early with his middle son Jacob close behind. Before the key was in the ignition and his car started, the anxious seventh-grader was ready to head to school with his father for a chance to steal a few minutes in the gymnasium.

"Jake had always headed into the gym in the morning from the time he was old enough to walk," Diebler explained. "He couldn't get enough of it."

The typical school day concluded. Diebler finished up his work and headed back to the gym where he conducted practice.

As the varsity head coach, Diebler had an elder son, Jeremiah, who was closing in on the school's all-time record for most points in a single season (732). On Feb. 11, 2000, the 6-1 senior guard scored a school-record 60 points against Eastwood en route to being named Division IV Player of the Year. He averaged 33.2 points per game.

During practices, especially individual workouts and skill sessions where Diebler tutored Jeremiah, an eventual Hall of Fame inductee at Gibsonburg and school's second-leading scorer in a career with 1,709 points, Jake tried in any way possible to participate. Diebler's youngest son, Jon, did not share the same enthusiasm.

"When he (Jon) came to practices, he was different than all the other ball boys I had because Jake would jump in the drills and do them," he said. "Jon was always on the side shooting."

Jake was the hard worker. He was the star in the making because of his stellar work ethic and basketball IQ.

Jon on the other hand, was just an easy-going kid.

"We thought he demonstrated some things that others didnt but it didn't start coming together until the sixth or seventh grade," Diebler added. "He was more interested in legos to be honest with you."

The fifth-grader who is two years younger than Jake and the middle son, loved his legos – buckets of them.

Sure, he loved to shoot the basketball but building blocks were his first love. His passion.

"He was really interested in legos," said his father. "To this day, we have them all boxed up down in the basement."

One night Jon's mother suggested to Keith that he take his youngest boy to the gym with Jake. The idea didn't take.

"My wife kept asking me when I was going to take Jon to the gym because Jake was always following me out by my shirttail," he said with a chuckle. "Jon was kind of laid-back and he liked to hang out at home."

But Jon's basketball game had some substance.

While his brother Jeremiah was shattering records for his father, Jon had found a second hobby. His ability to shoot the ball had become a local novelty act.

"I can remember at Gibsonburg they had that shoot for a dollar and win two dollars," Diebler recalled, "and I remember people, even at his young age, would give him a dollar and shoot a three-pointer because he made them all the time."

Eventually, Keith relented. He woke Jon early one morning to go to the gymnasium with Jake.

Jon got dressed But when Keith was ready to leave, the plan didn't quite come to fruition.

"He got up all right but when we came back out to the living room, he had fallen asleep on the couch," Diebler said.

Before long, Jon was taking his shooting act to his own basketball team and not just halftime of his brother's varsity games. This Friday at Upper Sandusky High School, Jon will be shooting for 2,958 career points - the record held for 23 years by former New Concord John Glenn and Ohio State standout Jay Burson. Diebler needs his average, 43 points, to pass Burson for No. 1 all-time in the state in scoring.

Fresh New Look

By the time Jon was in high school, his father had moved from Gibsonburg after Jeremiah graduated and was the head coach at Fostoria High School. Jon was a freshman ready to make his debut with brother Jake, who had started as a sophomore the season before.

The two brothers were inseparable. They had been heading to the gym together for the better part of three years.

Together, Jon kicked off his high school career on Dec. 2, 2003. Against Findlay, he scored the first 11 points of his current total, 2,916.

The season wore on. Jon, who his father said was "long," continued shooting but scored many points down inside.

He had a couple of games of over 40 points, including one game scoring 49 against Willard. That was done mostly as a post player.

"One of the experiences I got that I'll never forget is the chance to go to Italy with my boys when they played over there," the father said. "One of the things I learned is that everyone regardless of size is that everyone is taught how to be a guard. I think you can teach post-play in a relatively short amount of time, but you cannot in a short time teach the fundamentals needed to be a scorer and handle the basketball...I picked that up over in Europe and that's one of the things that I think Jon benefited from because he's been taught to play every position."

Jon finished the season scoring 24.3 points, grabbing 6.0 rebounds, dishing out 2.2 assists, taking 2.2 steals and blocking 1.9 blocks per game. His noteworthy rookie campaign earned Honorable Mention All-Ohio for Fostoria (19-4).

Sophomoric Sensation

By this time, Jon had morphed from a homebody playing with his legos to a growing adolescent, close to 6-foot-5 who had a whole lot of skills. His father moved he and his brother Jake once again, this time taking the position at Upper Sandusky to be closer to his childhood home.

Keith was a 1970 graduate of Colonel Crawford High School, just about 25 miles to the east of Upper in a small community called North Robinson, located in neighboring Crawford County.

The Ram cupboard was anything but bare. Upper Sandusky returned senior guard Greg Micheli, an already prolific scorer, 6-7 forward Miles Weaver and sharp shooting guard Aaron Weatherell. But the addition of senior Jake and sophomore Jon was icing on the cake.

Jake scored 23.9 points a game as a junior. He was already making a strong push among the Ohio leaders for steals and assists, but Jake marked his brand enough to earn a scholarship offer early in the season from Valparaiso.

He planned to give a verbal commitment to head coach Homer Drew. The family traveled in person to break the news to Drew. Even brother Jon had become something of a commodity after his breakthrough rookie season, so the former shooter by name but lego-builder by trade decided to continue perfecting his craft along with his partner-in-crime.

"I really liked playing with my brother," said Jon, "so it had been an easy choice for me."

His father elaborated.

"Jon was in the back seat and said, 'mom, dad, I'm going to verbally commit to Valparaiso," Keith remembers him saying. "My wife and I were not one to look him in the eyes and say, ‘no, you're not.' We expressed our reservations. Jon had already had some other colleges interested and I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. We knew he was acting on emotion because of his brother because they're very close.

"The thought of one day possibly competing at the NCAA Tournament with your brother," Keith asked rhetorically, "I mean, it doesn't get any better than that does it?"

The Diebler brothers, future Crusaders and current running mates, stormed through the regular season. Upper Sandusky averaged 90 points per game and went 20-0, winning the Northern Ohio League outright. Jon was really hitting stride. By the time the Rams reached the regionals, Jon was in top form. He scored 33 points in the regional championship against Akron St. Vincent St. Mary.

Upper Sandusky (25-0) was moving to the Division II State Final Four.

Dayton Dunbar stood in Upper Sandusky's way. Led by junior Daequan Cook, the Wolverines were bigger, stronger and more athletic. But they were no-match for Keith's shooter extraordinaire.

Jon scored 29 points on 7-of-13 from three-point range and grabbed nine rebounds as the Rams eased past Dunbar 95-90.

"What I saw, which was incredible, was his unbelievable accuracy," says Dunbar assistant coach Al Powell, who remembers vividly the coming-out party by Diebler on that day. "His range was the second thing that was unbelievable. The third thing that impressed me, and it's true to this day, was his mental toughness.

"Even when he misses a few shots, you may get a few jabs in at him, he's a Joe Frazier-type," added Powell, "where he'll just keep coming at you even when you get your shots in."

Jon topped his performance in the Division II State Championship game with another 32 points and 14 rebounds. The Diebler craze had begun.

But more importantly to Jon, his brother and father, the family earned a title together.

"I don't think I can describe how important that was to win one together," he said. "It was a dream come true. All those days in the gym and out playing ball together paid off."

As a Division II first-team All-Ohio selection, Diebler finished with 26.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. But Jon had to say goodbye to his brother Jake, who finished the season with 18.8 points per game en route to being named Division II Player of the Year.

More conspicuously, Keith's second son had also become a record-holder.

Jake finished his career as the state's all-time leader in both steals and assists. He also held the single-season record in Ohio for both categories.

But Jon's gym-mate was departed.

New Building Blocks For Success

Diebler started off his junior year in the same old system, for the same fiery coach, same proud father and in the same supportive town. This time he was without a familiar face and playing for a new dream.

Jake was gone but not forgotten. Someone was filling his shoes, but not replacing him.

This was Jon's team now.

"It's kind of always been expected for the new point guard to take over the leadership responsibilities for me," said Keith. "Just like when Jon is gone, Alex (Falk) will have to take over."

The youngest son was to shoulder Jake's obligations as the leader. He was running the show from the point to help ease the burden of the young freshmen and sophomore-laden Rams.

But the former teammates were not likely to ever be teammates again. Instead of joining his brother in two seasons at Valpo, Jon alerted Drew over the summer he was looking at three teams - Michigan, North Carolina State and Ohio State.

"That was Jon's doing," Keith said. "He told Coach Drew that Valparaiso was not out of the running yet, but he wanted to look at those three schools.

Drew several times applauded Jon and especially Ohio State for, "doing things the right way," in his words, echoed by Keith. But Diebler passed up the opportunity of playing in the NCAA Tournament some day with his sibling and instead aiming for a National Championship at Ohio State.

First, Diebler had a tougher, more daunting task ahead of him.

He had to lead an inexperienced defending state championship team missing three starters and 50 points of offense.

Jon was up to the task.

He began his assault on Burson's two-decade-old record with consistent and reliable scoring. The 6-6 junior scored at least 40 points in a game on five different occasions. His season-high 77 points came in a 106-101 overtime thriller against Tiffin Columbian. Diebler made 27-of-28 free throws that night, which tied him for an Ohio single-game high.

Diebler had nine games of 40 points or more through his junior season. His 35.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.2 steals and 4.1 blocks per game led him to his being named co-Division II Player of the Year along with Cook. Nine times Diebler also grabbed at least 10 rebounds, with a season high of 17 in a game.

To tie Burson's scoring record, Diebler needed 852 points. That likely required 37 points a game and a deep run into the state playoffs.

Possible, it seemed, but not an easy task.

The History In The Making...

Jon triumphantly celebrated a recent victory with his teammates. The chase of Burson's record was well on it's way to becoming not only a reality but also a formality.

The 18-6 season a year ago was long behind him, as was their district championship loss to the hands of conference rival Willard, after Upper Sandusky had reeled off 11-straight victories.

Before Diebler could shake his defeated opponents' hands and relish another notch closer to an outright NOL title, autograph-seekers surrounded their community hero.

"There are those people that want autographs," Keith explains, "and he diligently signs them all and smiles."

Within three games of Diebler's senior and possibly record-breaking season beginning, he had scored 40, 44 and 60 points against Wynford, his old school Fostoria and powerful Division I Cincinnati St. Xavier. It was clear, after nearly 150 points in three games, that Diebler's quest for the record was more than a reality - barring injury.

As Upper Sandusky sits quietly for Friday's showdown against rival Norwalk, hoping to take a second outright NOL Championship in three seasons, their 16-3 record is overshadowed by Diebler's fame.

"It hasn't (sunk in yet) and it probably won't until the end of the season," Diebler said in January. "But I know people think it's a big deal."

By this time, Jon has poured in 814 of the necessary 852 points to make history. He's scored 814 bunches in games of at least 40 on 13 occasions. That makes 22 times in his career that he's notched 40 points or more.

Diebler's averages: 42.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.1 steals and 4.6 blocks per game are stellar individually. Collectively, they're breathtaking.

The "shooter," is hitting on 37 percent from three-point range (87-of-229). The scorer, however, is hitting 52 percent of his shots from inside the line (170-of-319). A little-known fact is that Diebler is sitting No. 2 all-time in the state of Ohio in free throws made with 646. He's 51 behind No. 1 on the list - Geno Ford. Diebler's current pace of 11 free throws per game would mean he would become Ohio's career leader in free throws if Upper Sandusky makes it to the regional semifinals.

Beyond all the stats, including his 16 games with 10 or more rebounds, career-high of 10 steals in a game, three games of at least 10 assists and outbursts of 69, 67 and 60 points all pale in comparison to the way he's conducted himself.

"Probably the thing that impresses me the most is that this is a kid that will go out in the community and be service-oriented," said his father. "We had a kid move in from another school and had a rough time in the lunchroom and getting to know people and such. Jon went and asked him to sit with him at lunch."

These random acts of kindness, which includes going to a couple of special-ed basketball games every season and doing community projects like clean-ups and fundraisers are simply an every day part of life for Diebler.

He's no different than the freshman playing ball with his brother, the sixth grader shooting at halftime to earn two bucks or the fifth grader playing with legos.

"Jon is just Jon," added Keith. "He doesn't try to separate himself."

Friday, a packed crowd of more than 1,500 folks will cram into Upper Sandusky's High School gymnasium hoping the Rams win the NOL, but also hoping Diebler scores another 43 points. It's not the same gym him and his brothers practiced in so many times when they were younger, nor is it the the gym Diebler passed up with Jake for his legos, but it's the place he's embarked on near immortality.

"I guess we're past that now," Keith says of the legos.

Included in the 1,500 people will be Burson himself, a man well respected by Diebler, his father and entire family. Even Diebler's season average of 43 points may be too much on this upcoming night, disappointing hopeful fans and postponing the inevitable until the following Friday when Upper Sandusky will play either Galion or Clear Fork in the sectional final.

After all, adds the father and coach, "Jon will take 20 assists and 10 points if that's what it's going to take to win the game."

But that's the kind of boy that Diebler brought up. It's the kind of brother Jeremiah and Jake has lived with.

It's the kind of player a coach could love, even a father acting as a coach. It's also the kind of future teammate 7-1 Kosta Koufos has befriended and learned to appreciate.

Diebler has escaped the pressures of his newfound reality by finding casual, humorous moments with the future Buckeye.

"We call each other like twice a week," Koufos said.

"We just like brag about who's got the most points and most rebounds," he adds with a laugh. "Obviously he's got the most points, but I get him in the rebounds here and there."

Instead of giving Diebler a dollar to shoot, people are paying more than five dollars apiece to see him shoot. Suddenly, while Jeremiah was scoring those points, Jake was jumping in drills and living in the gym at a young age, all those shots Jon hoisted mean something more.

It's the untold stories of how Ford, Burson and LeBron James got to this level to begin with.

"He considers it an honor and privilege to be mentioned with some of the people he's mentioned with in Ohio," Keith said. "I think he understands it now but perhaps down the road he'll understand it a little more."

The Next Building Block

There is no shortage of things to say for the boy-turned-man about to become Ohio's greatest scorer. Even for a man worth 2,959 points - or 3,000 or more points, as people are now talking about, expectations can be a burden.

What does Diebler's future hold at Ohio State? No one can say with certainty.

"His jump shot has to be as good as we think it is," said ScoutHoops.com analyst Dave Telep. "That's the first thing."

That shot people pay to see. His bread-and-butter.

But according to Telep, Diebler will be successful if he improves lateral speed and quickness, gets stronger and becomes a better ball-handler.

The fact Diebler has played for a winner (his father), with a winner (his brother) and as a winner only helps his transition from local hero to state and collegiate star. Winners breed winning, according to Powell.

"It's getting to kiss the pretty girl," he says. "You don't have to just go out with anyone any more and I don't mean that in a bad way. These guys thirst for the best and they're winners."

His role at Ohio State, though currently undefined, should revolve loosely around his infamous shooting.

"You get in the huddle and need someone to take that Matt Sylvester shot," Telep said, "Jon Diebler is the man."

"I think you can expect that Jon Diebler, provided that he can get enough playing time as a freshman and sophomore, you're staring at a 1,000-point scorer in college," Telep adds. "With Jon Diebler, you forget all the measurables and cast them aside for a minute, and you talk about a kid who's a coach's son, who's a winner, who's looked very good on the floor at places like the NBA camp with good players around him and mix in the absolute fact that he has a high-level college jump-shot, and Jon Diebler should have a very, very good college basketball career. Bottom line."

Some day, Keith Diebler might want to pull those legos from out of the basement.

They may be worth a fortune sometime soon, and it all started for a few lousy bucks and a couple of three-point shots.

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