When one sees a focused, dedicated and hard working student-athlete, be it a high school or college player, one doesn’t have to look very far to find the reason for such good fortune.
It’s very simple, actually, in that behind every successful young person is a group of exemplary family members providing the responsible guidance and positive support needed for their loved one to enjoy all of the opportunities that life has to offer.
For Avon Lake resident Michael Bova, there has always been an abundance of family surrounding him with the kind of encouragement and advice that can only lead to good things. From his father Mike, his grandfather Phil and to all of the remaining members of this proud family, Bova, a senior point guard on the St. Edward High School basketball team, is now ready to fulfill his dream of becoming a Division I college basketball player.
Bova officially signed his letter of intent on Nov. 10 to attend Bellarmine University in Kentucky. A program with outstanding tradition, Bellarmine will play a very demanding and impressive schedule this season including the likes of Purdue, UCLA and Gonzaga. Tough and challenging opponents, though, won’t exactly be something new for Bova to deal with. The St. Edward schedule yearly features some of the very best teams the state of Ohio, and beyond, has to offer.
“The Bellarmine schedule was certainly something I was drawn to and it is going to be very exciting,” Bova said, during a phone interview. “It did remind me a lot of St. Ed’s in terms of strength of schedule, as well as the overall atmosphere. Everything about Bellarmine just felt right for me. The coaches have been great and they feel I will be a good fit for the program. I’m very happy with my decision.”
Many others are equally as thrilled with Bova’s choice, in particular his dad Mike.
“The Bellarmine coaches have all been great with Michael and I feel good about where he’ll be playing the next four years,” Mike Bova said. “Many Ohio schools also showed an interest in him, and they are all fine programs but in the end, to go out of state and accept the challenge of playing in a fine program like Bellarmine will further challenge Mike to be the best he can be. It was just the best fit for him all the way around.”
Some of the schools that were hoping to land the services of this talented player included Toledo, Ohio, Miami (Ohio) and Kent State, but it will be the up and coming program in the basketball state of Kentucky all set to enjoy the talents of Bova.
Such skills were developed at a very early age with Bova indicating that when he was a 4th and 5th grader, people started to take notice of his playing ability, and when he got into travel ball and AAU, that’s when things, as he put it started to get “serious.”
“Having the opportunity to travel all around Ohio and across the country playing some of the best competition I could really helped me to get better at my overall game,” Michael said. “I believe I have a toughness about me that allows me to compete at high levels. My ability to get to the basket and take the ball to the rim is definitely one of my strengths.”
St. Edward head coach Eric Flannery readily agrees with such an assessment.
“There is a physicality about Michael’s game that really makes him unique,” Flannery said. “A lot of players his age don’t have that quality but he is a strong kid. He looks to score and delivers on that averaging in the high double-digit range, which is, for the most part, unheard of in our program. He has that rare ability to score in a lot of different ways.”
Another characteristic Bova constantly puts on display is his leadership, although Flannery would like him to be a little more “vocal” in that department.
“I talk with Michael about that all the time,” the Eagles’ coach said. “He is a natural leader and his teammates look to him. He’s accomplished a lot in his career and everyone around him follows that lead.”
Those accomplishments are eye-opening, indeed. As a freshman, Bova was a member of the program’s junior varsity squad, while he was the varsity’s 6th man his sophomore season in 2020. He cracked the starting lineup for the green and gold in 2021 as a junior, and hasn’t looked back since. That 2020 team was an impressive 25-1 with a No. 1 ranking in Ohio, and was recognized as a top 15 team in the entire country. Bova recalled three players from that team, who many feel was clearly headed to the state finals and a possible Division I championship had it not been for cancellations due to COVID-19, in Devontae Blanton (Eastern Kentucky), Grant Huffman (Davidson) and Montorie Foster (Michigan State-football) who he looked up to as a young sophomore.
“I learned a lot from those guys,” Bova, who averaged 18.8 points a game last year and 26.7 points a game in the postseason, said. “They welcomed me as a varsity team member, and now they are enjoying success at the next level. This is just another example of the excellence and tradition of St. Ed’s. You hear all about the tradition, both in the classroom and inside the athletic arena before you come to the school. It can be a lot to take in and comprehend but once you get here, you get it.”
Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport truly believes Bova “gets it” as the veteran collegiate coach was so impressed with the St. Ed’s point guard at first glance. Davenport, whose team competes out of the ASUN conference, has guided the Knights to 378 victories during his career (through 2020-21) is Bellarmine’s all-time winningest coach, both in terms of wins and winning percentage (.763). Just six seasons after being hired, he guided his team to a national championship, Davenport, in 2021, guided the school to a 14-8 record making a very smooth transition from a Division II to a Division I program. Davenport served nine seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville under famed Cardinals head coaches Denny Crum and Rick Pittino.
“Michael is a true student of the game, which can be traced back to his family and the outstanding program at St. Edward,” Davenport said. “His abilities on the basketball court speak for themselves, and he is very passionate about the game. You show me someone who is passionate about what they do, and I’ll show you someone who is very good at what they do.
“One of the many things we liked about Michael is that he wants to be here, and we want him here,” Davenport added. “Players like Michael, they win. He is willing to do whatever ti takes for the team to win. Winning is a habit one should want to establish, and Michael has that covered.”
And going back to that family factor, in addition to his dad, Bova’s grandfather Phil has been a terrific mentor for him. Unquestionably, Phil Bova, the longtime college basketball official from the Big 10 Conference and a hall of famer, himself with many sports organizations, has forgotten more about college basketball than most people will ever come to know.
“We are all so very proud of Michael and his accomplishments,” Phil said. “I am grateful that my grandson will fulfill his dream of playing college basketball.”
Michael Bova quickly acknowledges what his grandfather, and the rest of his family has done for him throughout the entire process of making the big decision about academics and athletics for the future.
“My dad and my grandfather have been two of my biggest role models,” he said. “In watching my grandfather do what he did and at the level he did it at has been an inspiration for me and a blessing. He just told me to go where I was needed and where I would be happy. My dad has been there every step of the way, as well. From watching me play to driving me all over the country from one tournament to the next, his support has been tremendous. My mom, brother and sister, and my entire family has been there for me and I cannot thank them enough for helping me get to this point in my life.
“Coach Flann (Flannery) has been a tremendous coach for me, as has the entire St. Ed’s staff,” Bova added. “Coach Flann’s success at both the high school and national level is well noted. He has taught me so much and has helped me to improve my game that now allows me the opportunity to play college ball.”
Flannery, who has some experience as far as preparing his players for college competition, was equally as instrumental in guiding Bova through the recruiting process.
“Sometimes, players can wait regarding their decision,” Flannery said. “And sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes players wait for that bigger school, or the ‘name’ school to make an offer. But I try to tell my players and their families that the ‘name’ school may not be what is best for their son. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s all about making the choice that best fits the player’s needs, academically, socially and athletically. Bellarmine was the right choice for Michael, and it will be a good fit. I’m proud and happy for Michael and his entire family.”
It’s all about developing a plan, and then doing all the right things for successful execution of that plan. Bova acknowledged that St. Edward always has a plan for its student-athletes to follow. The opportunities more than present themselves but it’s up to the individual to see things through. Bova has more than seen his plan come to fruition.
“I believe everything about St. Ed’s has more than prepared me for life after graduation,” he said. “There is a set plan and a discipline, a mindset that has served me well and I feel so blessed to have been able to take advantage of that. Those things translate onto the basketball court where my plan for my senior year will be to continue to improve as a player and be the best leader I can be for my teammates.
“I believe we are going to have a good team this year,” Bova added. “It will be my responsibility to lead and make sure we are all on the same page. It will also be great to play in front of fans and packed gyms again. We had to adapt so much with the changes brought on by COVID, but we did. I’ll always remember Coach Flann’s words about that reminding the team that you should never take anything for granted, including playing basketball because it can be taken away from you. We’ve had a good off-season, though, and I believe that is going to pay off for us. The expectations are always high at St. Ed’s but that’s good. I welcome that challenge that hopefully gets us to the state’s “Final Four” this year in Dayton.”
Bova, who initially plans on majoring in communications, cannot wait for his final year of high school ball to begin. He is just as excited, however, about realizing his dream. Imagine this youngster who picked up a basketball at a very early age at the playgrounds and middle schools in Avon Lake, will soon go from playing on the hardwood at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio to potentially taking the floor as a freshmen college player inside Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. taking on THE Duke University Blue Devils.
Yes, dreams can come true but it takes hard work, sacrifice and a dedication unlike no other. For dreams to become reality, one must be proactive and be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success.
Bova has done everything one needs to do in order to realize a lifelong goal. And with such a loving and supportive family behind him, the good times are only just beginning. The book is far from being finished as Bova gets set to write additional chapters to his success story.
If one needs to look for a positive example in terms of the right path to take in life, you couldn’t go wrong by glancing towards the road Michael Bova chose to travel upon.
Photos courtesy of the Bova family
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