The legacy of the late Myrl Shoemaker continues with the Ohio University-Chillicothe men’s basketball team and OU-C athletic program by several individuals with direct ties to the civic leader. The Hilltoppers play their home games in the campus’ Shoemaker Center, which is named for the former Ohio lawmaker from Ross County. Additionally, the current OU-C coach and point guard, as well as the athletics director, have bloodlines with the facility’s namesake. First-year Hilltopper Coach Dan Easterday’s wife, Lisa, is Shoemaker’s granddaughter. Easterday’s son, Nick, a second-year member of the team, is the great-grandson of the late legislator. Meanwhile, Athletics Director David Shoemaker is a nephew of Myrl Shoemaker. “Myrl was a remarkable guy who loved Ross County,” said Dan Easterday, remembering that Myrl would return home nearly every evening even when serving as the state’s lieutenant governor. “Growing up in Ross County, I learned that Myrl’s name was synonymous with helping people. He was a powerful political figure but also a common man, and he was as honest as the day is long. One thing I always admired about him was his straight-forward approach. My wife often talks about how direct Myrl always was. If you asked him a question, he gave you a straight answer.” Dave Shoemaker learned a lifelong lesson from his famous uncle. “Myrl told me something once that has never left me. He said that you can fail many times, but you are never a failure until you blame it on someone else. I have carried that with me ever since and know the importance of taking responsibility for what happens to me.” Dave’s father, Ralph, was a starter on the first OU-C basketball team in 1946-47. Prior to the construction of OU-C’s Shoemaker Center, which was dedicated in 1979, the Hilltoppers played their home games down the road at Bishop Flaget School. Myrl Shoemaker was instrumental in the construction of the OU-C building that bears his name, and he insisted that the region have a top-flight facility. “He traveled around the state with Bobby Christian, who was then the OU-C athletics director, and Corky Miller, who was the OU-C coach, to see other facilities before building the OU-C gymnasium,” Dan Easterday said. And, his perseverance paid dividends. “When it first opened, it was wonderful, and it still is the best facility in the league,” said OU- C women’s basketball coach John Milliken. “Our players are all impressed with it, and other teams’ players love playing here. It is a very forward-thinking building in terms of its design and usefulness.” Because of its layout that resembles an arena and green trim, area high school teams will practice in the Shoemaker Center before playing tournament games at Ohio University-Athens’ Convocation Center. Myrl Shoemaker was also a driving force behind the construction of the arena at the University of Cincinnati, the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center, which is also named after him. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives for 24 years and was lieutenant governor from 1982 until his death in 1985 at age 72. The Chillicothe gymnasium includes such features as a full-length court, free-standing baskets, bleachers on both sides with seating for approximately 2,200 spectators and a walking track that is heavily utilized by campus members and community residents. The facility is used for the campus’ men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s volleyball teams as well as special events such as graduation and physical education classes. It also includes the campus’ Health & Wellness Center, classrooms and offices for Continuing Education, Business & Industry, and a concession area. Practicing and playing in a building named for their late relative has special significance for Shoemaker’s kin. “It’s pretty cool to walk in to practice every day and see his photo hanging in the building,” Nick Easterday said.” “It absolutely makes me prouder to play in a building named after Myrl,” said Dan Easterday, who was a coach for 18 years at Southeastern High School, including three years as head varsity basketball coach. “I think about it every time I walk down the hallway,” Dave Shoemaker said. “If not for Myrl and my dad, I would not be involved in athletics. They both taught me how athletics can be used as a benefit in other phases of life such as academics.” Dave Shoemaker recalled family basketball games on Thanksgiving Day that were discontinued after some cracked ribs and eyeglasses. He also remembers Myrl’s comment after Dave received a technical foul for arguing a regular foul in a high school basketball game. “All Myrl said was that the only thing worse than doing something foolish is making a fool of yourself twice,” Dave recalls. Along with sound advice, the mantle of the Shoemaker legacy is now being passed to Nick, a physical education major who was a three-year starter and a team captain at Unioto High School. “I don’t feel any extra pressure playing for my dad. Off of the court, he’s my father, but during practices and games, he’s my coach,” Nick Easterday said. “I am an extension of him on the floor, which is the role of the point guard. The fact that we have spent so many hours over the years talking about basketball helps out. We both share a passion for the game, and I know how he wants it to be played.” This is the first year that Dan Easterday has coached his son’s team. For both, it has been a rewarding experience and has kept alive the legacy of Myrl Shoemaker in a way that would undoubtedly make the former lawmaker proud. “Being able to say that I am able to play college basketball is an honor, and the opportunity to represent Chillicothe is pretty special, too,” Nick said.
Group photo includes (from left) OU-C men's basketball coach Dan Easterday, OU-C athletics director Dave Shoemaker, OU-C men's basketball player Nick Easterday and OU-C women's basketball coach John Milliken. Other photos include exterior and interior shots of the Shoemaker Center at OU-C.