Throughout the course of his high school career, Clay’s Cole Gilliland did so many good things on and off of the playing field that one would only need eight words to describe him — a young man who takes care of business.
Sure enough, the 6-4 student-athlete did that time and time again en route to representing Clay High School in the highest of orders. In the process, Gilliland put himself, and helped put the Panthers, on the map.
The three-time All-Southeast District basketball honoree and class valedictorian — who signed with Kentucky Christian to play college basketball in the fall — added another accomplishment to his ever-growing list when the accomplished high school graduate received a $500 scholarship from the Southeast Ohio District Athletic Board (SEODAB) for his excellence as a student-athlete at Clay High School.
For Gilliland, receiving such a scholarship is a blessing considering the amount of effort that went into achieving the lofty goals that the senior had set for himself.
“It feels really great,” Gilliland said. “A lot of hard work went into this. I’m very blessed. God has blessed me in many different ways, and it feels nice to be able to move on from high school knowing that I did all that I could, and that I accomplished many different things as a result.”
Over the course of the year, Gilliland’s success, as known by many around the area, was wide-ranging. In addition to collecting three consecutive All-Southeast District honors as one of Clay’s strongholds on the basketball side, the senior added an All-District accolade in baseball and led the Clay basketball unit to its first Division IV District Championship and its first regional appearance since 1969 as Gilliland helped lead the Panthers to a 24-3 record. The dynamite student-athlete then led the Clay baseball program to 12 victories in its final 17 affairs in 2017 as the Panthers advanced to the Division IV, Southeast I District Semifinals.
“I have been fortunate to have had some great coaches throughout the years,” Gilliland said of the success of both programs at Clay. “(Marc) Cottle, (Adam) Betten, and their coaching staffs have put my team and myself in a position to where we could succeed. I was very blessed to be able to be a part of those programs.”
However, even though Gilliland finished his athletic career as one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the Clay athletic program, his wide array of academic achievements are arguably even more impressive.
Behind his perfect 4.0 grade-point-average, Gilliland not only patrolled the glass and the infield for Clay athletically, but patrolled the entire 2017 class academically en route to earning Wendy’s High School Heisman honors and WSAZ Best of the Class accolades after being named as the school’s valedictorian for 2017 to keep it in the family.
“My sister (Lexie) and my father (Craig) did similar things when they were in high school,” Gilliland said. “It was just about trying to live up to the standard that was set before me. Personally, I enjoyed it very much when I look back on (my high school experience). When I look back on it and everything that my teammates and I accomplished, I’m very grateful.”
However, no matter where the genes came from, it didn’t come without sacrifice or determination from the standout student-athlete.
“It takes a lot of hard work,” Gilliland said. “Anybody can pass, but if you want to succeed in the classroom and on the field or the court, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I put in my time and I’m happy with what I did. Clay’s also a very good school to get your academic years in. They really hold you accountable. The teachers are great there because they are very dependable and they let you have independence because they have to get you ready for the real world, but they’ll also talk to you and make sure that you know when you need to get your assignments turned in. It definitely helps you grow.”
With his high school journey complete, Gilliland will prepare for his newest journey at KCU, a small, but tight-knit university of just over 600 students. There, Gilliland wants to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business, excel in basketball, and most importantly, continue to form a bond with Jesus Christ.
“I want to receive my degree in business management, I want to succeed on the basketball court as I did in high school, and most importantly, I also want to strengthen my walk with the Lord. That’s one of the main reasons why I decided to go to Kentucky Christian.”
And as he tries to accomplish all of those goals for himself, Gilliland plans on being a figure that his fellow peers can come to when they need help or guidance — just like he was at Clay.
“I want to get to know some people down there, and I want to make a difference,” Gilliland said. “In a small place like Grayson, Ky., Portsmouth, or Rosemount, everybody knows everybody, and I want to be someone that people can look to for help. Being there for people is a top priority for me.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7