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Defensive-minded Faulkner with YSU

YOUNGSTOWN — Ethan Faulkner remembers it. Frankly, it’ll always be embedded in his memory.

The Kentucky High School state basketball championship. One division. Take on all comers.

Sound familiar? It should. The ‘Hoosiers’ movie from the mid-1980s did its fictitious take of the Milan (Indiana) High School state championship team.

Faulkner graduated from Elliott County High School in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, in 2009. It’s located between Huntington, West Virginia and Lexington and two-and-a-half hours southeast of Cincinnati.

Only 65 people in his graduating class. His team made the Final Four — impressive for a school his size.

More impressive is the run, which has made this school one of the most feared in the state to this day.

“We had a really good run of players come through,” Faulkner said.

One state champion. One division.

His team went to three state tournament, a first for Elliott County. This team lost in the Final Four his senior year.

“Very unique experience,” Faulkner said. “I cherish relationships with guys on that team. They’re still the closest friends I got to this day.

“It’s one I cherish and look back on and realize how special it was.”

The guard stayed in state going to Northern Kentucky, becoming an Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year. He became one of the best Norse had to offer before they headed to the Horizon League. He stayed around for one year as an assistant coach, then had stops at Mount Vernon Nazarene and the University of Cumberlands before landing at Youngstown State University last month.

The last time Faulkner was on YSU’s campus was Dec. 31, 2014, when the Penguins beat the Norse, 78-74. That was as an assistant coach at NKU.

“The thing that’s exciting about this place is it has a completely different feel with what coach (Jerrod) Calhoun, coach (Jason) Slay and the rest of the staff have been able to do in the first two years,” said Faulkner, YSU’s newest men’s basketball assistant coach.

He’ll move the Penguins’ recruiting base into Kentucky, Cincinnati and southern Ohio — targeting players that want to be part of something special at YSU.

“It’s going to be an area we try to break into now, that I try to dive into and find some kids there that want to be at Youngstown and be a part of what we’ve got going on here,” Faulkner said.

Kentucky, a virtually untapped area by the Penguins. YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun hopes to see some recruits south of Ohio heading to the northeast part of the Buckeye state, specifically Youngstown.

“A lot of good players in Kentucky,” Calhoun said. “A lot of good players in that area. Ethan brings a tremendous knowledge. He was thinker. He was a leader. He got guys in the right position. I think he’s destined to become a basketball coach with his pedigree.”

For the Penguins, Faulker’s defensive presence on the floor helped the Elliott County small-school machine become one of the juggernauts in Kentucky. The former Northern Kentucky guard brought the same tenacity to the Norse. Calhoun expects him to share that passion with his players as the Penguins look to be a better defensive team this upcoming season.

“Thing that stands out about him is his attention to detail,” Calhoun said. “He taught me a great deal on the defensive side of things. He bring some different ideas, different things to our staff. I think he’s well-rounded. He’s not just a recruiter. He’s a ball coach.”