LEAVITTSBURG - Peyton Aldridge will tell you he's 6 feet, 7 inches barefoot.
The 200-pound LaBrae High School guard puts his basketball shoes on before proudly displaying his talents - most noticeably his dribbling ability.
He said about 15 to 20 colleges took heed of his talents, but his skills now belong to one - Davidson College.
Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo
LaBrae’s Peyton Aldridge signs his National Letter of Intent to Davidson College Wednesday in Leavittsburg.
Wednesday, inside the LaBrae Middle School Gymnasium, Aldridge officially signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Wildcats.
"From the start, I got along with the coaching staff," Aldridge said. "I got along really well with the players. It felt really comfortable. They had a winning program, winning tradition. I made the right decision."
It was Aldridge's decision before entering middle school that solidified his career and made him such a great ball handler in the backcourt.
Aldridge's career numbers
POINTS: 1,209; CAREER AVERAGE: 16.3
REBOUNDS: 746; CAREER AVERAGE: 10.1
ASSISTS: 244; CAREER AVERAGE: 3.3
RECORD: LaBrae is 66-8, including an appearance in the 2012 state semifinals, in Aldridge's three years with the Vikings.
"Every day when my dad got home from work, I always tried to show him how good I was shooting and how good I could shoot," said Aldridge, a two-time Division III All-Ohio selection. "He said before you shoot again, you'll have to be able to dribble as good with your left hand as you right hand. Every day, I'd line up cones and just start dribbling. It was two days later, I showed him my dribbling. He said, 'OK, you can shoot again.' "
His father, Rick, the LaBrae eighth-grade boys basketball coach, was Peyton's mentor when he was in third grade and until he reached middle school. Rick said he noticed his son's perseverance.
"I think it's his dedication to being good and that started at a young age. I think that's been the difference maker for him," Rick said.
And, having that uncanny knack to see the floor is what set Peyton apart. Peyton started as a point guard for his youth teams.
"I think it was his knowledge of the game, picking up where everybody was at - so much more so than anybody else. From there, it became his fundamentals," Rick said.
Peyton is happy his talents will help the Wildcats.
"I love the up-and-down style, also settle down and get a good shot. Bigs play both outside and in - that really attracted me there," he said. "(Bob McKillop) is a great coach. Some say he's the best coach in college. His system, it's very tough to defend. I feel it fits me really well."
Peyton's mother, Lisa, is the LaBrae girls varsity coach. She remembers Peyton was more than a son who watched his mother be a mentor to a group of teen-age girls.
"Peyton has always had that natural ability and instinct on the floor, even when he was little. He's been raised in the gym," Lisa said. "Even through his other sports, he had that instinct he was very good at being able to handle a ball - no matter what it was. He's played a lot of different sports. Basketball was his first love. It's always been his first love."
He takes his 21 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and five assists he averaged last season - leading his Vikings to the Division III state semifinals - to Davidson, N.C. Davidson is located a half-hour north of Charlotte, off I-77. From LaBrae High School, it takes a little less than nine hours to drive there.
"You're there on Lake Norman in North Carolina - one of the best places in the country, really," LaBrae boys varsity coach Chad Kiser said. "If you wanted to go and be somewhere, that would've been on a lot of people's lists. It's easy to fall in love with the campus."
A lot of colleges were enamored with Peyton's abilities. All of the Mid-American Conference schools, Creighton, Boston College and William & Mary were part of the 15 to 20 schools offering scholarships to Peyton's abilities. Along with that, there were five to 10 schools that gave Peyton hard looks, such as Michigan and Stanford.
Peyton currently has a 4.0 GPA, but is undecided on his major.
"He's very strong in his maths and sciences, so he has some opportunities," Lisa said.
That said, Peyton, who said he'd like to reach 215 pounds before he graduates, has set the standard with his work ethic for LaBrae players to come.
"He's in here every day, shooting in the gym before school for about an hour or weightlifting. He mixes it up a little bit," Kiser said. "Last year, we'd get two, maybe three. This year, we average 15 kids since basketball started in the gym an hour before school. Those are all the way from junior high up to high school kids. This has filtered down through the varsity program. It's huge."
It all started with a little right-handed boy improving his left-handed dribble.
"It was just practice," Peyton said. "I always felt I had a pretty good left hand. I think it refers back to that. I was at the age where I picked it up easier - working in the driveway."
PRICE IS RIGHT FOR VULCANS: HOWLAND - Howland High School senior Emily Price is heading to California University of Pennsylvania.
She chose the Vulcans over Mount Union, Ashland, St. John's University, Pace and Adrian.
Price's interest was based on east coast schools and ones in the Pennsylvania area. However, California didn't come up on her radar until she fired up her computer.
"To be honest, I never e-mailed them," she said. "I never contacted them. I one day saw an e-mail from them and I went on a campus tour, loved the campus, thought it was beautiful. The coaches were amazing."
When she visited, Price was impressed with the program. She's slated to play shortstop and catcher.
As a hitter, she has batted better than .500 during her career.
MARINO MAKING LEAP TO EASTERN MICHIGAN: HOWLAND - Megan Marino has been training with Olympic Dreams in Liberty for quite a while.
The Howland senior signed with Eastern Michigan University to continue her gymnastics career.
"The coaches and the team were very welcoming when I went on my official visit," Marino said.
Howland doesn't have a gymnastics team, so her talent was seen through Olympic Dreams.
Marino said she's strong on the beam and floor, but needs work on the bars. When she gets to Eastern Michigan, she hopes to crack the starting lineup.
"It just depends if you make the lineup," she said. "It's vault, bars, beam or floor. It's what you show when you're practicing. If you're consistent, they'll put you in the lineup. If not, then you just won't make it."
When she does make the lineup, she'll probably get to see one of her current teammates when they take on a certain MAC school - Brooke Timko, who is from McDonald High School.
"It's exciting," Marino said. "One of my teammates is going to Kent State. We get to compete against each other."