Against all odds, some Cardinal athletes go on to careers in the pros
by Adam Prescott
Most student athletes in NCAA Division III play for the love of the game. While many have great accomplishments on the field, and even better success stories off the field, playing sports professionally is just a dream. But for Jeff Gibbs ’02, Kelley McClure ’96 and Dan Remenowsky ’08, the dream turned into reality.
Many know the success of Jeff Gibbs, who helped bring Otterbein its first-ever national championship in a team sport by leading the Cardinals to the 2002 men’s basketball title. Many also know of his success as a professional player overseas in Germany and Japan. Not everyone, however, may be familiar with his personal drive and the journey to get there.
“I nearly got kicked off the team my freshman year,” Gibbs explained. “I wasn’t listening and didn’t want to go to film sessions or practice.”
Luckily, point guard Kevin Weakley ’99 went to talk with Coach Dick Reynolds ’65, saying he didn’t think the team could win without Gibbs. Coach Reynolds later called Gibbs in for a long talk, explaining to the freshman how great he thought he could be.
Gibbs used that as a turning point, going on to become the first dual-sport All-American (football and basketball) in Otterbein history.
“Otterbein will always hold a special place in my heart,” said Gibbs, who returns to Westerville every off-season with his wife, April, and their three children. “I met my wife here, won a national championship and met a mentor in Coach Reynolds. Most of my talks with Coach weren’t even about basketball, but life in general and moving forward to build a career and help the community.”
Gibbs spent the first year out of college working two jobs, spending time with PALS, a youth mentoring program in the Columbus Public Schools as well as a position at City Wide Painting.
He received a call one day out of the blue from a professional team in Germany, asking him to try out for the club. Gibbs has since parlayed that chance into a successful eight-year career, a classic example of taking advantage of an opportunity.
Gibbs wasted little time solidifying himself as the top rebounder in his German league, and has since moved on to compete in the Japan Basketball League the past three seasons. He recently helped guide Toyota Alvark to the 2012 league championship, earning all-league status and “Top 5” tournament team honors along the way after leading his club in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. Despite turning 32 in August, Gibbs has no plans of slowing down just yet.
“My original plan at the beginning was to play until I was 35, so my son could be in a stable environment as he gets older,” Gibbs said. “Now my wife is telling me to try and play until the wheels fall off. I think I have anywhere from three to five years left in me.”
Those who have seen Gibbs play will refuse to bet against him or how long he’ll last. Many people watching for the first time are amazed at how a post player standing just 6-2 dominates the game. It’s no surprise that his efforts have garnered the nickname, “Mr. Incredible.”
Gibbs might have had a one-year gap between college and professional basketball, but that sounds like nothing McClure, who had visions of playing basketball for a living after finishing his Otterbein days as a two-time all-conference performer and 10th on the program’s scoring list.
However, McClure was forced to wait six years before he was finally invited to play for an EA Sports College Tour team, traveling to compete against some of the top NCAA Division I programs in the country. McClure left his job with Columbus Public Schools and wasted no time impressing on the hardwood, averaging 27 points per game on the trip while competing against such players as Dwayne Wade, Udonis Haslem, Kareem Rush and other future NBA players.
As a result of his performance, McClure was offered a tryout with the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). He made the team, going on to finish in the top 10 in the league for scoring, assists, steals and free-throw percentage.
“It was a blessing,” McClure said of the opportunity to play professionally. “A lot of people don’t give you much of a chance coming from a Division III school, but I just worked hard and tried to make the best out of every possible situation.”
McClure parlayed his CBA experience into a career overseas, spending time with professional teams in Belgium, France, Israel and Venezuela.
“My time at Otterbein taught me to be disciplined,” said McClure, who officially retired from playing in 2010. “We learned to work hard and be committed to anything you do. Some like to label Division III guys as not having a whole lot of athletic ability, so that always motivated me to prove otherwise. I hope my career shows that if you’re willing to work hard, anything can happen.”
McClure has since dedicated himself to coaching both professionally and collegiately, working with the Columbus Crush of the American Basketball Association (ABA), World Harvest Prep Bible College and the Ohio Hidden Gems of the International Basketball League (IBL). In addition, he hopes to begin working with young players on speed and agility training.
A three-time Ohio Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and 2006 All-America selection, Remenowsky has turned his passion for baseball into a minor-league career. The 6-5 right-hander, referred to by his friends as “Remy,” was signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox organization shortly after college graduation in 2008. He was placed in Single-A ball, working hard as a reliever to eventually earn a South Atlantic League all-star appearance in 2009.
“I was very lucky to have the coaching I did at Otterbein,” Remenowsky said. “Coach Powell and Coach Ewing taught me the mental side of the game and let my physical abilities take care of the rest. I played with a lot of dedicated players and I am forever grateful to have shared my college years with them. I had a lot of growing up to do when I came in as a freshman, but I learned how to be a good teammate through the people at Otterbein.”
Remenowsky was quickly bumped to Double-A, where he earned a second all-star game appearance. He then earned a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte in 2011, posting a 2-2 record and striking out 25 batters in 18 appearances.
“The career path I’ve taken is a little different from most of my college friends,” he said. “It’s not as steady of a job as most people have, but it’s what I know best.”
He continues to chase his dream of playing in the major leagues someday despite playing with Double-A Birmingham this season as he recovers from an injury. He currently holds a 1.60 earned run average (E.R.A) through 33 innings.
“I remain pretty positive that I will get a shot in the big leagues someday,” Remenowsky said. “I couldn’t tell you when, but I always remain optimistic and focused. The passion is always going to be what drives me.”