By Ryan Kaczmarski
Westlake High School has been a hotbed of great athletic talent in recent years, and that fact has been supported by seniors Gavin Skelly and Julia Dunbar signing National Letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at the college level.
Skelly signed his scholarship papers and will enter the world of Big Ten basketball, as he will attend Northwestern University. Skelly was a first team All-Southwestern Conference selection each of the last two years and has been a varsity player all four seasons.
The 6- foot, 9-inch, 215-pound Skelly had a phenomenal summer season in the AAU circuit regularly outclassing highly regarded recruits of the major programs and leading his team to a third place at the AAU nationals this past summer. For his size, Skelly is extremely athletic and has also been a member of the cross country and lacrosse teams at Westlake.
He led the Demons in scoring (16 points per game), rebounds (8.6 per game), blocks(2.5 per game), steals (2 per game) and assists (2.3 per game). He shot over 58 percent from the field last season. He is ranked as the 59th best player in the region and the No. 1 center in Ohio. Skelly selected Northwestern from over 35 other scholarship offers.
“As a college basketball coach, I was fortunate enough to have recruited and signed a national top 25 player,” Westlake head coach Shawn Hood said. “During my time at Wisconsin, the Big Ten saw several great college basketball players and even a few pros.
“In my opinion Gavin Skelly is a good as any of those players I saw in all of my 15 years in Division I basketball,” he added. “In fact, in many ways he is better than most. Gavin is without question the most mobile forward that I have ever coached. At 6-9, he can do things on the perimeter most forwards can only dream about. In the past two seasons, Gavin has led us in virtually every statistical category. Based on what I have seen so far, this year as our captain he will lead us in emotionally as well.”
Skelly becomes one of new Northwestern coach Chris Collins’ first four recruits as he begins his tenure with the Wildcats. Collins is the former assistant coach at Duke and helped coach the Men’s US Olympic basketball team in both 2008 and 2012.
“I love Gavin’s motor,” Collins said in a press release. “He’s going to be a great addition to our front line. He’s big and strong and can really run the floor, which is a great attribute for a front-line player.
He’s also very skilled,” Collins added. “He’s got the ability to shoot and pass, but the thing I love the most about him is his energy; he’s non-stop movement. Gavin is always bringing energy and excitement to the floor.”
Julia Dunbar is the daughter of Connie and Ralph Dunbar (Ralph being the Westlake girls tennis head coach) and will be attending Siena College in Loudonville, New York.
Dunbar was named as the SWC Player of the Year this past season as she captured the first singles crown. The next week she paired up with Lyndsey Golick (sister of 2012 OHSAA state champion, Lauren Golick) and qualified for the state tennis tournament in doubles. She also qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore and as a junior. In her four years as a starter for the Lady Demons, Dunbar was first team All-SWC all four years. She served as the team captain for the past two seasons, and she was 97-16 for her career.
“Julia took her search for the right fit for her academic and tennis home for her college years very seriously,” her father and coach Ralph Dunbar said. “As a student, the smaller class sizes and friendly advisers made her feel comfortable and she felt they would help her grow as an individual and set her up well for graduate school.
“In the game of tennis, consistency is key to a players success and that means either keep the ball in play one shot longer or make less unforced errors. With a 97-16 overall match record, Julia is a perfect example of this key attribute. Consistency on the court is important but consistency off the court is also key. As a father-coach, being a well-rounded student athlete is also the goal. Julia has repeatedly demonstrated the characteristics that Westlake Demon Athletics embrace and support for the student athlete. She has achieved academic success with a 4.47 GPA and consistently gives to others unselfishly. She has the ability to get along with all players on a team whether it be an athletic, academic or social team. She is willing to be a participant and a leader and strives to achieve a successful goal for all involved.”