There aren’t many sports legends from Cleveland who can be identified by either their first name or nickname.
Like it or not, “LeBron” fits the bill.
There’s also a good chance that if you say the name “Bernie,” pretty much everyone knows to whom you are referring — former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
But one name has stood the test of time perhaps longer than any from the Greater Cleveland area.
More than three decades have passed since Clark Kellogg graced the court at Viking Village, leading St. Joseph to state basketball prominence and catapulting himself into the national spotlight as one of the best high schoolers in the nation.
“Cleveland is a very passionate place when it comes to those who come from there,” Kellogg said from his home in Columbus. “When the city embraces you, they do it with the full passion and support. I am still to this day claimed as one of Cleveland’s, and I’m very thankful for that. That’s a source of personal satisfaction and I thank God for it.”
Growing up in East Cleveland and as a student of Chambers Elementary and then W.H. Kirk Middle School, Kellogg was like any other youngster. He loved to play sports, and modeled himself after the role set by his father, who was a standout in football, basketball and track at Cleveland East.
But there was a budding star out of Power High School in New York that caught young Clark’s eye — and that might have been a big turning point in Kellogg’s development.
“I was born in ’61, so I was a young buck when Lew Alcindor was doing his thing,” Kellogg said. “I was enamoured with his size, his grace, his achievement and the intellectual he was. He was my basketball idol. I wore No. 33 because of him.”
Kellogg never followed his father’s footsteps at East. Rather, he headed over to the lakeshore off East 185th Street to play at St. Joseph.
Little did he know he would be the linchpin to a state tournament run and the person who first put the Vikings on the map.
After learning the ropes as a varsity freshman, learning from seniors such as Mike Waters, Mark Capers and Andy Cannovino, Kellogg said he knew things were going to change his 10th-grade year.
“By my sophomore year, there was pretty much an expectation I would be the focal point my junior and senior years,” Kellogg said. “I set the goal in eighth grade to try to be a starter on varsity. Then I grew each season from that point on.”
With 6-foot-7 Kellogg leading the way, the Vikings advanced to the regional tournament his junior season.
“But I got really sick in the regionals,” he said. “I wasn’t even able to go to the game, I had the flu and fever so bad. I was on the couch listening to the game on the radio.”
That fed his hunger for his senior season. And what a senior season it was, as he teamed up with the rest of the starting five of brother Eric Kellogg, Roy Dudley, Jack Kromar and Phil Williams to advance to the Division I state tournament.
For the second straight season, Special K averaged 28 points per game.
He ended up being All-Ohio and played in the McDonald’s All-American game.
But what he was known for the most was that dynamic performance in the state championship game, in which he poured in 51 points — a state-tournament scoring record that stands to this day — and hauled in 24 rebounds.
Unfortunately, St. Joseph lost to Columbus East, 79-65.
Kellogg had scored 51 of his teams 65 points, but it wasn’t enough.
“We really struggled in the first half of that game,” Kellogg said. “I was scoring all those points out of necessity. It really wasn’t one of my best games from an efficiency standpoint. The productivity was reflective of how much I shot. I only made half my shots and barely half of my free throws.”
What Kellogg remembers most, he said, was a mistake of his.
“We were within striking distance and I had a turnover that was significant,” he said. “I think if we would have scored there, we could have really scared them.”
He was a first-round pick — eighth overall — by the Indiana Pacers and played in the NBA through the 1986 season.
Kellogg played only three full seasons, as well as a few partial seasons, before chronic knee problems forced him to retire.
Kellogg is the vice president of player relations for the Pacers as well as a college basketball analyst for CBS.
Kellogg looks back fondly on his beginning in Cleveland. Since leading St. Joseph to the state tournament in 1979, the Vikings have been one of the most successful basketball programs in Ohio.
This past winter, the Vikings won their fifth state title.
“There’s a feeling of satisfaction,” he said in reference to helping pave the way to future greatness. “We were somewhat a pioneer or starter of something good, and I think I was part of that.”
If there is a regret for him, it’s easy to pinpoint.
“I never won a championship,” Kellogg said. “We came close (at St. Joseph) and then a few times at Ohio State.
“It leaves a void when you carry yourself as a champion. It didn’t unfold for me on the court.”
Kellogg is proud of his state-tournament record for points, but said he would have been glad to trade it for that championship he never got.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful period,” he said. “We achieved quite a bit and I’m extremely grateful for that. My growth at St. Joe’s is something I cherish to this day, and I’ve always enjoyed looking toward the next step.”
- Who: 2013 News-Herald High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee
- Sport: Basketball
- High school: St. Joseph
- Where are they now?: Retired from the NBA, and is the vice president for player relations with the Indiana Pacers, and is a college basketball analyst for CBS. … He and his wife Rosy have three children: Talisa (26), Alex (23) and Nicholas (21).
- High school highlights: Averaged 28 points in both his junior and senior seasons. Was one of the top players in the nation, playing in the McDonald’s All-American game as a senior. His 51 points in the state championship game his senior year is a state tournament record.
By John Kampf | JKampf@News-Herald.com | @NHPreps