DOWNINGTOWN >> Every time Kevin Dodds stepped into the center circle for an opening tip this season, he knew there was a target on his back.
Never was that target more obvious than on an evening last month at Downingtown West.
As Dodds waited for the ref to toss the ball for a state playoff game against Hershey, he knew that just like every night, the opposing team had focused its gameplan on stopping him. Not to mention Dodds and his Bishop Shanahan teammates felt a burden on their shoulders that had been growing for nearly twice as long as Dodds has been on Earth.
Just two hours later, the Eagles had tossed that weight aside, with Dodds scoring 21 points — including the 1,000th of his career — and adding 10 rebounds and three blocks as Shanahan won its first state playoff game in 33 years.
It was the high-water mark for a season that defied all expectations at Bishop Shanahan, and led to Kevin Dodds being named the Daily Local News All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It was the most fun season I ever had playing basketball,” said Dodds, who will play basketball at Division II Gannon next season. “We all were so close and we constantly pushed each other to do better and we knew when one of us needed to be pushed. It was a great season of basketball.”
Dodds’ exploits in the center of the Eagles’ offense made every other Ches-Mont League coach take notice. The game plan was to try to stop Dodds, something very few teams did as Bishop Shanahan compiled a 22-6 mark this season.
The 6-foot-7 Dodds averaged 16.4 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game for a team that reached the state Sweet 16 and reached the District 1 Class 5A title game.
“He just is a basketball player that played good basketball,” West Chester Rustin coach Keith Cochran said. “He did all the things a team needs to win. He scored down low, he rebounded the ball well, played solid defense and he was a great passer for a big man. He averaged probably about three or four assists a game which is big for a center. Dodds gave that team everything they needed and he was clearly the best player in our league.”
Bishop Shanahan led the Ches-Mont League in made 3-pointers,with David Angelo leading the way with 64 treys on the season, and as effective as that was, the thing that baffled teams was how to handle the Eagles’ center. Dodds displayed many impressive post moves and also could step out and drain a 3-pointer when the middle was shut off.
During the season, the Eagles beat a very good Coatesville team twice, once in the regular season and the Ches-Mont League championship game that Bishop Shanahan won 50-48. Red Raider coach Chuck Moore was also impressed with the Eagles center.
“Dodds is just so tough down low,” Moore said. “He has good inside moves and he he gets position under the basket and he is so tough to move out of there. He was a handful for us this year and last year too.”
During the Eagles’ run to try to claim the District 1 Class 5A title, Shanahan beat West Chester East, West Chester Rustin and Chester before bowing to Penncrest in the title game. In each of those three wins Dodds surpassed 20 points, and Bishop Shanahan coach Ken Doyle talked about his big man after Dodds’ superlative effort in the Chester victory.
“We’ve depended so much on Kevin the past two years,” Doyle said. “He just does so much for us and he really got on a roll this season and he has gotten even better during the Ches-Mont playoffs and this district tournament. Kevin creates a match up problem for so many teams and we rely on him lot.”
Dodds will head to western Pa. next year to suit up for Gannon, which is consistently one of the top programs in the PSAC and appeared in the PSAC title game last month.
It also means regular visits back east to play at West Chester University, East Stroudsburg, Shippensburg and other schools within an easy drive from Downingtown.
“I really liked it up there,” Dodds said. “And the coaches and players were great and it is not too far from home so that is good. We will play a lot of teams that are familiar to people who follow basketball around here.”
While the points, rebounds and assists are easy to see on a boxscore, one area coach was quick to point out what he believes makes Dodds so special.
“Dodds is just such a hard working kid, probably the hardest working kid in the league,” said Octorara coach Gene Lambert. “He does not take any possessions off and that is a big reason he is so tough to guard.”