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By Ryan Isley | Photos by Jeff Harwell

CANTON, Ohio — It was a homecoming of sorts Monday night for Oak Hill Academy’s Chris Livingston, and the Akron native didn’t disappoint, taking home MVP honors after dropping 22 points in an 83-65 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary at Canton’s Memorial Civic Center.

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Livingston began his high school career at Akron Buchtel, where he played his freshman year and helped lead the Griffins the state semifinals.

He then transferred to Western Reserve Academy in Hudson for a season before returning to Buchtel last season.

He decided to finish his high school journey at Oak Hill, a school that has produced 29 NBA draft picks under head coach Steve Smith. The move hasn’t always been simple for the 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward, but there have been plenty of positives too.

“It hasn’t been easy, traveling a lot, moving schools and moving from your hometown,” Livingston said. “But there are bright spots in it, like me committing to the University of Kentucky and making the McDonald’s All-American Game.”

Part of that senior season for him and his brother Cordell was a chance to return home to play in front of their family and friends.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at the University of Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena, but a scheduling conflict moved it to Canton, about a 20-minute drive from Livingston’s hometown.

“I just appreciate the people who put this together and my coach for allowing us to come for a couple days,” Livingston said. “I get to see my family and they get to see me play. My mom hasn’t seen me play all season. This meant a lot for me and my brother.”

Putting together the event also meant finding an opponent for the national powerhouse.

While some teams would not have been willing to play the game, especially with the OHSAA tournament already underway, STVM stepped up and accepted the game.

“We took the game to let Chris come back and play in front of his home crowd,” STVM coach Dru Joyce said. “We didn’t have to take it, but I’m not running from anybody. I never have and I ain’t going to.”

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Playing against the defending Division II state champions was special for Livingston, who played against STVM while at Buchtel.

The two teams seemed destined to play in the state semifinals last season before Lima Shawnee upended Buchtel in the regional finals.

“I have history with Coach Dru. He is a wonderful coach,” Livingston said. “I know a lot of the players on St. Vincent-St. Mary, actually I know all of them. I grew up with most of them, and they were rivals when I went to Buchtel, so I really wanted to beat them when I came back.”

Livingston, who leads Oak Hill at nearly 17 points per game, started the game with the mentality that he wanted to put on a show against his former rivals and scored 12 points in the opening quarter.

After not scoring in the second quarter, he hit two 3-pointers in the third and scored four more in the fourth for his 22-point total.

He did it by showing his versatility.

His jumper looked smooth, as he hit four 3-pointers and several mid-range jumpers. He also drove to the basket strong.

“I would say that I came out of the gate playing really well,” Livingston said. “Feels like I took my foot off the gas a little bit, and I am upset about that. The team picked me up and we got the win.”

The play that brought the house down came early in that first quarter when Livingston got out alone on the break. The anticipation in the crowd was heightened, and Livingston delivered, as he threw down a thunderous dunk to roaring approval.

“It felt great getting my adrenaline running," Livingston said. It got me going and got the crowd going. It was really a good feeling.”

It’s safe to say the homecoming went well for one of the nation’s top players.

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