To the next level

Mike Ullery/Civitas Media file Miami East quarterback Conner Hellyer throws a pass during a playoff game against Versailles last season. Hellyer will be attending Hanover College in the fall and playing football.

Anthony Weber/Troy Daily News file Miami East’s A.J. Hickman goes up for a shot against a Cincinnati Shroder defender during last season’s district final at UD Arena. Hickman will be playing basketball for Edison Community college next year.

By Josh Brown

CASSTOWN — Conner Hellyer raised the bar at his position. A.J. Hickman helped his team win three sectional titles during his career. And Brendan Clawson is getting a second chance to play on the same team as his older brother.

This upcoming school year, three Miami East graduates will be taking their talents to the next level, as Hellyer, Hickman and Clawson all signed to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.

* Conner Hellyer,

Hanover College

Conner Hellyer left Miami East as the most prolific quarterback in the school’s history.

On the next level, though, he’ll have to work for a chance to prove himself — which is just the way he likes it.

Hellyer signed to play football for Hanover College, a Division III school in Indiana, where he will attempt to earn a shot at the starting quarterback job on a roster with lots of talent.

“They had a couple of junior quarterbacks last year, and then they had a freshman come in later in the year that did pretty well. He’ll be a sophomore this year,” Hellyer said. “They said I’d have to work hard, but that they would let me compete for the starting spot.

“It does (make it feel sweeter). If I get that spot, it’ll feel like I earned it. If they just handed it to me, there wouldn’t be as much respect earned there.”

Hellyer certainly has the talent to get the job done.

“He’s the all-time passing yardage leader at Miami East,” Miami East football coach Max Current said. “He threw for about 1,300 yards his junior year, he had about 996 his senior year. And he would’ve had even more, but he broke his collar bone during his sophomore year. He’s also first or second in completion percentage. He’s a very accurate passer.

“I don’t now when the next time a quarterback like him will come through the school. He set the standard for passing.”

Hellyer’s uncle, Cliff Hellyer, also played for Hanover, but he said that that didn’t influence his decision on where to go.

“He mentioned it, but he didn’t try to push me to go there,” Hellyer said. “I just felt comfortable on campus, and when I went on my overnight, that just locked it up. And they offer my major, too. I’m going into Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology because I want to be an athletic trainer or therapist. I knew I just wanted to be around the sport still.”

And if Hellyer doesn’t win the starting job his freshman year, he may still have a way to get playing time early on.

“He had a heck of a senior year as a punter for us, too,” Current said. “He averaged about 40 yards per punt. So that could be in the mix for him, too. I think they have a veteran quarterback coming back, but punting can be an option for him, too.”

* A.J. Hickman,

Edison CC

For A.J. Hickman, the opportunity to play close to home was too good to pass up.

The Miami East graduate committed to play basketball for Edison Community College in Piqua beginning next year, a short trip for anyone wanting to watch him continue his athletic career.

“They’re all looking forward to that. A lot of my family and friends are talking about coming and watching me since it’s just a 20-minute drive from my house,” Hickman said. “It’s close to home, I like the coach, I knew a couple of the guys on the team already from playing AAU with them and they offered my major.”

Hickman, who plans on studying Criminal Justice, was a large part of the Vikings’ success during his high school career.

“A.J. was a four-year starter and was part of a senior class that won three sectional titles and went to three district title games,” Miami East boys basketball coach Allen Mack said. “I think that was the first time any one class won three sectional titles. He was very successful.

“He scored 1,000 points in his career, I think he was the fifth Viking to do that. He had an outstanding career, and I’m looking forward to following and seeing him move on for his career in college.”

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Hickman said. “It’s a whole different level of basketball. It will be a lot different, but I’m looking forward to playing with a lot of the guys I played with before, and I’m just looking forward to seeing how it goes.”

* Brendan Clawson,

Wright State University

When he was a freshman in high school, Brendan Clawson had a chance to play on the same team as his older brother. He also had an opportunity to play AAA hockey in Indiana, though, and he simply couldn’t pass that up.

Now he’s getting a second chance.

Clawson, who played soccer and swam while attending Miami East High School, signed to attend Wright State University this fall and play hockey — a sport that Miami East doesn’t even offer.

“I’ve been playing hockey since I was six years old,” Clawson said. “I went to Troy High School for a year, where they do have a hockey team, and I didn’t even play for them while I was there. So my high school not offering it, that actually wasn’t that big a deal.

“When I was a freshman at Troy, I had a chance to play with my brother Sean (Clawson) while he was a senior captain. But I went to Indiana to play AAA hockey, the highest level. Now we have another chance to play together since he’s a senior at Wright State.”

And since Wright State lined up with everything else Brendan Clawson was looking for, it was the perfect fit.

“They had the major I’m going for,” said Clawson, who plans on studying Pre-Med. “And it seems less focused on partying and more focused on academics. And I’ll get the chance to be on the same team as my brother, so it all just worked out.”

Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.