Basketball Player, Educator
Birth: January 14, 1937, Waterloo, DeKalb County, Indiana
Death: November 6, 2021, Mahoning County, Ohio
Burial: Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Seville, Medina County, Ohio
Find a Grave memorial
Rex Wayne Leach was born in Indiana and in his youth his family moved to Massillon, Ohio where he attended elementary school. The family then moved to Vienna when he entered into 4th grade, where he attended Vienna Centralized School.
According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Leach set several Ohio boys basketball records:
Career points (2,581) from 1951 to 1955
Single season points (1,266) during the 1954-1955 season
Points in a game (72) on January 21, 1955 as the Flyers defeated Southington 158-46.
Field goals in a game (30) vs. Southington (1954-1955)
Field goals in a season (493) in 1954-1955 season
Free throws made in a season (280) in 1954-1955 season
His season scoring average was 43.3 in 1954-1955. He scored 53 or more points five times, and scored at least 33 points in 13 of the Flyers' 14 other games. There was no 3-point shot when Leach played; if there had been, his career average may have been higher.
Former teammate, Mike Mizicko, recalls, "Rex played on the 7th and 8th grade team when he was in 6th grade. He had a hook shot. Nobody could stop him."
Don Scott, one of the Flyers' starting guards, a retired teacher who lives in Warren, Pennsylvania recalls his former teammate, "Rex could use either hand to shoot or pass. He could go either way and he had a hook shot. He was a phenomenal athlete."
Vienna advanced to the 1955 state Class B semi-finals, losing to Cincinnati Lockland Wayne. He was named most valuable player in both Ohio-Kentucky all-star games in 1955. His career mark held up for 30 years.
Leach recalled to the Vienna Historical Society in August of 2020, "We had good coaching and great teachers. I feel blessed that I had the chance to attend Vienna High School." He played basketball at Vienna High School under coach Bob Herman his junior year and coach Randall Wilson his senior year.
Randall Wilson, who taught and coached at Vienna from 1954-1960 recalls, "Rex was excellent at tip-ins. He never brought the ball down on offensive rebounds. He would always tip it in. Rex was really dedicated to a team effort. Even though he was the leading scorer, he was always team-oriented. He scored a lot of points but he could pass as well.
Source: Viennese 1954
Source: Viennese 1955
In college, Leach was a three-year starter at Bowling Green State University, where he graduated from in 1959 with a degree in physical education. He was the leading rebounder in each of his four seasons at Bowling Green and served as a co-captain of the team as a senior.
After college, several professional basketball teams invited him to tryouts, including the St. Louis Hawks and the New York Knicks. But Leach, who married the former Carol Lee Hall in 1957, prior to their junior years at Bowling Green, had a two year Army-ROTC commitment to fulfill.
He spent two years in the Army artillery at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. After his military commitment ended, he started a family and decided to go into teaching in 1963 instead of pursuing a basketball career.
He was head basketball coach at North Royalton High School, Richmond Heights High School, North Lima High School (now South Range). He also coached his sons at Mathews High School from 1974-1979 (formerly Vienna High School). He spent much of his 38 year teaching career in the Mathews Local School District.
He retired from teaching at the Mathews Local School District in 2001.
Leach was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
He also had a practice called the Sports Med Clinic on Smith-Steward Road in Vienna and was a licensed massotherapist, a business his father started.
On January 17, 2014, in between the junior varsity and varsity boys basketball games, the floor of the high school auditorium was renamed "Rex Leach Court" in his honor. Leach's accomplishments and his jersey (#7) were on display. The varsity boys basketball team defeated Badger 64-53 after the dedication in a Northeastern Athletic Conference match.
Leach held the all-time Ohio high school basketball scoring record from 1955-1985 until Jay Burson of New Concord John Glenn broke it with 2,958 points. He currently ranks 7th on the all-time list behind LeBron James (2,646 points, 1999-2003), 11th in the state for points scored in a single game, 12th for most field goals in a game, 2nd for most field goals in a season, and 3rd for most free throws in a season. As of 2021, he remained the top scorer in a single season.
Leach recalls in January of 2020: “We had a great run. It was great for us, great for the school, great for Vienna. I have some very great memories of that when I played ball at Vienna High School.”
Contributor: Christine Novicky
"Mathews High School Basketball Legend to be Honored," WFMJ.com, January 15, 2014.
John Vargo. "Closing in on Leach's Mark." Youngstown Vindicator, January 13, 2020.
Ed Puskas. "Leach family tree had hoop attached to it." The Tribune Chronicle, February 22, 1999.
Ed Puskas. "Leach gave lift to Flyers." The Tribune Chronicle, February 21, 1999.
Vargo, John. "Leach brings pride to Vienna." The Tribune Chronicle, January 20, 2014.
Vargo, John. "Mathews honors Leach." The Tribune Chronicle, January 18, 2014.
Buck, Ryan. "Back home: Mathews names court for Leach," Youngstown Vindicator, January 18, 2014.
Vargo, John. "Closing in on Leach's mark," The Tribune Chronicle, January 13, 2020.
Statistics: Ohio High School Athletic Association