Fate of the Big Four: Area pro athletes continue to thrive or chase their dreams

As high school athletes, it would have been difficult to predict which of the Big Four would produce the most successful professional careers.

Vince Edwards, Middletown’s second all-time leading basketball scorer behind Jerry Lucas, heading to Purdue University?

Franklin’s Luke Kennard, a standout basketball player from Franklin and two-time Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year, heading to Duke?

Jalin Marshall, an outstanding wide receiver/kick returner from Middletown, heading to Ohio State?

Or Kyle Schwarber, a lightly recruited catcher who also played football at Middletown, heading to Indiana University?

Here’s what we know now: Kennard and Schwarber are enjoying the riches of their sports, while Edwards and Marshall are chasing their dreams of reaching the highest level.

Edwards, a 6-foot-7 power forward, recently was drafted 13th overall by Oklahoma City in the NBA’s G League draft. After four seasons at Purdue, he was drafted 52nd overall by the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA draft, then traded to the Houston Rockets. He has played professionally for the Rockets, Oklahoma City Blue and Canton Charge.

Marshall left OSU after two seasons, then went undrafted in 2016. He signed with the New York Jets, then in March 2017, the NFL suspended him for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The 25-year-old recently re-signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

Which brings us to Kennard and Schwarber, two of the area’s multi-millionaires.

Kennard, after two seasons at Duke, was picked 12th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2017 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers last year and signed a four-year, $64 million deal, with $56 million guaranteed.

Then Schwarber, after a disappointing 2020 season, had his contract non-tendered in December by the Chicago Cubs, the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2014. He recently signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Washington Nationals.

Schwarber, because of his powerful bat, larger-than-life personality and charitable work in Chicago, was a Wrigley Field favorite. While with the Cubs, Schwarber, 27, had two 30-home run seasons and was a key component in the team winning the 2016 World Series.

On Friday afternoon, Schwarber talked about his time with the Cubs and his excitement to join the Nationals during an interview with the Journal-News from a Tampa restaurant.

“I’m forever grateful to the Cubs,” he said. “All we did over there was win. I can’t say enough about them. Those fans won’t forget our players from 2015 on for what we accomplished there. Man it was fun at Wrigley Field and on the road with all those Cubs fans watching us play. The way they treated myself and my family.”

When Schwarber was a junior at Indiana he met with Theo Epstein, then president of operations for the Cubs. He wasn’t expected to go high in the MLB Draft.

“They took a shot on me and I’m forever grateful,” he said.

Then he hit .188 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs during the 60-game season that was reduced due to the coronavirus.

“2020 was a messed up year for everyone,” he said. “It just didn’t feel right and that’s not an excuse. It was a sprint to the end and I was not able to make that adjustment.”

Then he paused: “Business is business.”

So now he’s a National, part of a team expected to contend for a National League title in 2021. Schwarber, a left fielder, should bat in the middle of the Nationals potent lineup.

“They have a great culture of winning,” he said. “It’s a great organization. I’m looking forward to learn from some of the young players and the seasoned veterans on the pitching staff.”

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