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Coming Up Large: Fighting one adversity after another, Charlie Large finally fought on the court

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ senior guard Charlie Large (32) goes high in the air to hit a jump shot over the outstretched arm of an opposing team defender. (Courtesy of Tim Gearhart)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

The Siberian Tiger is considered one of the toughest animals in the world by experts, even more so than the Bengal tiger because it lives in a harsher climate and patrols territories covering hundreds of miles and terrain.
But that tiger may have met its match with another tiger. It’s called a Charlie Large and it’s from the Ironton Fighting Tigers’ species.
The 6-foot senior guard just completed a monster season, but it’s been a tough fight to get to this point. Until this season, injuries had forced Large to undergo rehabilitation 27 of the past 36 months.
As a freshman, Large played five games and then fell in a game against Columbus Independence and tore his ACL.
It was only fitting that the surgeon who repaired his knee was Dr. Marc Galloway, team physician for the Cincinnati Bengals.
After 13 months of rehabilitation, Large was back on the court for his sophomore season. But he was again met with ill fate. Seven games into the season, he dislocated his ankle in a game at South Point.
Charlie’s father John Large — a Western Southern Insurance agency manager and Ironton assistant coach — was watching as the EMS arrived and got a call from Dr. Jarrod Smith who said, “I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
Following eight months of rehab, Charlie Large was back on his feet and preparing for — get this — football season. Again, the dark rain cloud hovering over his head saw Charlie injure the labrum in his left shoulder returning a kickoff in the season opener.
More surgery was followed by five months of rehab. Finally, he was back on the court.
“To watch his character and to gut it out says a lot about him,” said Ironton head coach Mark LaFon.
Of all the injuries, Large said it surprised him that the torn labrum was the toughest to deal with in recovery.
“I wouldn’t say one (injury) was worse than the other. What surprised me the most was my labrum. I don’t know what it was about it, but when I was loosening it up, the pain from stretching it was 10 times worse than my leg and my ankle. There was a certain amount of pain with all of them, but my shoulder was a lot worse,” said Large.
Near the end of the season, Large had a scare as he hyperextended his knee in practice and Dr. Smith had the player sit out for six days. Cleared to play on a Friday morning, he played in a game at Coal Grove and scored 27 points with eight rebounds and four assists.
So much for any cautious performance.
“It is almost unbelievable how much adversity he has faced. He has persevered and shown great determination which are both great life lessons. It’s just his love of the game,” said John Large.
Several schools have been in contact with Charlie and he has offers on the table from Glenville State and Notre Dame College in Cleveland.
Large said it was a pleasant surprise to still be in the eyes of college coaches. He noted at bigger schools, players who are often hurt don’t seem to stick around, whether by choice or not.
“I always thought these injuries are going to play a big factor in where I go. They know about my injuries, but they’re still taking a chance. You can come back even stronger depending on how hard you work,” said Large.
The “never quit” attitude in the face of so much adversity has been an inspiration for Charlie’s father.
“To go through all he’s been through and still have a college offer says a lot about him. It’s been a rough year. It’s been a great year and we can thank God for that,” said John Large.
Often after an injury — especially a knee injury — players are cautious and reluctant to attempt things they have done in the past. The idea of getting hurt again always seems to be in the back of their mind.
Not to this rival of the Siberian tiger.
“I’m different from other people. Those injuries, I never thought of them when I was playing. There was never one time in a game I thought about it. I just went out and played my game and did the thing I love. I didn’t have a problem with it. After it happened so many times, I realized things are going to happen,” he said.
Heading into this freshman season, Large was rated in the Top 20 of the 2019 class in the state of Ohio by Rob Taylor, President/CEO of Buckeye Prep Ranking Services in Columbus.
“Charlie participated in a number of elite showcases and it was clear from the first showcase he attended he was going to be special. His (basketball) IQ was really high. You could tell he understood the game,” said Taylor whose son Stevie is played for Ohio University and was an assistant coach at Boston College this past season.
“Back when he was a freshman I had him ranked among the top 25 in his class. He’s been good early and he’s been good late. I think highly of the kid. I’m happy he was able to come back and have play well.”
Finally, healthy and able to play a whole season, Large was averaged 19.4 points a game and shooting 72 percent from the foul line. His 420 total points includes 38 baskets from behind the 3-point arc and a 34 percent shooting from long-range.
He also averaged 6.8 rebounds from his guard position to go with 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals and was 44 percent overall from the field as he earned first team Division III All-Southeast District honors and second team All-Ohio.
Ironton finished 18-7 and reached the district semifinals at Ohio University’s Convocation Center, a goal of both Large and his teammates.
“It was different. My junior year I almost played a full year. It was nice to be able to finish up a full season and not sit out any games or have any surgeries. It felt weird. Convo time, it didn’t feel like I hadn’t played basketball for a long time. My shot felt weird. My body felt weird,” said Large.
“I’m not trying to sound cocky, but it didn’t really surprise me. I’ve been working hard all my life. This year coming in it felt a lot more different. I was more prepared. I was in a (summer) league and I was doing things to make my season better. I just wanted to go out with a bang. I wasn’t sure if it was a getting hurt bang or numbers bang.”
And there was no fatigue factor, either.
“Coach LaFon always stresses conditioning. We had workouts all summer long. Two or three months during football season, we had two or three guys up at five o’clock in the morning,” said Large.
With all that has happened to Charlie Large and the way he has responded, he might be one tiger species worth a scientific study.