When Snider captured its first sectional championship in 11 years last March, it was the culmination of over a decade of postseason futility being exorcised. The Panthers had gotten close so many times before, yet were never able to get over that sectional hump.
But 2020 was different.
However, the sectional championship win over Northrop was also the culmination of the season, with Covid-19 forcing the cancellation of the remainder of the state tournament.
So there is a touch of unfinished business for Snider entering the 2020-21 campaign. But the loss of its top six scorers and five of its six assistant coaches makes the pre-season feel like more of a reset than a restart for the Panthers.
Coach Jeremy Rauch doesn’t necessarily agree.
“I think we have three guys back that could have been playing for a lot of programs that were behind some really good players,” said Rauch about the trio of Karson Jenkins, Aidan Lambert and Jade Moore. “Now they can show what they are.”
The trio combined to average nine points per game last season, led by the junior Jenkins at five ppg. Fellow junior Lambert notched three points and two rebounds per contest, while Moore was at one point and two rebounds per.
That’s a far cry from Snider’s top three scorers of a year ago. Seniors Isaac Farnsworth (10.8 ppg) and Dillon Duff (17.6) have graduated, while current senior Michael Eley (21.2 ppg) is now at Elevation Prep.
The positive is that the three back with varsity experience complement each other well. Jenkins is an elite shooter, while wings Lambert and Moore can create if a play breaks down as well as get to the basket off the dribble.
In terms of newcomers, sophomore wing Elijah Brown may turn the most heads. Brown has hopped around the area a bit but seems to have found a home at Snider. He can jump out of the gym and his skill set immediately puts him into the conversation as the most talented basketball player on the roster.
“His greatest skill is his drive and his capacity to improve,” said Rauch about Brown. “He is tremendously coachable and wants to be the best basketball player he can be.
“But he wants to win more than anything, and he can lead with that being a tremendous asset.”
Brown has never been a pure post player but can bang in the post. He will be complemented by several juniors – guard Tylor Harding and wings Elijah Davis, Markell Keal and Grant Brown.
Senior Donovan Smith will also be counted upon.
“Tylor is a nice little guard and Markell Keel and (junior Tyrese Brown) can contribute there as well,” Rauch said. “Grant Brown showed a lot for us as a freshman, so we are excited for him. Tre Hurst is back in the district and he will be a good player for us.”
Despite the turnover in personnel, Snider will not deviate from its system very much.
“We have guys who are great kids, hard workers and have some quickness,” Rauch said. “We want to use our team speed to our advantage.”
With 14 or more wins in three of his first four years at Snider, Coach Jeremy Rauch has positioned the Panthers as a perennial SAC and sectional contender.
Despite the turnover in personnel and with a wealth of new coaches, there is still plenty of talent on the roster, albeit talent without much varsity experience.
Things may start a little rough for the Panthers, but they will improve through the year and be a threat in February and March.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Anytime you lose your top six scorers and five assistant coaches there is cause for concern. Not only do you have players who are unfamiliar with how things work at the varsity level within the program, you are also indoctrinating new coaches into the program as well.
Thus, the learning curve may stretch out a bit longer and steeper than it otherwise would with this team.
JAN. 15 VS. HOMESTEAD
Critical game? Probably not. Barometer game? Absolutely.
The Spartans are expected to be the top team in the SAC this season, hence when the Panthers match up with the squad they beat twice by a combined five points will be a good indicator of just where Snider is at.
Being over a month into the season, it will also have given Rauch time to mold his players and show off the development it looks to make early on.
ELIJAH BROWN, SOPHOMORE
Highlights of Brown on social media showcase the potential of the sophomore to immediately become one of the most electrifying players in the conference.
If Brown can come in, work hard and learn quickly, he can help bridge that gap between what was lost from last year and the new group of Panthers.