Different look for SSHS boys
■ The Panthers are short on height, experience heading into the 2017-18 basketball season.
The Siloam Springs boys basketball team may have a bit of a different look to it when the Panthers tip off their 2017-18 season this week.
The Panthers, who have been blessed with some size and height in recent years, do not have a player taller than 6-foot-2 on this year’s roster.
“The first thing you notice is that we don’t have a lot of height,” said head coach Tim Stewart, who is beginning his sixth season at the helm of the program. “We’re working on how we need to play and things that need to be habits to overcome a lack of height. The kids have responded well.”
The Panthers played in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game on Saturday at Huntsville. Results were not available at presstime. Siloam Springs opens the season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Rogers Heritage.
Four of the Panthers’ top five scorers from last season’s 10-19 team were lost to graduation, including leading scorers Josh Hunt and Noah Karp, who both averaged 11.1 points per game, Harrison Kretzer (10 ppg) and Charlie Jones (8.1 ppg).
The Panthers return senior forward Spencer Lashley and junior guard Murphy Perkins, who both saw extensive playing time a year ago. The rest of the returning upper classmen played mostly junior varsity minutes with just a sprinkle of varsity time.
“We lost a big group of seniors, which included the big three (scorers), which was the majority of our stats,” Stewart said. “Anytime you have that, it’s going to be time for young kids to step up and fill the void.
“That’s part of the fun of high school basketball, seeing young kids mature and take those roles. New kids come in and it never ceases to amaze how they step up.”
The Panthers have 13 sophomores on the roster, several of whom are fighting for varsity minutes.
Defensively, the Panthers will stick with their 3-2 zone defense that is rarely seen in high school basketball and often gives opponents trouble. Offensively,
Stewart said the Panthers will often play with five guards on the floor.
Lashley (6-2), who is the leading returning scorer at 7.1 points per game, will be asked to play a different role than last year. Lashley is a talented outside shooter, but the Panthers will also need him to be a dominant force on the glass.
“He’s going to have to be the big man on campus,” Stewart said. “We’re looking for him to blossom into an overall player instead of just being that 3-point shooter. That role extends on the court to off the court, being a verbal leader and a coach.”
Stewart said senior Diego Flores (5-9) has improved his overall game and will handle some of the point guard responsibilities at times.
“He can knock down shots and create his own shots,” Stewart said. “He has come into his own this year.”
Senior guard Tyler Pettit (5-10) provides great leadership and is a good shooter, capable of knocking down the outside shot, Stewart said.
Senior guard Sam Everett (6-0) has also improved and worked to become a better athlete. Stewart hopes Everett can play with great energy and effort and be a spark plug off the bench for the Panthers.
Senior forward Marquan Sorrells (6-2) is one of several players to join basketball after football season ended. He played in 11 basketball games for the varsity as a freshman in 2014-15 and averaged more than five points. He played in one game for Siloam Springs as a sophomore and scored 16 points in a win against Gravette in 2015-16 before moving out of the district.
Sorrells is a talented player who can help the Panthers in many different situations, Stewart said.
“With him being in football, it’s going to take him a little time to get acclimated,” Stewart said. “He’s got the most length of any of our players and can play a lot of positions on our defense.”
Perkins (5-11) will start at point guard for the Panthers after playing a backup role as a sophomore last season.
“He’s really improved in the offseason his ability to score and knock down the open shot,” Stewart said of Perkins. “He’s tenacious on defense and can really bother his man. He plays with great confidence and has been doing a great job of leading our team by example.”
Stewart said junior forward Jacob Wakefield (6-1) is the best athlete on the team and plays with great heart.
“He’s the best charge taker we have on the team,” he said. “The ability to take a charge on defense is huge for us. He plays the bottom spot of our zone defense. We’re looking for him to expand his offensive game throughout the season.”
Junior guard Karson Clement (5-11) is one of the better shooters the Panthers have and the Panthers need him to be a leader on and off the court, Stewart said.
Junior Dicen Bagsby moved into the district at the end of the season and is a high energy player who is still learning the ins and outs of the Panthers’ program.
Sophomores Drew Vachon (5-11), Jordan Stewart (6-0), Evan Sauer (5-9), Thad Wright (6-0), Gage Weaver (5-10), Jackson Norberg (6-0) and Carson Wleklinski (5-10) are among the sophomores who will be battling for minutes at the varsity level.
“We have a large sophomore group,” Stewart said. “There’s talent within that group. That group has bonded really well with the upper classmen. They have good chemistry, but everybody that’s been around sports knows there’s a learning curve involved with young players. They’re working hard to adjust to the speed of game and physicality. We look for that class to stay together and do some good things at Siloam.”
Siloam Springs senior Spencer Lashley shoots a 3-pointer against Greenwood in a game last season. Lashley and the Panthers open the season Tuesday at Rogers Heritage.