Basketball is here
Panthers, Lady Panthers start season on Friday
With plenty of depth and athleticism, but not a lot of height, the Siloam Springs boys basketball team will look to push the tempo in 2018-19.
The Panthers have a roster of 24 players, which will make for a deep bench on not only the varsity but also the junior varsity team.
Four seniors — Murphy Perkins, Jacob Wakefield, Karson Clement and Dyson Bagsby — lead the way for Siloam Springs, which begins its season Friday night against Providence Academy.
“They just continue to develop and grow,” said head coach Tim Stewart, who’s entering his eighth season. “They’re being great leaders. The work ethic and understanding of what it takes just keeps getting better and better. That’s a great sign for us to have the great group of core leaders wanting to improve and wanting to learn.”
Perkins, who averaged 7.2 points per game, is the Panthers’ leading returning scorer.
“Murphy will be coming in with a lot of experience,” Stewart said. “He has some physical tools to really control the game as a point guard on both ends of the floor. He’s worked hard on his shot to go with his athleticism.”
Wakefield, who averaged 5.1 points, has also improved in the offseason and will man a forward position.
“Jacob Wakefield is one of the most athletic kids to come through, and he’s also worked on his outside game where he can hit that outside 3-pointer,” Stewart said. “He’s one of my best charge-takers on defensive end. He has a knack for taking charges at opportune times, which is huge for our defense.”
Clement is one of the Panthers’ top shooters and showed off that ability last season when he set a school record with nine 3-pointers against Claremore, Okla.
“Karson Clement is one of the better shooters in the conference,” Stewart said. “He has worked hard to improve his game on the defensive end as well. He’ll be one of our main zone busters and stretch defenses and is a big part of our overall scheme. He’s done a tremendous job being a team leader, taking younger kids under his arm.”
Bagsby, who joined the program last year, is a tremendous worker, Stewart said.
“He’s a tough athlete that continues to learn the system and improve his overall skills,” Stewart said. “He’s our most tenacious defender and has ability to take charges.”
When healthy last year, junior guard Evan Sauer showed flashes of being a scrappy guard, even as a sophomore.
“He’s really worked hard to add strength and athleticism over the summer and proven to be one of our scorers.”
Junior guard Drew Vachon has worked hard in the weight room, Stewart said, and has improved after playing a lot as a sophomore.
“Drew is one of our players that can play every position on defense to go with his sharp shooting,” Stewart said. “He’s going to have a much bigger role than he’s had in the past.”
Junior Carson Wleklinski is “Mr. Steady” for the Panthers.
“He doesn’t hurt us,” Stewart said. “He takes care of the ball and makes good decisions, has ability to hit open shot. He’s turning into a well-rounded player.”
Juniors Jordan Stewart, Thad Wright, Gage Weaver, Jackson Norberg and Tate Criner have recently joined the basketball team after the completion of football.
Stewart and Wright saw some starts as sophomores and will be counted on as bigger bodies inside.
Norberg at 6-foot-3, is one of the tallest players, while Weaver’s athleticism will be a bonus and Criner continues to improve, Stewart said.
“It won’t take them long to get into basketball shape and play a major role this season,” Stewart said.
Tyler Sharp and Mason Cooper round out the junior class for the Panthers — which totals 10 of the 24 players.
Another 10 are sophomores, including guard Landon Ward who played with the varsity and junior varsity as a ninth-grader.
“(Ward) has a good wiggle and can create shots for himself and others,” Stewart said. “He’s really matured over the summer. It’s fun to see his growth as a player and a person. We’re looking for big things out of him.”
Sophomores Max Perkins, Ethan Drake, Jackson Ford have made their presence felt in practice and are continuing to improve every day, Stewart said.
Nick Gray, Breck Soderquist, Solomon Hufford, Trey Whorton and Mauricio Salazar are also sophomores on the team.
“The varsity is going to have some depth and we’re going to have a solid JV roster as well, which is a good situation for our program,” Stewart said.
The Panthers will be competing in the 5A-West Conference with traditional rivals such as Alma, Greenwood and Russellville. Added back are old conference mates Greenbrier and Vilonia along with Little Rock Christian and Beebe.
“It’s nice to be back in a conference where there’s eight schools and every game matters,” Stewart said.
Siloam Springs junior Drew Vachon saw extensive playing time as a sophomore for the Panthers last season.