Bas­ket­ball is here

Pan­thers, Lady Pan­thers start sea­son on Fri­day

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­[email protected]

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.

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to the Her­ald-Leader

Siloam Springs ju­nior Drew Va­chon saw ex­ten­sive play­ing time as a sopho­more for the Pan­thers last sea­son.

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