The Commercial Appeal
Proud dad in town to see teen son in AAU event
Omar Sneed, who played with the Tigers 1997-99, returns from an overseas career to watch his son compete in AAU.
Jalen Sneed’s game hardly resembles that of his father.
The 13-year-old combo guard from Beaumont, Texas, is putting on a ball handling show, crossing over his defender and spinning back into the lane before finishing the move with a 16-foot jumper that splashes through the net.
From the stands, his father cheers him on. “Get some money then, J!” he yells, clapping his hands in approval.
The proud 36-year-old dad is former University of Memphis forward Omar Sneed, who was in town this weekend to watch his son play in this month’s Amateur Athletic Union 1 3- and- under national tournament.
It was Sneed’s first trip back to Memphis since he finished a standout collegiate career with the Tigers in 1999. Fourteen years later, the former hard-nosed Tigers forward still ranks as one of the program’s top 40 career scorers despite playing just two seasons.
Much has changed since Sneed left Memphis, yet basketball still remains very much at the center of his life.
While he remains in good physical shape, having played overseas for more than a decade, Sneed’s hair is starting to thin. In the meantime, the program that he led to a second-round NIT appearance as a junior in 1998, when he averaged 20.9 points and 9.2
rebounds per game, has made nine NCAA tournament appearances since his departure, including a national runner-up finish in 2008.
Until last week, Sneed had never seen the Larry O. Finch Center, the practice facility the Tigers now use that’s named after the coach he signed to play for at Memphis. Sneed, who came to Memphis from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, never got to play for Finch, who was fired after the 1996-97 season and replaced by Tic Price. Finch’s firing still bothers Sneed.
“Yeah, I was mad,” Sneed said. “I only had two years. That’s all I had out of junior college. The last thing you want to do coming from a junior college is go to a D1 (school) that’s going through changes. When I came here on my visit, coach Finch picked me up, we drove in his car, we went and ate — you know how he liked to eat — and he showed me the city.
“Coach Finch was real. Whether people liked it or not, coach Finch was real. He just told you how it was.”
The coaching change, however, didn’t affect Sneed’s productivity on the court. The bullish forward scored 1,072 points over two seasons — a career average of 18.8 points — and still ranks third in scoring among Tigers who played just two seasons, behind only Penny Hardaway (1,319) and Win Wilfong (1,203).
After college, Sneed moved back to his hometown of Beaumont before beginning a professional career overseas, which has included stops in Colombia, Poland, Israel, Greece, Turkey and Iran. In 2006, the Jerusalem Post named Sneed the Israeli Basketball Super League MVP after averaging 18.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists to lead Maccabi Rishon to the league’s Final Four.
While he’s made good money overseas, including some six-figure deals, Sneed believes he’s nearing the end of his professional career. In addition to Jalen, he’s raising a 7-year-old daughter (Kendall) and a 2-year- old son (Koi) with his wife, LaShawnda, his former high school sweetheart who attended Memphis with him.
When he’s home, Sneed coaches six different age groups of AAU teams under the umbrella of Team Sneed. It’s his way of giving back to the Beaumont community. Sneed, who’s returned to school at Lamar University and is just 21 hours short of his degree, is considering a career in coaching after he’s done playing professionally.
“I could see him (coaching),” LaShawnda said. “I know that he’s dedicated to it. He likes to see them grow through his experience. He wants the kids to have the same experience that he did.”