Ooltewah High School senior Ben Snider, the 2014 Co-MVP in District 5-AAA, is taking his basketball talents to Tennessee Wesleyan College.
The 6-foot-1-inch Snider signed scholarship papers with the Bulldogs in the high school library at a ceremony attended by his mother, Karen Snider, teammates, fellow students, coaches, friends.
Snider will play at the same college that his coach, Andre Montgomery, played his senior season, but that was not a factor in Snider’s decision to choose the Bulldogs, who compete in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
“Coach always told me not to be a follower, be my own person,” Snider said. “He also told me they’d take care of me and they’re good people at TWC. We had a man-to-man talk and had some of the same thoughts in our heads. Coach said I could be successful no matter which school I chose.”
Snider said he also considered the University of the South in Sewanee, but that offer fizzled due to financial considerations.
“That whole situation rubbed me the wrong way,” Snider said prior to the signing party. “The two schools were at the top of my list. Their coach told me the school had some admission problems and I would have to wind up paying $10,000 a year. Hey, I’m not rich.”
Snider turned his attention solely to TWC, a small Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college – it was originally founded in 1857 as Athens Female College – in Athens, Tenn., with an enrollment of just over 1,000 students.
The differences in the package that TWC offered when compared to Sewanee’s made Snider’s decision an easy one.
“I had one school saying I could come there and play basketball and not pay a dime,” Snider said, “and then I had a school saying I could come there and play basketball, but would have to pay ten grand. My decision was a lot easier when I weighed those two things.”
Snider averaged 25.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, leading the Owls to a 15-12 record in his senior year. He shared the most valuable player with Cleveland’s Kendrick Thompson in the regular season and earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
Ooltewah lost to Stone Memorial in the Region 3-AAA tournament.
“Ben was ‘Mr. Everything’ for us,” Montgomery said. “He played anything from power forward to point guard. You won’t find a harder worker than Ben and he’s very coachable. If he continues that work ethic, and I know he will, his potential is through the roof.
“Having played in that league my senior year (1999-2000), I believe Ben will be a great asset to Tennessee Wesleyan on the court and will fit well into that community.”
As a sophomore, Snider helped the Owls reach the district championship where they lost to rival Bradley Central, but avenged that loss with a 60-58 win over the Bears for the region championship.
Ooltewah then knocked off LaVergne, 69-55, in the sectional round to earn a spot in the state tournament quarterfinals. The Owls lost to Memphis Central, 67-54, at Middle Tennessee State University and ended their season at 27-5.
In 2012-13, the Owls suffered a shocking upset in the district tournament when Walker Valley guard Caio Hysinger hit a half-court desperation shot at the final buzzer to wreck the Owls’ title hopes, 62-59.
In the first round of the region tournament, the Owls got 21 points from Snider in a 76-67 win over White County. Then Ooltewah avenged the loss to Walker Valley a week earlier with a 69-57 victory before losing to Bradley, 60-56, in the title game.
The Owls reached the sectional round where it lost to powerful Blackman, 84-58, in the sectionals.
TWC assistant coach Ray Stone, who has been with head coach Mike Poe for his entire 10-year stint guiding the Bulldogs, said he first noticed Snider during his sophomore season.
“That’s when he caught my attention,” Stone said, “and I kept my eye him and we wound up getting him. I think Ben could play either the 2 or 3 for us because he’s very athletic. Our style of play is similar to Ooltewah in that we like to press and try to wear teams down. That similarity in styles will take some difficulty out of his transition to college basketball.”
Stone said Snider becomes the sixth signee for next season’s recruiting class, joining two Bledsoe County High players, two junior college players and a guard from Orlando, Fla.
Montgomery believes strongly that Snider’s future at TWC is a bright one and agrees with Stone that his cage star can play either the 2 or 3 positions with equal success.
“Ben shot around 40 percent on 3-pointers this season,” Montgomery said. “He’s just a ballplayer. Wherever they ask him to play he will do that to the best of his ability.
“There are millions of players out there that want to play college basketball. Ben can do that, but I’m really proud that he’s got a 2.99 grade-point average – we’re hoping that will be 3-plus when all’s said and done. He’s a good player, but I’ve told all my guys that without getting it done in the classroom they could forget about the next level. He’s had some challenges in life over the years and he’s overcome them. He’s such a good kid.”
In his career, Snider has scored more than 1,500 points and average 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game. This past season Snider scored a career-high 35 points three times.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)
Ben Snider and his mother, Karen, front, are joined by Ooltewah principal Jim Jarvis, athletic director Jesse Nayadley, TWC assistant coach Ray Stone, Owls coach Andre Montgomery, Derwin Carter, booster club president and Montgomery's father, and Bonita Montgomery, the coach's wife.
- Photo2 by Larry Fleming