MERCER, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – Last February, Mercer made their return trip to the post-season after failing to do so the year prior. There, they met top-seeded Cambridge Springs out of Region 3. The Mustangs lost by 7 (52-45) but gained a lot of experience in doing so.
Coach Dustin Snyder, entering his second season at the helm, feels more prepared as the season approaches. “I have a year under my belt. I was able to get the guys a few more team camps. They worked hard, attendance was about three times better than last summer.”
The Mustangs (9-14 in 2015-16) must replace their top scorer Jake Schmid, who led the team in almost every category imaginable. “It’s very tough to replace (Jake),” says Snyder. “The presence he brought to this program (was immeasurable). He was our backbone, someone who (you) can trust with the ball late in the games. That’s a huge factor at any level. We’ll ask our returning lettermen to take on bigger roles (this year).”
Seniors Brock Watson and Alex VanWoert are dedicated to their craft. “These guys played one sport for the last twelve months,” states Snyder. “They just love the game of basketball whether it’s a video game, on TV, or in the gym. They are excited every day they come into the gym and just work on their game.” Watson averaged 9.3 as a junior and finished third in rebounding (4.1) on the team last season. VanWoert scored 4 points per game and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 61.3% from the free throw line (19-31). Senior Kyle Ricketts (1.4 apg) suffered a knee injury in the beginning of the off-season. The Mustangs are hopeful to have him back by the beginning of the season around 100%.
Also returning are a trio of juniors – Jimmy Amon (6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Jordon Baker (78.9% FT) and Marcus Ryder (84.6%) – who will be looked upon to take on larger roles in 2016-17.
Snyder hopes for a competitive practice schedule. “Competition brings out the best. Hopefully, that’ll provide us with other players who will become major assets for us (down the road).”