Archive for Monday, November 15, 2004

Washburn’s Snyder living Kansas kid’s dream

November 15, 2004


The memories started swirling when Washburn University's Kyle Snyder ran through the southwest tunnel of Allen Fieldhouse for the first time Sunday night.

As soon as his feet hit the hallowed court named after basketball's founding father, Synder's mind snapped back to the time he fell in love with this game for the first time.

There was Synder, a youngster on the small family farm in Atchison County, dribbling, shooting, dribbling, shooting, trampling the grass outside his modest house just east of Effingham.

Dribbling and shooting with his younger brother, Josh, until the barren dirt created a pit under the barn where his first rim was attached without a backboard.

Countless other Kansas kids shoot on their own makeshift goals or inside city gyms dreaming that someday they could be playing inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Sunday, Snyder got his shot.

"It was just awesome," said a smiling Snyder, who didn't have a dream shooting performance, going just 2-of-7 from the field, but did help neutralize KU preseason All-America forward Wayne Simien as Washburn kept the game close throughout before finally falling, 79-70.

"It's just great to be able to come in and kind of keep him in check and play as well as I did against him," added Snyder, who collected four points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. "It's a great confidence-booster for me and an all-around unbelievable night."

Snyder -- an Ichabod sophomore who averaged 21.4 points a game and 13.1 rebounds a contest as a senior at Class 3A's Atchison County Community High -- started for the first time in his Washburn career Wednesday at Purdue, but that was nothing compared to playing against the Jayhawks.

Washburn's Kyle Snyder (52), a native of Effingham and longtime KU
fan, goes up for two over Kansas preseason All-American Wayne
Simien. Snyder finished with four points Sunday at Allen

Washburn's Kyle Snyder (52), a native of Effingham and longtime KU fan, goes up for two over Kansas preseason All-American Wayne Simien. Snyder finished with four points Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.

"He's been really excited when he talked to us this week," said Snyder's mother, Rhonda, who along with her husband, Joe, followed their son's performance in their first game in Allen Fieldhouse.

"I tried to remind him that it is just a game, and that the big picture in life is our men and women fighting overseas. But I told him, 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime possibility, so just go and have fun and play ball.'"

Hometown support

In Effingham, a town that would have to stretch outside its tiny city limits to claim even 600 citizens for the latest census, high school wrestling is all the rage.

But Snyder became a standout in basketball and football. And thanks, in part, to a large contingent of community support for Jayhawk basketball, the standout tight end easily decided his future was on the court.

Without the town's ties to KU hoops, perhaps Synder -- his high school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,246 points and the Tigers' top career rebounder with 797 boards -- might have strayed from his true love.

While both of Snyder's parents played basketball in high school, neither pushed him to support the top team in the Sunflower State.

Rhonda is a Rushville, Mo., native and also is the "biggest Mizzou fan" in Effingham.

Joe is not afraid to let it be known that he has a soft spot for Kansas State football.

Yet Snyder always preferred the crimson and blue. He recalls a Raef LaFrentz poster that hung on his bedroom wall that used to serve as motivation for his play in the post after his 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame shot up in middle school.

While Snyder says there are "too many great Jayhawks" to pick a favorite, undoubtedly the Jayhawks have a special hold on his heart.

"Normally I'll cheer for the underdogs, but when it comes to Kansas, I always have to cheer for them," Snyder said. "It's the team I loved growing up, and I still watch them every chance I get."

So, too, do the residents of Effingham, tucked some 40 miles away from the university in Lawrence.

Snyder's best friend's uncle, Dwayne Hawk -- whose nephew, Jake, played alongside Snyder when they led ACCHS from a one-win season as freshmen to an 18-5 mark as seniors -- is one of the biggest KU fans in town.

Kansas' Sasha Kaun shoots over Washburn's Travis Robbins.

Kansas' Sasha Kaun shoots over Washburn's Travis Robbins.

Every day, Hawk and several other area farmers meet early in the morning at DJ's Food and Fuel to talk shop.

This weekend there was mention of Snyder.

"I heard that a few people are going down to watch," said Hawk. "I know a lot more people will be watching him on TV. It makes everyone real proud when you can have one of your own succeed like that."

Small-school dividends

Longtime Washburn coach Bob Chipman admits Sunday's contest is a dream game for his in-state kids and the rest of his players.

"It's very special for all of them, but the Kansas kids have watched it every year growing up, kind of a dream come true," Chipman said.

Also for Washburn.

"We use it in so many ways, obviously in recruiting," Chipman said. "Also the money. We'll use the money to go to Hawaii."

Washburn is playing two games in the Hoop & Surf Classic on December 19-20 in Honolulu. In the past, the Ichabods have traveled to such places as Paris thanks to the guaranteed $20,000 payout they will receive for playing the Jayhawks.

"Also for our fans, while not too many of them are able to get tickets to this one, they love this game," Chipman said. "For them sometimes it's a bigger deal than our national championship ones. Playing Kansas helps in every way possible."

That fact is not lost on second-year Kansas coach Bill Self, who decided to continue Roy Williams' tradition of playing in-state schools -- especially since he can use the contests during the exhibition part of the season.

"I don't know if it's as important for the Kansas kids as it is Washburn, Pittsburg State, Emporia State or Fort Hays," Self said. "I think they recruit to it. I think financially it's a good deal for them.

"I think it's the right thing to do. When we agreed to do it, it wasn't for the Kansas kids. We did it because we thought it was good for everybody in the area. Not just the kids, but also the coaches and administrators who support those schools."

KU hoop dreams

There was a time Snyder said he dreamed of suiting up for the Jayhawks.

Kansas' Aaron Miles gets airborne against Washburn. Miles finished
with 10 points and five assists against the Ichabods.

Kansas' Aaron Miles gets airborne against Washburn. Miles finished with 10 points and five assists against the Ichabods.

"He honestly knows his limits," said Joe Snyder, the co-owner of Snyder Construction, who not only gave his son his height but also helped develop his shot until their driveway battles became "too brutal" during Snyder's freshman year at ACCHS.

"He's played enough against D-I players that he knew even though that was his dream growing up to play for KU, that as you mature you kind of realize where you're going to be."

Even if Snyder could have had the opportunity to walk on like heralded Kansas kids Mark Turgeon, Brett Ballard or current Jayhawks Stephen Vinson and Matt Kleinmann, Snyder said his desire to play would have trumped his dream of sitting on the sidelines for KU.

Those are the same circumstances that prompted former Jayhawk John Crider -- a teammate of Snyder's last season, who grew up in Horton only 20 minutes away from Effingham -- to give up his KU dreams and transfer to Washburn in January, 2001 so he could receive more playing time.

"It was always my dream to go somewhere like that," Snyder said. "But I accepted that wasn't going to happen in high school, so then I really wanted to go to the best situation for me where I knew I would be able to play."

But Sunday night, Snyder did get to live one of his life dreams of playing in Allen Fieldhouse and said the experience was even more special than he ever could imagine.

"Yeah, it was a dream come true," said a smiling Snyder. "I can't really describe the feeling. Everyone wants to be a Jayhawk when they're a kid. It's like your chance to say you played in Allen Fieldhouse, in front of the best college players in the nation.

"I think the only thing that could be bigger would be playing for the national championship."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.