There is no more thankless position in basketball than the one played by Henry A. Wise High School's true point guard Justice Sneed.
While other positions stand out in the box score, Sneed's main job is to be completely absent from it. The best number he could put up is a nonexistent one — a zero in the turnover column. And, though he was admittedly sloppy in Thursday night's 43-39 win over Parkdale at DeMatha Catholic in the BSN Summer League, there are few in Prince George's County who do a better job of keeping that number close to or at zero.
Somewhere along the line, Sneed's position has been warped into something called a “combination guard,” a player who does both the majority of the ball handling and the majority of the shooting. Sneed, a rising senior, takes the traditional approach, constantly handling the ball, but remaining a pass-first guard, choosing to set somebody else up rather than take it himself. And, it just so happens for Sneed, he may have more teammates to play set up man for than any other point guard in the county's 4A League.
“I feel like most of the pressure is on me, being a senior, I feel like a coach out there on the court,” Sneed said. “In order for us to do well this year, I have to stay on my team so that we can go far and win it all this year.”
Sneed helped lead the Pumas to a Class 4A South Region final berth against eventual state champion Eleanor Roosevelt last season, and the vast majority of that team is expected to return this winter.
He has the large frontcourt of Micah Till, who offered N.C. State his verbal commitment to play football, and Devin Moore, a 6-foot-6 strong rebounder. Put together, the two stand more than 13 feet tall and push the scale to somewhere around 500 pounds.
“Every day, every game,” Moore said of his aspirations to control the blocks with Till at his side. “We're looking to win, dominate the boards, lead P.G. County in rebounds.”
If Thursday's matchup with Parkdale was any indication, there's a fairly high chance of that happening, though Till was absent.
“It's helping me learn that I got to be in more places than one,” Moore said of playing without Till. “I'm going to have to guard bigger defenders. With my size, I got to work with their size, so it's on me to block shots, get rebounds, and hit the outlets for my team.”
On the wing are returning starters Lavonte Sanders and rising junior Ahsante Shivers, who plays with the heralded Amateur Athletic Union team, D.C. Assault. Options are the thing a point guard needs most and Sneed has a passel of them.
“We're all good players so we have high expectations for us to accomplish this year,” Sneed said. “So we all got to stay in the gym, keep working, reach that potential ... I don't think we'll ever reach the highest potential we can because we can always be better, but we got to do the best we can this season and make it great.”
The one truly key loss from last year's region finalist team is Markell Young, a 3-point specialist and the team's second leading scorer behind Till. It's Young's void that Shivers and Sanders will be looking to fill.
“It's a big position that we got to fill,” Shivers said. “He was one of our leading scorers so we got to find that missing piece that can do as well as he did.”
As coach Rob Garner, who does not coach the summer league team but attends most games, would point out on more than one occasion, Wise looked “unprepared” at times on Thursday. Shivers tried to do too much, Sneed threw away some uncharacteristic turnovers and the offense wasn't the crisp Wise offense that nearly carried the Pumas to the state tournament last winter.
Such are the trials and errors of summer league. As Sneed, Shivers and Moore all readily pointed out, this is the time for gelling, the place where the bad mistakes are supposed to be made.
“We're learning to play as a team better than we did last year,” Sneed said. “We're playing more with each other so we know how each other play. We're just trying to build on what we did last year and get better.”