Siegel’s three shooting Stars are (L to R) Zion Swader, Matthew Schneider, and Jaylan Wetzel

by Danny Brewer

Those that are fans of high school sports understand special athletes come along every so often. Unfortunately, the four years seem to fly by so enjoy the magnificence while you can. Local basketball fans have been able to enjoy three comets flashing across the Siegel high school sky during recent times. With the post-season as the here and now, their time in blue is short, but make no mistake, the statistical numbers will keep them as memorable Stars for years to come.

Four short seasons ago three players walked into the Siegel gym for the first time. Zion Swader, Matthew Schneider, and Jaylan Wetzel all brought their skills to the school on Thompson Lane with a love of the game. After lots of hard work and dedication to the program, each has written their name in the record books of a school that has developed a basketball rich tradition since opening in 2003. The Stars have been to the TSSAA state championship tournament seven times (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014), but they may have never had three multi-talented players with the skills of these hoopsters. With each now over 1,000 points in career scoring, these Stars have brought a lot to the table as Siegel claimed the regular season district title in 2021.

The first to hit the mark was Matthew Schneider. A finalist for class AAA Mr. Basketball, the six-foot four inch swingman is a threat to score from anywhere. A smooth shooter from the perimeter and with deft moves around the hoop, Schneider has been a guy that can flat fill it up every night against any opponent.

“I don’t think of the 1,000 points as just my doing, it’s about the whole team,” says Schneider. “These guys are not just my teammates, they are my brothers and none of this happens without them.”

Point guard Zion Swader was the next to reach the 1,000 point mark in this his senior season. The son of Oakland high school legend and basketball hall of famer Allen Swader, Zion has developed his own identity on the hardwoods. An uncanny ability to get to the rack combined with a lethal outside game has allowed this young Swader to strike fear in the hearts of the opposition just as his father before him . Currently ranked in the top 10 in the state of Tennessee in free throws made, he is one Star that has always focused on making his team better.

“It really is all about the team and none of us could do it without our teammates,” says Swader. “The individual achievements are nice but being able to do it in a season where we went unbeaten in the district regular season makes it so much better.”

The final Star to hit the mark was the hot shooting Jaylan Wetzel. A kid that’s within scoring range as soon as he crosses half court, this six-foot sharp shooter eclipsed 1,000 points in the final regular season game. In tickling the twine on five consecutive three point shots in the first half against Smyrna, Wetzel joined his friends and teammates in a rather exclusive club.

“We all have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point and being able to accomplish this alongside my brothers is very special,” says Wetzel. “The undefeated run through the district is what’s most important for all of us.”

The district tournament will begin this week with the higher seed hosting. Siegel (22-3) could potentially punch a ticket to the state tournament as a host in all of the district and region tournament games. Of course these shooting Stars understand everyone’s record is now 0-0 as post-season play begins. Wetzel has yet to sign with any colleges while Swader and Schneider have both committed to Missouri Western University. But before these guys worry about the next level, these thee Stars hope to shine a while longer for Siegel.

“We are very proud of these kids for what they have accomplished,” says Siegel principal Larry Creasy. “They are great basketball players but more importantly great young men.”