Snodgrass area’s top player



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Butler's Nate Snodgrass (3) came away with 22 points despite the pressure from Gateway's defense in their WPIAL Class AAAA mens basketball semifinal playoff game at Fox Chapel. 




BUTLER TWP — Nate Snodgrass learned the value of the free throw early. 
The rest of his game eventually followed. The
Butler point guard culminated his high school career with a stellar all-around season that earned him 2011-12 Butler Eagle Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors. 
Ranked No. 1 in his class with a 4.51 grade-point average and headed to the
Naval Academy on a full scholarship, Snodgrass becomes the first Butler cager to be named Player of the Year since Tyrell Sales in 2003. 
Moniteau’s Kyle Armagost, Seneca Valley’s Alex Maxfield, Union’s Brody Pollock and Summit Academy’s Rakim Reedy also warranted consideration this year, though Snodgrass was a unanimous selection of the Eagle sports staff.
“He’s one of the best to ever play here,”
Butler coach Matt Clement said of Snodgrass. “The number of 30-plus point games he put up this year ... You have to go all the way back to the Shawn Bellis years (1992-94) to see that.” 
Snodgrass averaged 21 points and 5.7 assists per game per game this season, shooting 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3-point range and 91 percent from the foul line. 
He averaged 9.4 points and 81 percent from the free throw line as a junior. 
“When I played AAU ball for (late Shaler coach) Howie Ruppert in fifth grade, he showed me how important it was for a point guard to be able to sink free throws,” Snodgrass said. “He said if you want the ball in your hands late, you have to be able to make those shots. 
“I’ve taken free throw shooting seriously ever since.” 
Snodgrass ended his prep career with 1,132 points, fourth on the Tornado’s all-time list. 
“A lot of those points came from the foul line,” Clement said. “He was so automatic, I’d get mad at him when he’d miss one. I was like, ‘What is the matter with you? Focus.’ It was just so strange when he missed.” 
Snodgrass never figured he’d score 1,000 points as his high school career entered its senior year. 
“My dad always figured 100 (freshman), 200 (sophomore), 300 (junior),. then 400 this year,” Snodgrass saisd. “That’s not the way it worked out.” 
Snodgrass wound up scoring 514 points this season, more than doubling his scoring average from previous years. 
He scored a career-high 42 points against
North Allegheny the night he reached 1,000 — in a game Butler had to win to reach the WPIAL playoffs. He hit Matt Baranchak in stride for the game-winning layup against Seneca Valley in overtime in the game that put Butler in the postseason. 
Snodgrass found Luke Hartung for the game-winning trey against No. 2 seed
Chartiers Valley in the first round of the playoffs. He hit the game-tying and game-winning shots on buzzer-beaters against North Allegheny in the playoffs. 
“When I think of Nate, I think of the word reliable,” Clement said. “That’s what he was. I’ll be bringing his name up for a lot of years as I talk to my future teams. 
“He is the total player. We didn’t have him guard strong players on defense because we wanted to ease up on him for his offense, but Nate is a strong defensive player, too. Offensively, he’s a pass-first kind of player who can obviously score as well. 
“He’s got a high basketball IQ to go with all of that. He’d rather be a facillitator than a scorer. That’s what he’ll be at Navy.” 
Snodgrass will be joining a Navy team that was 3-26 this season, lost its final 22 games and hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2000. 
“Their coach, Ed DeChellis, has built programs before and he’s bringing in a nice recruiting class with Nate,” Clement said. 
“I know I need to work on my strength and quickness to do well in college,” Snodgrass said. “I’m practicing basketball every other day, lifting weights every other day. 
“We succeeded as a team here and I want the same thing to happen there.” 
Snodgrass played baseball when he was younger, “but once I got good at basketball, I focused on it.
“My mother played high school ball at
Butler and so did my brother, Austin. He knows the game well and taught me a lot. I’ve had a passion for the game for as long as I can remember,” he added.