A Captain and a Gentleman

Panter is positive influence on Wildcats

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Jan. 31, 2008 - Whenpeople see Sulphur Springs 6-1 senior forward Andrew Panter on-and-off of the basketball court, they see a leader along with the heart of a champion.

For first-year coach Braughn Curtis, those are attributes that make Panter one of the team captains.

"Andrew has superior leadership skills," Curtis said. "He always goes hard all the time and does everything I ask him to do and then some. He is always encouraging his teammates to go hard, and there is never a bad day with this guy.

"He has been a positive influence on our team this year, and I am sure he is a pleasure to play with. He is definitely one of the leaders on the team, and I definitely think they know that."

When Panter is not on the basketball court, he plays an active role in helping the youth and children's ministry at League Street Church of Christ, and said those events help him out on the basketball court.

"Besides showing the leadership roles, I just try to have fun and those activities are places where I can have a good time," said Panter, the son of Tommy and Gwen Panter. "Being blessed to be a part of a church and school activities and a basketball team is more than I can ask for. I try to do my best in everything I can do and be an example to others."

Being the youngest of four brothers played another role in his development as a leader as older brothers Caleb, Adam and Luke Panter guided him in his journey through high school.

He said seeing all of the extracurricular events that they participated in and the leadership they showed has helped him adjust to the struggles of high school.

"I love my brothers, and I miss them everyday now that they are gone," he said. "My brothers were involved in school as all of them were Student Council presidents. Caleb was also a Third-Team All-State basketball player, Adam was a drum major and Luke was an All-District tennis player. I follow their example, but then I also try to be my own person. They have helped me out as I have grown older, and they have been a good example to me."

For Panter, playing under four different head coaches in four different years was a tough part of his career, but he would not trade those experiences for anything as they made him a better player this year.

"I believe it has been a big struggle," Panter said. "All the while it has been fun and with coach Steve Glover I did not know a lot because I was on the freshman team. Coach Jeff Carroll came in from a big school, and we had to learn about 20 plays during that year.

"With coach Rusty Harden, he was real laid back and was very fun to work with and then Coach Curtis wanted us to press and everything. The main thing is it has been fun learning all of the new systems from four different types of coaches."

This year, the Wildcats opened the season at 11-2 but have lost eight straight games and 13 of their last 16 games as Sulphur Springs is 14-15 overall and 0-6 in District 11-4A play heading into their contest tomorrow night against Lindale.

Panter said this stretch of games has taken a toll on him as an athlete, and the players are working as hard as they can to get their first district win and break the streak.

"It has been real tough as a senior," Panter said. "Playing for six years it came to a point where I lost motivation in the middle of the season to keep going. After the rear-end kicking from Mount Pleasant, it hit me that this is not how I wanted it to be and we grew tired there for a second.

"Now that we know that we don't like that feeling, we have worked harder during practice and have learned from our mistakes. I have definitely been disappointed that we have not done as well as we did earlier in the season, but it has been a learning experience."

With only four games remaining in the regular season, Panter said the seven teammates that he is playing with right now are a group he will never forget.

"This is a great bunch of guys and we had some high expectations this year," the senior said. "We wanted to go to the playoffs, but it hasn't worked that well, and this has been a great experience to be around them everyday."

This season, Panter has averaged 2.4 ppg. and 1.9 rebounds, but in district play he ha stepped up his defensive pressure and is fourth on the team in rebounding at 3.2 boards per game.

He said the only memory he wants fans of the team to remember him by is the way that he played the game and the opportunity he had to hear the crowd every Tuesday and Friday night.

"It is just the satisfaction of me going out there every game and working my hardest," he said. "Even if the games did not turn out the way that we wanted them to, it was a great experience and I was blessed to have the opportunity to be able to play for six years. I am glad that basketball was in my life and it has taught me a lot and pushed me to my limits in terms of patience and leadership."

Panter plans on joining older brother Luke at Oklahoma Christian University in the fall to study elementary education in hopes of teaching second or third grade.

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