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Basketball (M)

Men's Basketball: Snyder Became More Than An Insurance Policy

by Mike London, The Salisbury Post, salisburypost.com

Dave Snyder was supposed to be an insurance policy, but he developed into one of the finest big men in Catawba basketball history.  In 1964, Catawba football coach Harvey Stratton was recruiting in Pennsylvania.  At basketball coach Sam Moir's request, Stratton stopped in the hamlet of Summerdale, near Harrisburg, to check out the tall kid Moir had heard about.  That kid turned out to be Snyder, raw, frail and thin as a clothesline, but 6-foot-8, as advertised.

A scholarship offer for Snyder came out of that visit, but Moir wasn't expecting miracles.  All he wanted was a serviceable backup to a 6-10, all-everything player he'd recruited.  "I'd only played one year of high school," Snyder explained. "I was just a tall, slim kid with a lot to learn."

Catawba was rebuilding when Snyder arrived on campus prior to the 1964-65 campaign.  Moir was minus his standouts from the previous season -- NFL receiver Bucky Pope; Al Johnson, who had set the school record with a 41-point game; and John Garrison.

Snyder debuted with 10 points when the Indians battled a group of Catawba alumni.  Snyder's first official game produced a modest four points against Atlantic Christian.  That team was headed for a 7-17 record, the roughest season in Moir's 34-year tenure.  The hope for a brighter future in the dog-eat-dog Carolinas Conference lay with Snyder.

"That 6-10 guy just couldn't play, couldn't jump or move, and I could," Snyder explained.  "I was surprised by how much I got to play my freshman year, but I also got pushed around by the big guys.  It was a really tough league."

Prior to Snyder's sophomore year, Moir recruited scoring machine Dwight Durante and muscular Lawrence Bullock, Catawba's first two African-American players.  The talent level escalated.  So did Snyder's play.

"Before my sophomore season, I started lifting," Snyder said.  "Coach would say, 'Everyone to the gym, except Snyder.  He's going to the weight room.'  I saw progress and got into it.  I put on 40 pounds, went from 180 to 220. It made a big difference."

Durante was such a sensation -- he broke Johnson's record a couple of games into his career -- that the new, improved Snyder flew under the radar.  But he had 21 rebounds on Jan. 20, 1966, the same night Durante dropped 58 points on Western Carolina at North Rowan's gym.  The electrifying Durante scored 50 against Newberry, so Moir was the only one who noticed Snyder pulled down 23 boards.

Catawba progressed to 11-14 Snyder's sophomore season.  By his junior year, the Indians had added Garland Davis, a high-flying East-West All-Star and the greatest rebounder in school history.  Catawba's firepower and rebounding wreaked havoc until Durante was handed a six-month suspension by the school in January.  Snyder was forced to carry more of the scoring burden. 

He poured in 27 points against Elon.  He produced a career-high 30, on 12-for-17 shooting, against Newberry.  Catawba finished 17-13, but it might have won 25 had it not lost Durante.  Snyder averaged 14.2 points a game and made All-Carolinas Conference.

"When Dave first came here, he was just a 6-8 kid that couldn't catch the ball that well, was kind of awkward and couldn't shoot," Moir said.  "But what he did have was quick feet and a willingness to work.

"Then he got strong, he could catch it, and he was all-conference.  He improved as much as anyone I ever coached."

Snyder's senior season, Durante was reinstated, Davis was better, and the Indians were headed to 22-9.  Catawba beat powerhouse Winston-Salem State in December.  Snyder had 24 points.

Snyder hurt an ankle in a game against Guilford and its star big man, Bob Kauffman, and he was expected to miss weeks.  Instead, Snyder was back on the floor in time for Catawba's record-setting 123-96 victory over Elon.  Durante scored 52 on 22-for-35 shooting, so a hobbling Snyder's 12 points and 13 boards didn't get much ink.

The night Durante's 35-footer at the horn beat Western Carolina 85-83, Snyder scored 30 points.  Snyder had 26 points in the 113-90 victory over Atlantic Christian that secured Moir's first 20-win season.

Snyder's finest hour came in a Carolinas Conference Tournament semifinal in Winston-Salem.  He had 25 points and 26 rebounds in a heated 92-88 victory over Western Carolina. 

Snyder remembers more about Catawba's next game -- the 80-73 loss to Guilford in the tourney final that ended his career.  He had 14 rebounds but only four points.  "Guilford was in all kinds of foul trouble," Snyder said.  "It was disappointing we couldn't finish them off." 

Snyder was All-Carolinas Conference again, averaging 12.9 points and 13.8 rebounds.  He shot 62 percent from the floor, still one of the 10 most accurate seasons in Catawba history.  Moir said Snyder also blocked "a ton" of shots, but no records were kept.

Snyder amassed 1,398 career points and 1,226 rebounds.  He's third all-time among Catawba rebounders behind Davis and Bill Bailey and was elected to the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.  Snyder wasn't aware he was the charter member of Catawba's 1,000-1,000 club until the 1990s, when his 6-7 son, Kyle, was playing for the Indians.

"Stats just weren't that big a thing when I played," said Snyder, a YMCA director in Virginia for 30 years and now an employee of the Wilkes County school system.  "There wasn't big press. We just wanted to win the games."

When he first came to Salisbury, Snyder knew no one in the state.  But his roommates, including Stanly County sharpshooter Johnny Harwood, became lifelong brothers.

"My son was a smart kid and was recruited by a lot of schools," Snyder said.  "That day he asked if we could go look at Catawba made me feel very good.  Catawba was a positive experience for me in every way."


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