On Wednesday, Siler Schneider played in his first NCAA Tournament game and his 16th-seeded team won. On Thursday, he was inside a locker room at the BOK Center, talking about playing the No. 1-seeded team he grew up rooting for.
“This whole experience has been unreal,” said Schneider, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from Lansing who is UC Davis’ third-leading scorer.
Back in Kansas, Schneider was known as Joe. Then he headed west for a season at the Air Force Academy prep school, committed to UC Davis and realized there was another Joe in the Aggies’ four-man recruiting class, guard Joe Mooney, who became his roommate.
“I wanted to switch it up,” Schneider said, “and honor my given name too.”
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In Lansing, Schneider grew up with KU walk-on Clay Young, and they played basketball together through grade school and high school. When Young was a senior, Lansing reached the Kansas 5A state championship game but lost by single digits to Shawnee Mission South.
A year later with Schneider as one of seven seniors, Lansing finished a 25-0 season with its first state title after beating Topeka Highland Park.
“We had some great teams in high school,” said Young, a junior guard for the Jayhawks.
Young and Schneider thought a potential reunion on the college basketball court was possible after UC Davis won the Big West tournament. The Aggies beat UC Irvine 50-47 for the title after losing by 30 at Irvine in the regular-season finale. Schneider and Young chatted after that game and again on Selection Sunday.
“We kind of figured there might be a chance,” Young said, “that they could get to this stage and play us.”
Then UC Davis won its play-in game Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, 67-63 over North Carolina Central, and will take on top-seeded KU at 5:50 p.m. Friday in the Midwest Region first round.
“I never thought it would ever happen,” Young said of facing his old friend in the tournament. He said they’ll try to get together after the game.
Though he doesn’t start, Schneider has made an impact for UC Davis, averaging 10.3 points per game.
“I fell in love with the West Coast,” he said.