Portsmouth’s Cole Swider named Gatorade Player of Year

Junior honored for play, academic achievement and character

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PORTSMOUTH — Cole Swider of Portsmouth, a junior forward on St. Andrew’s School’s boys basketball team, has been named the 2016-17 Gatorade Rhode Island Boys Basketball Player of the Year. 

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Cole as Rhode Island’s best high school boys basketball player, according to Gatorade.

Cole played at Portsmouth High School as a freshman, but was reclassified as a freshman when he transferred to St. Andrew’s the following year. He’s the sixth player from St. Andrew’s to be chosen for the award.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 215-pound junior forward averaged 26.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game this past season, leading the Saints (20-9) to the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class AA Tournament semifinals. 

A NEPSAC Class AA First Team selection, Cole is a two-time team MVP. He concluded his junior year with 1,962 points in his prep basketball career.

Swider has volunteered locally serving meals at a soup kitchen and as a peer tutor, and he has donated his time as a youth basketball coach and counselor. He’s maintained a 3.33 GPA in the classroom and will begin his senior year of high school in the fall.

Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award to be announced this month, Cole joins an elite alumni association of past state boys basketball award winners including Paul Pierce, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd.

“Cole is a tremendous player,” said Marcus O’Neil, head coach of Tilton (N.H.) School. “He is an outstanding shooter, makes plays driving to the hoop and can post up as well. He has a lot of potential.”

As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Cole will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. 

Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants — one for each sport — will be announced throughout the year.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.