Ater reflects on success at ‘Burg, new opportunity

WHEELERSBURG — If you ask former Wheelersburg and South Webster head coach Steven Ater, the decision to become the newest head coach of the Chesapeake Panthers boys basketball program wasn’t an easy one.

In May, after spending nine seasons as the head coach of the Pirates’ boys basketball team, Ater was approved and accepted the same position that he held for over a decade at two Scioto County schools.

“It’s a feeling of mixed emotions as this was a very tough decision to make this move for my family. We are leaving behind some amazing relationships with some amazing people, but we just felt that we were being led in this direction,” Ater said. “It’s obviously home for me and my wife, both of our families still live in the area. Chesapeake has undergone some big changes in the past few years on the board and in administration that really sold us on the direction the community wants to go in. We were honored that they wanted to bring us home to be a part of that direction and believe we have a unique opportunity to serve the schools and community.”

Ater was a four-year player under Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Norm Persin, and a 1998 graduate of Chesapeake — where he’ll now return to be the Panthers’ head man.

Prior to becoming a head coach in his own right, Ater was an assistant under former Panthers coach Ryan Davis — who recently became the newest head coach at Bloom-Carroll High School.

“I’m excited about coaching at my alma mater, but also nervous because I have some big shoes to follow in Coach Ryan Davis. I had the opportunity to work with him for his first two seasons at Chesapeake and he has been a big influence to my career and has been so supportive of this move,” Ater said. “They have a proud tradition and kids that always play incredibly hard to live up to the standards of the players before them. I’m hoping to go in and build on top of the great success that Coach Davis has had and Coach Persin before him.”

During his time as a head coach, Ater’s Pirates and Jeeps compiled a 236-84 record — and were district champions on seven occasions since 2011.

In a five-year span from 2018 to 2022, the Pirates reached the Division III regional tournament four times and were regional runner-up in 2019 — as well as Division IV regional runner-up at South Webster in 2013.

The last district championship Wheelersburg won under Ater’s direction, coincidentally enough, came in a 64-47 victory over Chesapeake — at Waverly’s Downtown Arena at the end of last year.

“I will remember all the great relationships we’ve made with some tremendous young men and people in the community,” Ater said, of his time at Wheelersburg. “Obviously, we have a lot to be proud of in terms of success — winning five district championships in the last nine seasons has been a great run. I’m really excited to watch a lot of the players go out and have so much success as they start their lives. As a coach, you get to spend a lot of time with your student-athletes and just getting to develop those long lasting relationships has been a great blessing in my life. I was fortunate to work with some tremendous coaches on our staff that have become lifelong friends and are so talented, guys like Alex Prater, Travis Bradford, J.D King and Derek Lewis. I had an incredible athletic director and even better friend in Jarod Shaw to work with. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with so many great student-athletes and coaches.”

In terms of standout memories during Ater’s time in Pirate Country, they span from the beginning of his tenure during the 2013-14 season — all the way through the end.

“Most of my memories will be positive ones, we had some big wins in the SOC (Southern Ohio Conference) and in tournament play. I think my first season and the win over Fairland in the district championship on J.D. Widdig’s big putback basket is one memory that will stick out, just how that group of seniors accepted me right in and wanted to finish their basketball careers on a positive note,” Ater said. “Clinching the SOC II championship (2019-20 season) at Waverly in a makeup game in front of a huge crowd was another great game. Getting to work with a player like Tanner Holden who has had so much success at Wright State and has now joined the Ohio State Buckeyes was a lot of fun. It’s rewarding to still get to see all his hard work pay off.”

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Former Wheelersburg boys basketball head coach Steven Ater (left) coached South Webster and Wheelersburg to a career 236-84 record and seven district championships during his time in Scioto County. Wheelersburg boys basketball head coach Steven Ater (left) coached South Webster and Wheelersburg to a career 236-84 record and seven district championships during his time in Scioto County. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

By Jacob Smith

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Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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