Senior Max Belt has turned into a Swiss Army knife for Sewickley Academy

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Sunday, January 31, 2021 | 9:01 AM


For the past four years, Sewickley Academy senior Max Belt has been a mainstay in the boys basketball playing rotation and always has provided coach Win Palmer with a steady perimeter-shooting presence. This season, the three-year starter has taken his game to a new level.

Through their first seven games of the season, the Panthers are 4-3 overall, and Belt has played a huge part. He is scoring 19 points per game, is the team’s leading rebounder and also has taken on more of a ball-handling role.

“He’s playing superb basketball,” Palmer said. “It takes some of the pressure off George (Zheng) of being the only ball- handler. Now, Max is another guy who can handle the ball, but he’s doing so many good things for us.”

In previous seasons, Belt didn’t have as many responsibilities beyond scoring. But, as one of nine seniors on the team, Belt knew he was going to have to take on a bigger role this season.

So he went to Palmer during the offseason and said he was ready to shoulder the load. He wanted to grow as a player to help himself and the team.

“He came to me and said he wanted to be more of a ball-handler because he recognized it was an area of his game where he hadn’t developed as much as he should have,” Palmer said. “So I told him that would be great because we always like the idea of having multiple ball-handlers in the game. He really wanted that role. Then we talked about the fact that we were a small team and how we needed him to rebound, too.”

Belt’s increased responsibility hasn’t dulled his scoring touch. He has scored at least 18 points in six of their seven games, with a season-high 23 points against Shenango on Jan. 15. He also has been improving his ability to score in multiple ways, including being more determined about driving to the rim.

“You have to realize that every time you drive, you want to get to the hole and you want to give it all you got every time you go,” Belt said. “You know you are capable of doing it, but it’s all in your head and the only thing preventing you from doing it is yourself. Coach Palmer has told me that I have the capability of getting to the hole every time I want to as long as I put in full effort.”

Consistency has been a hallmark of Belt’s game this season. The Panthers rely on him to find ways to score every night, and with that weight on his shoulders, Belt has made sure not to let his teammates down.

“Last year, I had games where I’d score 10 points, then I’d score 25, and I was a pretty inconsistent player last year,” Belt said. “But I’ve learned that my teammates rely on me every time I go out on that floor, so I have to do everything I can do every time that I step out there. If I have an off night, it’s going to be really hard for us to win. So I just don’t want to let my teammates down, and I have to produce every single game.”

Despite the roller-coaster season caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Belt has given the Panthers consistent performances. But his development as an all-around player has helped the team raise its potential.

“We are still looking to find our identity, but his development has helped our team see what’s going on because as he becomes a more confident scorer, it’s creating other opportunities for other guys,” Palmer said. “They are starting to recognize that he might be getting double-teamed, so it will open up other things because he is really starting to get double-teamed.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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