COLUMBIA — The first half wasn't even over, and the player defending Chantel Stanciel already had enough.
Columbia College was leading Williams Baptist by double digits last week when backup point guard Stanciel used his quick hands, scrappiness and incessant stream of chatter to force a turnover. It was the last straw for the defender, who stepped well over the sideline to defend Stanciel, a freshman, on the ensuing inbound.
“Hey, nothing stupid,” the referee said, motioning to the defender to back up.
“Yeah, nothin’ stupid,” the opposing player barked at Stanciel. “Nothin’ stupid!”
“You don’t got to tell me!” Stanciel shot back, tossing the ball in and sprinting away.
This is the type of basketball player Stanciel is, one who gets in the head of his opponents and then takes the ball from their hands. His teammates call him “Pep,” a name that fits both his playing style and personality.
Both are in fact peppy, but not in the whimsical sense.
“He’s an energy-giver, not an energy-taker,” assistant coach Matt Brock said.
When he’s on the floor, a part of Stanciel is always moving, and never without a purpose. Although steals and assists are compiled using arms and legs, Stanciel attributes his success to a different organ — his mouth.
“I was raised being told a point guard who doesn’t talk doesn’t play,” he said after practice Friday.
Most point guards call out plays and screens on the offensive end, but it's Stanciel’s motormouth everywhere else on the court that makes him so valuable. Defensively, he is constantly chirping, sometimes so loud he can be heard from the stands, other times softly enough to grind an opponent’s gears.
Brock put it more bluntly, saying Stanciel “harasses” opposing point guards. But he said it's this same attitude that makes him a great teammate, lightening up locker room conversation and keeping the guys loose.
Undersized at 5-foot-11, Stanciel has seen good minutes this season despite playing the same position as Cougars star Devin Griffin, a junior. His role has been to come off the bench, cause chaos and continue to run the offense, and he’s done it well enough for his coaches to say he’s played like a veteran, with smarts and toughness.
Stanciel calls the way he plays the result of “little man syndrome,” which he says he suffers from.
“I hate being called small,” he said. “Even before I got to college the knock on me was, ‘He’s going to be too small to play his first year,' (or) ‘He’s going to be too small to play in college.’ I always took it to heart.”
On Friday, the Cougars were running plays against each other, 5-on-5, to simulate game situations. Griffin guarded Stanciel, and sometimes he got the better of the freshman. After a Stanciel turnover, the two teams switched sides. Stanciel’s teammate Marcus Whitt whispered something in his ear, something Stanciel didn’t like. He turned around, stomped the ground and pretended to punch Whitt.
Clearly just a joke, it nevertheless personified Stanciel - a fiery combination of tomfoolery and competitiveness.
“I feel like it’s not about the size,” Stanciel said. “It’s how you bring it.”