Litherland takes over Shawnee boys' basketball program

Brian Johnson
The Shawnee News-Star
Eric Litherland

Eric Litherland has come full circle and he's getting back into the classroom to boot.

Litherland, who has spent the last few years as boys' head basketball coach and athletic director at Bethel, is now the new head boys' basketball coach at Shawnee High School. He also returns to the classroom, teaching Algebra 2.

“The Shawnee High School job has been on my list, especially after I walked the halls there,” said Litherland, a 1997 SHS graduate who played basketball for longtime head coach Bob Banfield. “I've never had the opportunity to come back here until now. Things have now worked out. It's awesome. It's great.”

It's a family thing for Litherland.

“I've lived here around about 30 years. My wife (Stephanie) graduated from Shawnee in 1998. My in-laws attended here. We've been so well ingrained into this community,” Litherland said.

One of the enticing aspects of the coaching position is getting back into the classroom as well, something he missed while at Bethel due to his athletic directing duties there.

“I love being in the classroom. It's my passion. I enjoy teaching and educating,” said Litherland. “Math is my strength. I had taught math at Tecumseh.”

Prior to his stint at Bethel, Litherland was boys' head basketball coach and math instructor at Tecumseh.

Litherland takes over a Wolves' program which has qualified for two straight state tournaments, one each under coaches Ron Arthur (2019-20) and Paxton Kilby (2020-21).

Though Shawnee lost a few key pieces from the 2020-21 squad to graduation, there's enough to make Litherland excited for his initial coaching fray for the Wolfpack on the hardwood.

“They've been to the state tournament the last two years. They know what it takes to win,” Litherland said. “I'm excited about them. Coach Arthur did a great job and Coach Kilby did a good job.”

Back with Shawnee are starters Tanner Morris and Jaylon Orange, along with key reserve Kayden Shaw, a 6-5 post.

“Kayden Shaw, in about four days (of summer scrimmages and camps), had about 20 dunks. I've never had a kid who is able to do that and play with his back to the basket like he does,” said Litherland. “Tanner Morris can flat out shoot the ball and Jaylon is an orchestrator, a motor that makes them go.

“I know they lost some good pieces with Isaiah Willis and Joe Maytubby. But what is coming back has got me excited and I look forward to working with them.”

Litherland believes his transition should be smoother with the return of assistants Hutch Peterson and Don Murphy Jr.

“I'm excited to work under Coach (Todd) Boyer (athletic director) and Coach Arthur (assistant athletic director). I'm excited to also work under Superintendent of the Year Dr. (April) Grace,” Litherland said. “I'm big on building relationships and I look forward to being supportive of the community as much as I can be.”

Notes: Litherland guided Bethel to a 14-9 record in 2020-21 after leading the Wildcats to a 19-8 mark in 2019-20...Eric has one son Jordan (19). Eric and Stephanie have two children – Edan (12) and Sutton (8).