Jeff Shain

Amid 3 decades of change, Jeremiah Faber has been Jaguars’ rock

Jasper County still hasn’t had the chance for a formal celebration.

Sure, sports milestones sometimes get set on the road. But usually there’s a home game just around the corner to salute the achievement.

It’s been 3  1/2 weeks now since Ridgeland-Hardeeville’s Jeremiah Faber notched his 500th career victory, and he still hasn’t set foot on his home court except for practice. Who put together the December schedule, anyway? An Uber driver?

“I don’t know how in the world that happened,” Faber said with a hearty laugh after the Jaguars dispatched Ben Lippen 73-66 in their Bobcat Classic opener Wednesday evening.

“This is the first time we’ve played so many straight games on the road and haven’t played at home. I guess our fans will be really excited about us coming home.”

Let’s hope. Wednesday’s victory now has him at 503, with a chance to add two more if the Jaguars can solve their defensive lapses and capture the tournament title. Even if they don’t, it’s an accomplishment that deserves celebration.

According to S.C. High School League records, Faber is just the 12th coach to notch 500 victories in the state. He needs just eight more to break into the all-time top 10.

“Wow,” said RHHS girls’ coach Frederick Toomer, one of Faber’s dozens of former players who helped lay the foundation for success at the old Jasper County High.

Upon further contemplation, Toomer added: “Woooooowwwww.”

Jasper County High doesn’t exist anymore, split up in 2007 as the county struggled with low performance and seemingly constant litigation. Faber, in fact, has outlasted four previous employers.

There’s West Hardeeville, where he spent a year as an assistant under Greg Cox. And then the old Ridgeland High, where he began in 1985 and he pointedly calls the “Ridgeland Trojans.”

The schools merged into Jasper County High in 1986, adopting the name Jaguars. Faber stayed a Jaguar after the split, migrating back to a new Ridgeland High. And then the schools merged again in 2012.

“Long live the Jaguars,” he said.

So many principals. So many administrators. So many teachers in what at times must have seemed a revolving door. If there’s been one constant in Jasper County Schools over the past three decades, it’s been their steadfast basketball coach.

“I’ve had some great players, great principals, great administrators that allowed me to do it,” said Faber, 58, who grew up in St. Stephen. “I didn’t always do it correctly, and I didn’t always win.”

He’s done it frequently enough, though. His first — well, only — Trojans team went 15-17 but couldn’t crack a smaller playoff bracket in those days. Since then, his various forms of Jaguars have captured seven region titles, winning one Lower State crown and playing for another.

“He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy,” Toomer said. “You would catch a smile or a grin here or there, but it was all about business. He’s a great teacher of the game, and that’s what I take from him as a coach. You have to teach the game.”

The highlight came two years ago, when RHHS reeled off 23 consecutive wins and knocked off Timberland to win the Class 2A Lower State crown. But Keenan prevailed in the state championship, leaving the Jaguars heartbroken but proud.

A similar run last March would have taken care of win No. 500, but Timberland flipped the tables in the Lower State semifinals. And so the countdown carried over to this season, finally coming Dec. 2 in an 80-60 win at Colleton County.

“I knew it would come,” Faber said. “I knew we’d win at least two games.”

Just as important is the influence he’s been able to leave on Jasper County youth. Toomer estimates he’s one of nearly 200 players touched by his leadership, many of whom have come back to the county.

“And I wouldn’t stop there,” Toomer said. “He helps my girls in P.E., if he sees something that can help them out. He’ll talk to any student, whether they’re players or not. Everybody knows Coach Faber.”

Now about that celebration ...

Jeff Shain: 843-706-8123, @jeffshain

SOUTH CAROLINA’S 500-WIN CLUB

943: John Smith, 1969-2016 (Great Falls)

742: Taft Watson, 1949-88, 1994-96 (Terrell’s Bay)

699: Louie Golden, 1965-96, 2003-09 (Riverside, Southside)

650: Tim Whipple, 1981-2014 (Irmo)

637: Chip Atkins, 1968-99, 2002-07 (Barnwell, Lower Richland)

626: Doug Lowe, 1979-2010 (Spartanburg)

556: Bailey Harris, 1987-2015 (Lexington)

533: Bruce McLin, 1951-68, 1971-93 (Gaffney)

514: Barry Triplett, 1977-2005 (Pleasant Hill, Carver’s Bay)

511: Joe Pitt, 1978-2009 (Union, Ware Shoals)

507: Robert Jameson, 1958-88, 1989-92 (Abbeville)

503: Jeremiah Faber, 1985-present (Jasper County, Ridgeland, Ridgeland-Hardeeville)

(Source: SCHSL record book)

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