Shiocton senior basketball player Nate Schmidt signs his letter of intent to play at Trinity International University. – Photo by Linda Titel
By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
The scholarship offer came on April 10. Nate Schmidt was going to let it digest before announcing his decision.
It was a monumental decision. Perhaps, the biggest of his young life. He would be spending the next four years at the college, so he had to choose wisely.
Schmidt, a senior at Shiocton and the school’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, took a week to ultimately make up his mind. He was going to play collegiately at Trinity International University (TIU).
Schmidt signed his national letter of intent on May 10 to play for the NAIA Division II powerhouse out of Deerfield, Ill.
“My dream was to play at the highest level I possibly could and they provided that opportunity for me,” Schmidt said. “They’re losing six seniors that are very good, three of them are playing overseas next year, so there’s a lot of room for me to get a chance to play as a freshman. And it’s a growing program.”
TIU, ranked No. 7 in the final NAIA Division II poll last season, started recruiting Schmidt last May. Instead of reaching out via a form letter or through one of his assistant coaches, TIU head coach Boomer Roberts personally contacted Schmidt to let him know he was interested.
“I was pretty shocked, especially for that type of school, with their growing program and what level they’re at,” Schmidt said. “So I was kind of shocked the head coach came up to me right away, but he saw something in me that nobody else saw.”
Schmidt said the TIU coaching staff recruited him hard during the summer, but eased off during basketball season.
“Which was confusing to me,” Schmidt said. “But it’s also good because they focused all their time and energy on the team. So next year they’re going to focus all their time on me and not guys that maybe are coming in in the future.”
Schmidt and his parents traveled for an official visit in July to the small Christian school located just northwest of Chicago. The Schmidts sat down with Roberts and his staff, and the coaches laid out a plan for their prized recruit.
“Through the four-hour visit, Nate said, ‘Hey, I want to play for that guy,’” said Schmidt’s dad, Chad, who is also the Shiocton boys basketball coach. “He had a great first impression. I think it really came down to once we investigated everything and what TIU had to offer, it became a good fit.”
Schmidt will go from one winning program – Shiocton was 44-12 in conference play in his four seasons – to another winning program – TIU won an unprecedented 30 games last season and advanced all the way to the national quarterfinals. Getting Schmidt to play at Trinity is a win-win for both parties.
“That’s certainly part of the equation,” said coach Schmidt about going to a winning program. “Nate knows what it’s like to be in a winning culture. It’s a thriving culture. When you’re part of a winning culture it’s just more fun, it just is. It’s positive, it’s upbeat. It’s important for him to play basketball in a program that’s thriving. The coach, in his words, said, ‘You’re a winner. We recruit guys like you.’ As a result, they’ve had success.”
Schmidt was considering four schools through the majority of the recruiting process: TIU; Carroll University in Waukesha; Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota; and Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. Late in the process, he had parred down his choices to two, TIU and Carroll, since both offer exercise science programs. Schmidt, who received an athletic and academic scholarship package, plans to get his doctorate in physical therapy. TIU has an accelerated program where Schmidt can graduate in three years and start working toward his doctorate degree.
One big reason Roberts told Schmidt he started recruiting him hard was from what he saw during an AAU game when Schmidt was with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors.
“I see Nate get a long rebound and he just goes down the floor sideline,” coach Schmidt recalls Roberts telling the family. “He’s got a one-on-three break, meaning everyone’s sprinting back, they hustle to the basket and he pops a 3 in transition. He said, ‘My god, that takes a lot of (confidence) to do that, because if you miss you’re coming out of the game.’”
Schmidt has never lacked confidence, and he got that from strong play on the court. A four-year starter at Shiocton, he leaves as the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,808 points) and leader in assists (408). Schmidt was a three-time first-team all-Central Wisconsin Conference 8 selection and conference player of the year the last two years. Other awards include Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 4 first-team all-state as a junior and senior, and Associated Press All-State honorable mention pick this past season.
The TIU coaches told the Schmidts they love his savvy on the court; he understands how to play the game, can create off the dribble and is a coach’s kid. Coach Roberts also said he doesn’t know if he’s ever coached anyone who can shoot as well as Schmidt. TIU, much like Shiocton, likes to push the ball up the floor.
“The offense at TIU is not really a screen and work it, it’s just push it as fast as you can and try to get shots up as fast as you can and get points,” Schmidt said.
Roberts told Schmidt his game reminds him of himself coming out of high school.
“As a coach, he’s very sensitive to what kind of player I am and he can use me well in the type of offense that they play,” Schmidt said. “He ultimately trusts in my abilities and he’s going to have faith in me these next four years.”
TIU plans on using Schmidt as a combination 1-2 guard, who can bring the ball up the court when needed and camp out in the corner for an open 3-pointer. Schmidt will get a shot right away to get plenty of time as a freshman off the bench.
Schmidt, who graduated on May 28, is looking forward to playing college basketball in a few short months.
“I’m very excited,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been waiting all basketball season and all fall to kind of get it done with. Knowing that spring time’s finally here and all my college is figured out, I’m excited for the future.”