By Colin Marklowitz:
For the last four years, Blue Devil fans have become accustomed to Sami Schoeder coming up big in key moments for the Stout women’s basketball team.
One of the only two seniors on Stout’s roster –guard Rachel Hanley is the other–Schoeder has been an integral part of the Blue Devil’s offensive attack since joining the squad her freshman year.
“I was really happy that I could come right in and help the team,” Schoeder said. “As a freshman, that was my main goal.”
As a freshman, she started all 25 games, scoring in double figures 13 times, led or tied for the team lead in scoring on seven occasions, and hit at least one three-pointer in 18 games.
Schoeder turned in her best individual performance at home against UW-Platteville, treating Blue Devil fans to a shooting display from all over the court. She shot a lights-out 11-16 from the field, including 6-9 from downtown on the way to a career-best 31 points in an 80-70 Blue Devil victory.
In 28 minutes of action, Schoeder committed zero turnovers and came down with a team-high eight rebounds.
Despite Schoeder’s strong rookie campaign, the Blue Devils did not enjoy the same success as a team. Stout finished the year 10-15 overall and 5-11 in the WIAC.
On the season, Schoeder finished second on the team in scoring with 11.0 points per game while playing a team-high 28.3 minutes per game. She also was third on the team in rebounding with 4.8 per contest.
For her efforts, Schoeder received honorable mention all-conference honors and was named the Blue Devils most valuable offensive player.
“I felt really good going into my sophomore year,” Schoeder said
Just 13 games into the season though, disaster struck. While running up the court, Schoeder’s knee buckled and gave way, sending her to the floor. She knew right away that it wasn’t good.
“Up to that point, the only injuries I had really had were rolled ankles,” said Schoeder. “I had never really had a major injury.”
An MRI confirmed her worst fears. She had torn her ACL and would miss the rest of the basketball season.
“It was super frustrating,” Schoeder said. “I came [into the season] in such good shape and was off to a strong start.”
At the time of the injury, Schoeder was leading the team in scoring with 9.8 ppg.
“The biggest thing was to stay positive,” she said. “I came to every practice I could and every game to support my girls.”
She began running again after about five months and worked hard to prepare herself for the basketball season. When she returned to the court for the season opening game, it had been nearly nine months since tearing her ACL.
“Right now I am trying to get back to where I was sophomore year before I tore it,” Schoeder said. ”It’s way better than last year though.”
For the first three games of her junior season, Schoeder came off the bench for the Blue Devils, something she had never really done before.
Schoeder returned to the starting lineup in a big way with 24 points while hitting five three-pointers in a win against St. Scholastica Nov. 24, 2012.
In 24 games and 15 starts, Schoeder averaged 8.7 ppg, good for third on the team while hitting a career-best 42-130 shots (32.3 percent) from beyond the arc, easily tops on the team.
However, the Blue Devils stumbled down the stretch after an 8-6 start, losing nine of their last 11 games on the way to a 10-15 overall record and 4-12 in the WIAC.
Coming into this season, Schoeder and the Blue Devils set their sights high.
“Our biggest team goal was to be in the conference tournament at the end of the year,” Schoeder said. “Only the top six teams in the conference go. If we make that conference tournament, we can win.”
One of the Blue Devils team captains, Schoeder prefers to lead more by example, letting her actions on and off the court speak for her.
“We [team captains] all have very different personalities,” she said laughing. “I’m more laid back and Brea takes over with the yelling.”
Schoeder says that it is her teammates that have really made basketball so much fun over the last four years.
“We do a lot of team bonding,” Schoeder said. “The Christmas break trips [Each year, the Blue Devils travel to an out-of-state basketball tournament over the winter break] will always really stick out.”
“It’s great having that team to rely on and know that we always have each other,” she said. “I’m still friends with girls I played with when I was a freshman; we’re like a big family that sticks together.”
Born and raised in Durand, Schoeder discovered her love for basketball in middle school.
“I really didn’t get started playing organized basketball until around junior high,” she said. “I think my middle school coach was a big reason I got so into basketball.
In high school, basketball became a family affair as Schoeder played on the team with both her older and younger sister.
“Basketball wasn’t their sport, but they knew I loved it and I think part of the reason they stuck it out was because they knew how much I loved to play.”
High school basketball was where Schoeder really began to show what she was capable of on the court, developing a sweet shooting touch, especially from beyond the arc.
Schoeder says that her high school coach, Todd Poeschel, played a huge role in helping her fine-tune her game.
“We didn’t really get along the best right away,” she said. “But my senior year we connected and now we still keep in touch.”
Instead of deciding immediately where she would continue her education and basketball career, Schoeder took her time before choosing Stout over Superior and Eau Claire a month before graduation.
“To be honest I never really thought about college ball at all,” Schoeder said. “My senior year, coach talked to me about it and told me I should look into it.”
Schoeder says it was never really a question of whether or not she was going to play college basketball though.
“It didn’t really cross my mind that I wasn’t going to play college basketball,” she said. “It was never if I would play, it was always where [was I going to play]”
When it came down to it, Stout was the always the choice.
“I never really thought of anywhere else but Stout,” Schoeder said. “Superior was way too far away for me and the only other school was Eau Claire and I didn’t want to go there.”
With Durand just a short drive away, Schoeder has been able to share the thrills and disappointments of her college career with her family, who are frequent fans at Blue Devil games.
“All through high school I had so many supporters and I appreciate their support so much,” said Schoeder. “They’re all big supporters, they don’t miss a game. Part of the reason I came so close was so they could all come to my games.”
“I have a little nephew who is one and a half and I really love spending time with him,” she added. “He is the only nephew in the family so we really like to spoil him.”
This season, Schoeder leads the Blue Devils in scoring, averaging 11.0 points per game, which is also 12th best in the conference. With just two games left in the regular season, the Blue Devils currently sit in fifth place in the WIAC with a 5-9 conference record.
If Stout is able to win either of their final two games, the Blue Devils will clinch a spot in the WIAC tournament. If the Blue Devils lose both games, there is a possibility that they will not make the tournament at all.
“We just need to make sure that we aren’t dwelling on our mistakes,” Schoeder said. “On defense, we need to step up and have more pride in trying to get stops when we need it.”
Schoeder will graduate in December of 2014 with a degree in Business Management and a minor in Human Resources.
“I want to stay in the area,” she said about her plans after graduation. “Right now I am looking to get an internship this summer that will hopefully lead to something wonderful around here so I can be near my nephew and family.”
In a few short weeks, Schoeder’s basketball career will be over. Blue Devil fans will almost certainly be sad to see her go, but her passion and appreciation for the game will not go unnoticed.
Schoeder also had some advice for anyone considering playing college sports.
“One thing that I really want to say is that being a student athlete has been totally worth it,” Schoeder said. “It takes a lot of time and effort, but you learn a lot and really grow as a person.”