WARSAW – Evan Schmidt is enjoying the ride.
The Warsaw senior guard has every right to that’s for sure.
Schmidt’s perseverance and perspiration have been rewarded in a big, big way in his final high school season on the hardwood for the Tigers.
Warsaw, ranked No. 5 in Class 4-A, takes a 23-1 record as the favorite into the Michigan City Regional on Saturday. The Tigers, who will face South Bend Riley in the first regional semifinal game, are looking to claim the program’s 14th regional championship and first since 2010 (when they finished as state runner-up).
Schmidt, who has started all 24 games this season for coach Doug Ogle’s team, is reaping the rewards now after coming so very close to seeing his playing career ended. He was severely injured in a golf cart accident in August of 2014, which has given him quite the unique perspective on playing the game he dearly loves.
“The first thing that went through my mind when I was in the ambulance after the accident was not playing basketball again,” recalled Schmidt on Wednesday prior to practice. “It was tough. I really could not bear to think about not being able to play with these guys again.”
Schmidt suffered serious injuries from the mishap which happened during a summer job. He had a collapsed lung, a punctured lung and a broken rib from the accident and spent five days in the hospital in Fort Wayne. His accident occurred just a couple of days before the first open gym prior to the 2014-15 basketball season. He then was away from competing on the court for a couple of months to heal.
“It’s really hard to explain how much this means to me,” remarked Schmidt. “This is just pure joy pure happiness for me to be a part of.
“The big thing is I know that I was very blessed to have the good graces of the Lord looking out for me that day.”
Schmidt spent a large chunk of last season playing on the junior varsity team for the Tigers. He scored three varsity points as Warsaw went 18-5. He is averaging 3.8 points-per-game this season and is second on the team with 24 treys.
Schmidt has impressed his teammates with his determination and moxie.
“Evan brings leadership and his toughness to this team,” said senior do-it-all guard Paul Marandet. “He’s really a role model for the way that he has bought in to the program.”
Star guard Kyle Mangas, the top scorer for the Tigers and a strong Junior All-Star candidate, concurs.
“I have a ton of respect for Evan for what he has been through and also for what he brings to this team,” said Mangas. “He is just so solid. He’s so unselfish, he’s a leader and he does a little of everything for us.”
Schmidt knows his role on a team that ranks second in the state in defensive average as the Tigers only allow 38.38 points-per-game.
“My role is leadership and to be a calming factor for us,” said Schmidt. “I just want to be solid and hit the shots when I have them. This run has been a lot of fun. We knew that we would be good this year because of the summer we had together and the chemistry of this team. We have just grown off that.”
Schmidt has also impressed his coach.
“Evan has improved dramatically, especially with his ball handling,” said Ogle. “He’s a big component of our team defense. He’s such a hard worker and never showed one bit of selfishness last year when we moved him to the JV team.
“He’s hung in there and paid his dues. I’m happy for Evan to have this opportunity.”
Enjoy the ride young man.
You have earned it.