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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

WATCH NOW: High school basketball--G-E-T's Schmitz rounds out his game

SPARTA — Cody Schmitz picked up right where he left off.

The junior wing from Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School started his third varsity campaign with a 30-point performance in Tuesday’s season opener against Sparta, matching his 30.2 sophomore scoring average on the dot.

Scoring has been Schmitz’s forte ever since he joined the Red Hawks as a freshman, but after a focused offseason, he is aiming to be more than just a volume scorer this winter.

“This year, I think you’re going to see him take his game to the next level to be a guy that can score, distribute, be active defensively and an active rebounder,” G-E-T coach Jared McCutchen said.

In Tuesday’s 85-51 win over the Spartans, Schmitz’s 30 points did not constitute a full-game effort; the junior scored 22 points by halftime and spent the final eight minutes of the blowout on the bench.

Still, it was enough for the scoring savant to surpass the 1,000-point milestone just past the midpoint of his career, wrapping up the game at 1,017 points.

Even though he was just 13 points shy of the mark coming into the game, he was not too worried about whether he hit 1,000 against the Spartans or next week.

“Coming in, we just wanted to win this game and if 30 points came, it came,” Schmitz said. “If 1,000 points came, it came.”

More important to Schmitz and McCutchen was whether the junior could play a more well-rounded game. Even though he averaged 9.9 rebounds per game to go along with his 30.2 points in an effort that earned him Associated Press All-State high honorable mention, being more locked in on defense and being a better passer were both points of emphasis.

The improved passing was on display, as Schmitz tallied five assists in the win after dishing four or more assists just once last winter, in part thanks to improved shooting from the rest a Red Hawks team that was youth-heavy last season.

“When he’s a willing passer like he was tonight, we saw some great examples, we can be a pretty special team when we get contributions from other guys,” McCutchen said.

Throughout the offseason, Schmitz traveled around the country playing AAU ball with the Wisconsin Playmakers, and throughout that time he says he spent most of his time trying to hone his defensive skills further.

“I tried to maintain my focus on playing intense defense,” Schmitz said. “That translates to points on the other side, whether that’s for me or my teammates.”

His increased passing ability may not have come from his work on the hardwood, though.

After playing quarterback for the Red Hawks this fall, Schmitz feels he has both an increased sense of vision and awareness, as well as a closer chemistry with many of his fellow two-sport athlete teammates.

“As quarterback, I maintain that leadership role on the football field and it helps in basketball as I build that bond with the other kids,” Schmitz said.

After such a stellar sophomore season, Schmitz has already begun to be recruited heavily, saying he has been in contact with seven or eight Division I squads so far.

That increased profile has a flip-side too, as opposing defenses know to lock in on him and road crowds will be rowdier than usual when he makes a rare mistake.

Near the midway point of the first half Tuesday, Schmitz missed a free throw for his first whiff of the night, and the Sparta student section kicked into an “overrated” chant, despite the fact G-E-T was ahead by 29 and Schmitz already had 15 points.

Just as the cool-headed Schmitz does not care much about how many points he scores as long as the team wins, the opinions of other fans do not matter much either.

“Last year toward the middle and end of the year, he had a lot of fans heckling. He’s used to it,” McCutchen said. “I don’t think Cody minds that too much.”

Andrew Tucker can be reached at andrew.tucker@lee.net or via Twitter @andrewjtucker16

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