Perspective: by Jerry Pyle 1-18-93
Schultz at the Point
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports.
The hockey team finally resumed conference play and proceeded to sweep St. Olaf, giving them six wins in their last seven games. The struggling men's basketball team scored a rare win at home. And the Lady Cobber basketball team, riding the momentum of a big win at St.
Thomas, picked up three more wins. They're now 8-1 in the league, alone in second place, and seriously in the picture for an 11th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
This is a better-than-expected start for the Lady Cobbers, who lost four of their top six scorers from last year's 18-9 team that finished tied for third in the league. In addition, they've had to overcome the loss of their best long-range shooter (freshman Diana Evans went down with a season-ending knee injury in December) and a recent ankle injury to their starting post, Lisa Ekness.
A lot of players on this team have stepped forward to make it a title contender. But no one is more responsible for their success than senior point guard Kristi Schultz. Schultz, from Wheaton, Minn., is finishing off a stellar career by once again exceeding expectations.
Coming out of high school, Kristi was not heavily recruited. She was thought to be a bit limited as a passer. Schultz, now in her third year as a starter, is, for the third consecutive year, nationally ranked in assists per game with 6.2. She is on course to become No. 2 in career assists at Concordia, having already dished out 541. She trails only Becky Ehnert, who racked up 598 from 1986-1990, and All-American MaryLee Legried's 926 (1984-1988).
Kristi was, coming out of high school, said to be limited as a scorer. So far at Concordia, she has 475 career points. She shot 50 percent in MIAC games last year, second best on the team. And she's averaging 8 per game this year.
As significant as Kristi's contribution has been on the offensive end, her defensive work, the true measure of effort, is perhaps more impressive.
Schultz is already the Cobber career leader in steals with 256. It may be years before the MIAC sees another guard who can so thoroughly terrify opposing ball handlers.
Coming out of high school, Schultz was said to be too short. At 5-6, which is a bit of a fudge, she has not only proven tall enough to play the point, she's also collected 206 career rebounds and is averaging 4.8 boards in MIAC play this year, third best on the team.
Though Kristi clearly has considerable athletic skill and exceptional quickness, it is, just as clearly, her heart and desire that so distinguishes her play.
That heart and desire has kept both her and her teammates winning. In her four years at Concordia, her teams are 58-11 in MIAC games.
And she now has fourth team on track to get to her fourth NCAA tournament.
Kristi's journey from being a turnover-prone freshman to all-MIAC last year, and the league's premier point guard this year, has been fascinating to watch.
Early in her career at Concordia, and to some extent still, Kristi was not entirely at peace with the idea of following in the footsteps of her formidable predecessors, Legried and Ehnert, and accepting the high expectations their records, and the Lady Cobbers' winning tradition, placed on a point guard.
The point guard spot, here and elsewhere, has become a cauldron of pressure. The point guard is expected to call the right offensive plays and also make the right call in complicated defensive schemes, with changes almost every time down the floor. She's expected to direct the fast break without committing turnovers, coordinate a full court press, cover the opponent's best ball handler, get the ball to the right shooters in the right spots, score some points, and never look rattled, The point guard is expected to be a leader without having the benefit of a title or rank that conveys authority. The point guard has all the burden of a quarterback with little, if any, of the glamour, blamed when things go wrong and overlooked when things go well.
Kristi has always known this. She is the daughter of a point guard. Her Dad, Jerry, was Phil Jackson's point guard at UND back in the 1960's. He was also her coach in high school.
But Kristi never wanted basketball to dominate her life. She was ambivalent about accepting the pressure of it all at Concordia.
She sometimes flirted with the notion that she could escape the pressure by just repeating to herself the "Hey-it's-just-a-game" mantra. But, when she saw what that perspective did to the performance of others, often leading to a career in intramurals, and when she felt the pain of losses caused by mediocre effort, she knew that could not be her way. She still knew it wasn't life or death. But she also found it had to be treated as something more than "just- a-game" to be done with the kind of excellence expected of her, by herself and others.
Through occasional team turmoil, a changing cast of teammates, and different coaches each of the past three years, Schultz has remained focused on playing her best, constantly improving, remaining unselfish, and always playing to win in the finest sense.
Kristi has also taken the time to attend to the other things that were important. She is an excellent student who'll graduate this spring with a degree in Health Care Administration.
And she has quietly engaged in a series of community service programs, not the least of which is her work in the Big Sister program.
Kristi has exceeded all expectations, left a record of excellence, and always carried herself with well-earned dignity and class.
Like Legried and Ehnert before her, she'll be a tough act to follow.
Kristi Schultz GP PPG RPG PTS RBS FG-FGA FG% FT-FTA FT% 3-PT AS ST 1989-90 21 2.7 1.0 56 22 24-61 39.3 8-14 57.1 85 28 1990-91 29 5.1 2.2 147 63 57-163 35.0 33-52 63.5 210 72 1991-92 27 7.4 2.6 201 69 74-174 42.5 52-73 71.2 165 118 1992-93 27 6.7 3.8 182 103 71-163 43.6 40-60 66.7 0-2 190 80 Total 104 5.6 2.5 586 257 226-561 40.3 133-199 66.8 0-2 650 298
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