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SUPER SCHULTZ: Owatonna senior combined tenacity and raw skill to become all-time great

Syd Schultz could have coasted and still manufactured a solid career based purely on her inherent physical tools.

She could have, but she didn’t.

Instead, the 5-foot-11 forward logged countless hours open gyms and sacrificed summer months traversing the state playing in the competitive AAU circuit since her eighth grade year. She could have let a few loose balls trickle out of bounds and maybe not boxed out on every shot attempt and still led the team in rebounding for the last four years. She could have remained exclusively a low-post player and probably still produced multiple all-conference seasons.

She could have, but she didn’t.

Instead, Schultz dove for every loose ball and relentlessly battled on the glass at both ends of the floor no matter the score or situation. She expanded her game every season until she became one of the team’s best distributors while adding significant distance to her jump shot during her final season with the Huskies.

So, instead of a really good high school career, Schultz will leave Owatonna as the best female basketball player to ever set foot in the OHS gymnasium. She is the program’s all-time leading scorer and is now the first individual to win three consecutive Owatonna People’s Press Player of the Year honors.

After earning all-conference accolades four consecutive seasons, Schultz will play at NCAA Division II Concordia University in St. Paul next season.

“It comes with sacrifice,” Schultz said over the phone Wednesday night. “Scoring 1,000-plus points comes with spending the spring playing basketball instead of maybe hanging out with friends and then having to wake up early in the summer for AAU tournaments an things like that. But to see it all pay off and have the chance to play in college makes me feel like it has come full circle. Seeing everything come together because of all the hard work is really special.”

Schultz started her career with the Huskies as a shy freshman simply trying to gain her footing on the varsity level. Schultz admitted she had no idea what to expect entering her ninth grade year and was shocked to find herself in the starting lineup on Day 1 for former coach Tricia Hoffmann.

“I had no clue what I was getting myself into,” Schultz said. “I didn’t expect to even be on the team. Starting the first game as a freshman I was terrified in warmups and then you run out and you think ‘wow, I have made it.’”

After gaining confidence and growing increasingly comfortable within the starting lineup, Schultz’s freshman campaign was interrupted by an ankle injury that sidelined her for almost a month. She eventually returned and earned all-conference honors after averaging roughly 15 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. She spent most of her time on the low block and didn’t attract nearly as much defensive attention as she would eventually see in her final two seasons with the Huskies.

Schultz followed-up her solid freshman season by upping her scoring and rebounding while shooting 54 percent from the field. She was named to the all-conference team and received the first of her three straight OPP Player of the Year honors.

During what is always a pivotal developmental year for any high school athlete, Schultz was forced to deal with a major change within the program as Hoffmann stepped down as head coach after four seasons at OHS.

Schultz, though, took the transition in stride and continued to develop her game under Lindsey Hugstad-Vaa, a former Division I player for the University of Maine.

“Tricia was a great coach and I had two great years with her,” Schultz said. “Coach Hugstad-Vaa helped me develop as a player as well. She played post [in college] and knows a lot about the position and really helped me throughout my career.”

It was during the offseason between Schultz’s sophomore and junior seasons in which she seriously started expanding her game. Knowing that she would be unable to avoid double and triple-teams moving forward, she worked diligently on her post moves and slowly added range to her jumper. She pushed past 20 points-per-game for the first time in her career in 2016-17 while averaging a career-best 9.1 rebounds-per-contest. It was also during her junior year when she reached the 1,000-point scoring milestone.

Just when it looked like she had reached her peak as a high school player, Schultz took her game to an even greater heights during her senior season with the Huskies. After playing one final summer for the Minnesota Fury AAU team, it was clear from the start of the 2017-18 high school season that Schultz had refined her ball-handling and distribution skills in the offseason.

When all was said and done, Schultz maintained her scoring and rebounding averages from the previous season while nearly tripling her assist total to 3.2 per game. She also chipped in career-high totals in steals (3.0 per game) and blocks (1.6). On Jan. 4, she exploded for 35 points against Rochester Mayo and surpassed Sarah Draayer on the school’s all-time scoring list and finished her career with an eye-popping 1,932 points.

“She’s one of the all-time best girls basketball players to come through south of the cities,” said Hugstad-Vaa, an Apple Valley graduate. “She is a force in the paint with her post moves and ability to navigate around the defense. She’s extremely athletic and able to go coast-to-coast like a guard. She is a tough kid who goes 100 percent every minute of the game.”

When reflecting on her illustrious high school career, the first thing that bubbles to the surface for Schultz has nothing to do with individual honors or personal accolades.

Instead, it is her teammates that she appreciates the most.

“Being a part of OHS program since ninth grade has been amazing,” Schultz said. “There are so many memories and I have met so many great people and learned about life in general. We were really close as a team this season. We had been playing together for so long and having the chance to play with them again was special and something I will remember for a long time.”

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on @OPPJonW

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