Friday, February 02, 2001

Walton-Verona's Schmidt takes crash course

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer contributor

Jessica Schmidt
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        It happens a lot to Jessica Schmidt's opponents. Schmidt, a 5-foot-11 senior forward at Walton-Verona, was on defense during a recent 4-on-4 drill when sophomore center Amber Sims ventured in the lane. Schmidt swatted the ball away and knocked Sims to the floor.

        What Schmidt did to Sims pretty much summarizes her domination of other teams' defenses the past three seasons.

        Her 17 rebounds a game this season leads the state (she's going for her second consecutive rebounding title). Schmidt's 22.2 points a game is third best in Northern Kentucky (behind Bishop Brossart's Katie Schwegmann and Beechwood's Katie Pohlgeers) and seventh highest in Kentucky.

        To top that, she was just 100 points away from the school's career-scoring record going into Thursday's game against Lexington Tates Creek. St. Henry assistant Sherry Clinkenbeard set at 2,103 in 1993. She also has had a double-double in each of Walton-Verona's 17 games this season and 29 of 30 last season.

        “As long as I can remember, basketball's been my love,” Schmidt said. “... If I get (Clinkenbeard's record), I consider it a very big accomplishment. She was a really good player.”

        Junior guard Bridget McIntyre likes the noises people guarding her make after Schmidt sets a pick.

        “The people who guard me (in games) whine a lot about it,” McIntyre said. “She hits 'em so hard.”

        Schmidt completes her seventh season on the Ladycat varsity and fifth as a starter. She said the rebounds (she has a school record 1,476 for her career) are more satisfying than the points.

        “It takes a lot of work to get rebounds,” Schmidt said.

        This season was supposed to be a letdown. Three starters from last season's 23-7 team that reached the state All “A” semifinals graduated, which meant teams could pack in their zone defenses to stop Schmidt.

        Walton-Verona is 10-7 going into Thursday, and Schmidt's scoring and rebounding (she averaged 19 and 15.1, respectively) are both up.

        There are two reasons. Schmidt added a 10-to-12-foot jump shot to her repertoire, and Walton-Verona coach Tom Luebbe said what people see Schmidt doing is the result of years of work off the court.

        “The reasons why she's as good as she is are twofold,” Luebbe said. “One is just her work ethic. The other part is her physical strength, which is a result of her hard work.”

        To Schmidt, rebounding involves as much geometry before the shot as jostling under the basket when it's on the way.

        “On my teammates' shot, I know exactly when they're shooting and where it's going,” Schmidt said. “Defensively, I just have to get in front of my player.”

        Schmidt weighs 165 pounds, but she's strong enough to battle with the 6-7, 285-pound Luebbe if necessary - as she did to prepare for an Eighth Region tournament game against Shelby County last season.

        “I'd say it was pretty even,” she said.

        Schmidt has signed with Georgetown College. Watch for her in four years - she plans to come back as a middle school math and science teacher.

        “I want to coach,” she said. “And I like working with kids.”

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