Brian Nieuwsma, the Flasher boys basketball coach, believes guard Zack Schmidt would make a terrrific spokesman for Energizer batteries.
The 5-foot-11 senior just keeps going and going and going.
“Zack brings a lot of energy to the court and the other kids feed off that,” Nieuwsma said. “He sets the tone for us on both ends of the court. He’s such a competitor. From the opening tip to the end of the game, he never stops.”
Last season, Schmidt’s energy helped propel Flasher to its best campaign since it qualified for the Class B state tournament in 2004-05. He averaged 18 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game for a Bulldogs team that went 18-7, won the school’s first District 9 championship since 2005, and placed fourth in the Region 5 tournament.
Last season’s taste of success has Schmidt and his teammates hungry for more.
“Last year was great. It felt good to be part of the team that brought winning basketball back to Flasher,” Schmidt said. “This year we want to take it a lot further. We believe we have the experience, the talent and the chemistry to do a lot more than we did last year. We’re all excited. Everybody’s feeling optimistic.”
And rightly so.
Flasher’s roster includes all five starters and all of its top reserves from last season’s team.
Returning to the starting lineup are Schmidt and fellow seniors J.W. Froelich, Taylor Krenz, Brandon Braun and Kyle Miller.
The 6-2 Froelich averaged 15.3 points, six rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Krenz averaged 14.1 points per game and netted 69 3-pointers. He has more than 200 treys in his high school career. Braun, who is 6-2, tossed in 6.6 points and collected 11.4 rebounds an outing, and Miller averaged four points, 3.5 rebounds and three assists.
Juniors Tanner Marion and Dylan Pleger, and sophomore Peyton Gabrielson (6 points per game, 28 3-pointers last season) were the main contributors off the bench.
“We had a well-rounded team last year,” Schmidt said. “Everybody knew what their roles were and did them well. One thing that’s going to really help us this year is the experience. We’ve played a lot of basketball over the years. It all started to come together for us last year and our hope is to keep getting better. We have the most experienced team in our region, but experience alone isn’t going to be enough. We have to keep working hard because that’s what every other team is going to do.”
Schmidt became a regular midway through his sophomore season and contributed 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. The following season saw his scoring average jump more than 10 points per game.
“Zack’s biggest improvement last year was his offensive game,” Nieuwsma said. “He does such a great job attacking the basket. That’s his main strength, but he can also hurt you with a mid-range jumper and the 3-pointer (38 treys last season). That’s what happens when you put in as much work as Zack does. When you put in the time, good things can happen.”
Because Flasher lacked sufficient numbers in the upper grades, Schmidt and his senior classmates began playing on the varsity as eighth-graders or freshmen. There were some growing pains along the way, but Schmidt said he and his classmates knew their day would come.
“It was tough going against teams that were older and bigger than us game after game, but we kept telling ourselves that it was all going to work out for us one day,” Schmidt said. “We just had to stay positive and keep grinding away. Now we’re the older team and doing well. All the work we put in and everything we experienced is paying off.”