MVP of the Issue: the maturation of Jake Schwarz

Danny Spatchek, Sports Editor

Age wasn’t a prerequisite to maturity for Jake Schwarz.

In just his second season on Lakeland’s men’s basketball team, Schwarz has made his mark on the scoring and rebounding statistic columns, averaging 24 points-per-game and 8.8 rebounds-per-game, good for first and third in the Northern Athletics Conference (NAC), respectively.

Lakeland men’s basketball coach Aaron Aanonsen commented on the sophomore’s offensive capabilities.

“He just has a tremendous ability to score the basketball,” Aanonsen said. “I think he’s shooting such a high percentage because he has so much more confidence this year.”

Schwarz’s “confidence” has resulted in an improvement of nearly eight points-per-game to his scoring average and the NAC’s sixth best shooting percentage with .572. The 6-5 teenager (hard to believe, but true) highlighted the situational aspects of scoring that he focused on during a basketball-heavy summer.

“I worked on being able to take bigger defenders off the dribble and, when a smaller defender is on me, posting him up,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz also improved his long-distance jump shooting ability, an added dimension responsible for his conversion of 20 3-pointers this season.

NAC defenses have noticed Schwarz’s improvement as well, making it common practice to send double- and triple-teams in his direction when they face Lakeland.

Despite the increased attention, Schwarz’s offensive versatility has opened eyes on several occasions this season as he eclipsed the 30 point mark four times. Schwarz explained the adjustments he’s made as the defense’s focal point and credited his teammates’ readiness to take advantage of the tendency.

“Some games when I’m doubled I have to find the open guy and make plays for others. Josh (Regal) and Khendal (Andrews) have really been great at knocking down open shots, and Trevor McKown has really been doing great in the post.”

Schwarz’s time as a Muskie hasn’t been without trying moments. This season, Schwarz’s defense has often been the subject of Aanonsen’s criticism.

“Being able to play defense against quicker guys and defending on the ball are my weak areas,” Schwarz admitted. “I have to keep working every day and just take what the coaches say to heart.”

Likewise, Schwarz described his introduction to college basketball in his freshman year as a “reality check.”

“Last year, I thought I knew it all – but I didn’t know anything,” Schwarz said. “It was hard to adapt to the coaching and the style of play in college. It’s really fast and with the shot clock, even faster.”

Decidedly over his freshman growing pains, Schwarz hopes he can help a Lakeland team that is currently 4-5 in conference play to recapture its swagger and make a run into the conference tournament.

“I want to get to the conference tournament and make a run at winning it. I want us to win as many conference titles as we can while I’m here, and to do whatever I can to make our team win.”

Schwarz encouraged other players to persevere.

“Keep working hard and never give up. Kids that don’t get a lot of playing time are one injury away from getting significant playing time. When your time comes, take advantage.”

For Jake Schwarz, maturity came very early.

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