Male Area Athlete of the Week: Schaefer reaches milestone
For four years, Spencer Schaefer anchored the middle for the Pillager Huskies on both ends of the floor.
“Almost every team we have played the last four years has had to look at him and attempt to try and stop us through him,” Pillager head coach Jim Bentson said. “Whether that’s fronting him, defending him with double teams, trying to get him out of situations on the block where he can be very explosive.”
Last week, he gained his biggest honor yet — becoming Pillager’s all-time leading scorer against Bertha-Hewitt on a fastbreak layup in an 83-49 win.
“It means a lot to me,” Schaefer said. “Obviously, I worked a lot of years to get to this point, but I could not have done it without my teammates. They sacrificed a lot to get me to where I am now.”
When Schaefer was a freshman, he remembers getting called up to play varsity. In his first game, Pillager’s starting big man got into foul trouble. Schaefer entered the game and the rest is history.
“I realized this is what I have to do,” he said. “Help out when I can and in my freshman year, senior Ryan Foehrenbacher, helped me out a lot and taught me all the things I need to do the rest of my career.”
The Minnesota State University Moorhead football commit averages 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, which includes a 44-point and 12-rebound game against New York Mills and a 35-point and 14-rebound game against Aitkin.
“I know I am one of the biggest guys on the team, obviously, so I have to make sure I get the rebounds for my teammates and make good outlet passes so I can make it easier on them,” Schaefer said.
Pillager runs pick-and-rolls with Schaefer diving to the rim. He expanded his game to be more versatile in his senior season. He hit two 3-pointers against Pequot Lakes and consistently can hit a jump shot outside the paint.
“That’s the kind of guy Spencer is,” Bentson said. “He has changed the way he plays to fit around his teammates. He can really shoot it now. I mean he is getting back to 16-, 17-, 18-, 19-feet deep and now big kids have to try and defend him there where he can hit those jumpers. He’s played a lot of basketball in his four years, so all that has helped him get to where he is.”
Another quality Bentson likes is Schaefer’s vision in the high post to see cutters and make solid passes.
“A lot of teams try and zone us to take him away,” Bentson said. “He understands that he can step out or step in and he plays that chess match really well.”
On the defense, Schaefer protects the rim and cleans the glass. It’s also where he thinks he thrives the most.
“I’m pretty good at defense,” he said. “Usually, I have to guard the other team’s post player one-on-one and I help out when others get beat. There are times when other teams have good guards that we will sit in a zone and try to force them into me. We blend well as a team.”
Schaefer averages 2.1 blocks a contest.
“He led the conference in blocked shots” Bentson said. “He is such a nice shot blocker and rebounder and I think it’s nice that you can expect a double-double out of him which he has given us.
“His IQ is second to none and if I bring in a replacement. I tell them they are replacing someone who has a double-double and understands spacing.”
The senior class at Pillager has played together through the summertime and AAU. It’s helped the chemistry with Schaefer leading.
Bentson calls him a silent leader who leads by example.
“When we need something done it will go through Spencer,” Bentson said. “We look to Spencer to lead by example and that’s what he is going to do. He’s going to be calm and we have had some games where we needed big shots and Spencer has orchestrated that and we went through him.”
What’s helped Schaefer become a good leader is remembering when he was a freshman playing varsity and looking up to the seniors like Foehrenbacher.
“They taught me a lot,” Schaefer said. “I’m just trying to be the best I can as a senior and help all the other kids for the years to come that will take my spot.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Mannie Uketegbe, Aitkin, scored 28 points, grabbed 25 rebounds and blocked five shots against Duluth Marshall.
Luke Kush, Little Falls, scored 22 points against Foley.
Bode Magnuson, Pequot Lakes, scored 20 points against Pillager.
Alex Morgan, Pequot Lakes, scored 22 points against Pillager.
Bereket Loer, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 20 points against East Grand Forks.
Wrestling: Craig Orlando, Verndale, won the Class 1A individual title at 285 pounds.
Owen Bjerga, Staples-Motley, won the Class 1A individual title at 160 pounds.
Highlights: Became Pillager’s all-time leading scorer against Bertha-Hewitt.