Toughness of Blair Schaefer key for Bulldogs
Blair Schaefer was less than 24 hours away from playing on college basketball’s biggest stage – the NCAA Tournament – this past Thursday night.
Mississippi State was slated to hit the Humphrey Coliseum floor and battle Troy on Friday to start the Bulldogs’ postseason run.
There was just one problem. Schaefer was sick. She was unable to practice on Thursday due to stomach issues and the problem wasn’t going away.
“I thought I was going to have to get her to the doctor at some point and get a couple of bags of fluids in her because everything going in one end isn’t staying,” Blair’s father, MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said.
Turns out, it takes more than a stomach bug to slow down Blair Schaefer.
The junior guard recovered, took to the floor on Friday and poured in a career-high 21 points to help Mississippi State pound Troy 110-69 to move on to Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. second-round game against DePaul.
“It definitely all wasn’t planned,” Blair Schaefer said. “I think I got food poisoning and I was just focusing on letting it run its course so I could get back. I think just being able to keep our mindset on what we wanted to do (Friday) was really important. I just came out and, with the help of my teammates, it really worked for all of us.”
For anyone that has followed the career of Blair Schaefer, including the days at Starkville High School, her grittiness and resilience should come as no shock. She’s only listed at 5-foot-7, but could arguably stake claim to being the toughest dog in the yard.
Blair Schaefer has taken the third-most charges (20) of any MSU player this season.
“She’ll step in front of a freight train and take a charge,” Vic Schaefer said.
Even a broken nose earlier this season couldn’t slow down Blair. The Bulldogs were on an early-season road trip to Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Showdown when Blair Schaefer was struck in the face. She didn’t miss hardly any action because of it.
“We got back on a Monday, she had surgery on Tuesday and she practiced Wednesday,” Vic Schaefer said. “She never even wore a mask. We were sitting in the doctor’s office and he was taking about putting a mask on and I said, ‘Hold on just a second,’ because I know how hard it is to play with a mask.
“I said, ‘How many times have you been hit in your nose in your playing career?’ (Blair) said, ‘None.’ I said, ‘You want a mask?’ She goes, ‘No. I don’t think I want one.’ That’s tough. Most people would be walking around dribbling (while covering up their face).”
Blair Schaefer had noticeable bruising on her face for several weeks, but played in every game. From a scoring standpoint, she even had her best games of the year in the days following her broken nose. Until Friday, Blair Schaefer had only scored in double figures three times this season. All three instances occurred within the month following her surgery.
Then, on Friday, despite being very sick the day prior, Blair Schaefer showed again she’s not one to let illness or injury hinder her.
“It was special,” Vic Schaefer said. “You watch a kid all your life and work with her and stay in the gym with her countless days and nights, then to see her in that moment, it’s pretty special.
“To see her in that moment (Friday), obviously our team needed it desperately. To see her respond, it’s pretty gratifying as a parent. I think any parent would say that about their kid.”
If Blair could provide an encore performance of her Friday showing, or anything close to it today against DePaul, that would go a long way towards helping the Bulldogs advance to the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season. No matter what happens Sunday though, there’s little doubt Blair Schaefer will be right there scratching and clawing regardless of what type of adversity comes her direction. It’s just in her nature – and most likely even in her blood.
“What she went through (Thursday), feeling as poorly as she felt and then to come out (Friday) and look like a million dollars and play really, really well – I’m sure her dad is really, really proud,” Vic Schaefer said with a smirk.