Changes in life can be hard and no one understands that more than Starkville High School point guard Blair Schaefer.
In one year, the young athlete saw herself moving from College Station, Texas, to Starkville, which brought with it a new school, new people and a new role on the basketball court.
While it was difficult to pick everything up and move when her dad Vic Schaefer accepted the job as Mississippi State’s women’s basketball coach, Blair Schaefer is adjusting well to the change.
“It was a big transition because College Station was bigger than Starkville and I was leaving all my friends behind, plus it was high school and it is kind of a difficult time to leave being the age that I am, but it’s been really great,” Blair Schaefer said. “I’ve taken on a new role for my high school team. (The) people here are really nice and just welcomed me, so it’s been really good.”
As for the new role on the court, the junior moved from her previous position of two guard to controlling the game from the point for the Lady Yellowjackets. A change that Schaefer says only further developed her game.
“It’s actually been a really great thing for me because this new role for me as a player has helped me develop the rest of my game,” Schaefer said. “It is also helping me to make better decisions and make me a better all-around player. It’s also going to help me on the next level, because when I was a two-guard, I didn’t make the decisions. I was just a shooter. Now I drive, I make decisions and I have to get more assists.”
SHS girls coach Kristie Williams agrees with her player on just how changing positions has impacted her game, especially her ball-handling.
“She has the skill set of a shooter, but she didn’t really have that mix of a ball-handler along with the capabilities of a shooter so it increased her level of play,” Williams said. "She is now capable of doing a little bit more because she does have the ball in her hand. She can now not only create shots for her teammates but for herself as well.
“The move has also increased her level of basketball IQ. She was already such a knowledgeable person in the game of basketball, but now she is able to take what she knows and use it as a leader on the court.”
The last person to echo the positives seen in Schaefer since moving to point guard is her father who not only commented on the improvement in ball-handling but on the increased responsibility given to his daughter.
“The fact that she has had to play point and tighten up her handle has really been a blessing for her and her game,” coach Schaefer said. “She has had to go against some pretty quick athletic kids night in and night out so she’s really had to work on learning to get open. From that standpoint, I think coach Williams and her staff have really done a good job in relying on her. She wants the responsibility of being that go-to player and I think with the ball in her hand from the time you in bound the ball to the time she either shoots or she finds the person and has the assist, there is a lot of responsibility with that and that’s a good thing for her.”
With the seasons coinciding, one might think it would be tough for a college coach to catch many high school games, but if there is one thing coach Schaefer makes time for, it is seeing his children in action even if it means getting creative with scheduling.
“In the years past, it’s been really hard," coach Schaefer. "We would always leave on Friday to play on Saturday or leave on Tuesday to play on Wednesday, so I missed quite a few games home and away, but being the head coach, you get to pick your own schedule and a lot of times that has its perks. It has allowed me to really see a lot of her games this year. I don’t like missing seeing her play or my son in baseball. I want to be there as much as I can. You only have one high school career and I’m real excited about the opportunity to follow both of them.”
Coach Schaefer’s presence in the stands does not go unnoticed by his daughter who often hears him “whistle to (her) on the court from the stands.”
Those whistles serve as notices to the younger Schaefer that her father is present or at times can signal he is there as a coach and that she needs to get her head in the game. It reminds her that her dad serves dual roles and that he is never “just a father or just a coach” but rather a “mixture of both” which the daughter welcomes with open arms.
That dual role of coach and father started early as coach Schaefer recalls an AAU game where he asked his daughter how she wanted him to treat her on the court and she responded with “like Sydney (Carter),” who was one of his former players. Coach Schaefer says from then on, the pair “established that even though she is my daughter and we talk different in the house, when it comes to basketball there is a certain way that (he) expects her to play.”
What coach Schaefer expects is that his daughter gives her all and plays with toughness every game.
“Blair’s motor runs at a little different level than most kids in high school,” coach Schaefer said. “She is a fierce competitor. She wants to win. I’m proud of her toughness probably more than anything. She is not a big kid, but she really has some toughness to her.”
Blair Schaefer’s cheering squad does not stop with her immediate family, but extends to her SHS family beginning with her coach.
Williams knew from the moment Schaefer arrived with the Lady Jackets she would fit in and only enhance the team.
“Blair has such a great personality that when she first came in, she gelled from the start with all her teammates,” Williams said. “Her leadership skills and her ability to go out and work hard every single day rubbed off on the team. She brought a great work ethic with her and a great personality which carried over to her teammates as well.
“When I first met her, I just wanted her to know that is a blessing that we have her and that we are a family and she is a part of that family. She is a Lady Jacket and everything that goes along with being part of the black and gold, she was a part of.”
While Williams is grateful to have Schaefer on the team, the athlete is just as grateful for everything her coach has done to help her transition.
“Coach Williams has always been there for me and has always told me to come to her if I need anything,” Schaefer said. “She lets me know on the floor as a coach to do what I need to do to run this team as the point. She does not put limitations on my game. She is just very open and there to support me.”
You can support Blair Schaefer, who is averaging 22.8 points and 6.5 assists, and SHS tonight and Saturday night as they welcome Noxubee County and Canton to the Beehive.