MARQUETTE - The numbers may not reflect it, but freshman Wade Schetter has caught the eye of Northern Michigan University men's basketball coach Bill Sall.
The 6-foot guard who is listed at 170 pounds - at least when he's carrying his equipment bag - has played a little more than five minutes per game in 11 of 16 contests so far this season. His averages are just a half-point, six-tenths of an assist and six-tenths of a rebound per game.
But Sall insists that the former high school sharpshooter out of Class D Carney-Nadeau has already improved in a few months on the team.
Northern Michigan University freshman guard Wade Schetter out of Carney-Nadeau looks to make a pass on Dec. 7 against Malone University at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Schetter has played a little more than five minutes per game in 11 of 16 contests so far this season. He averages a half-point, six-tenths of an assist and six-tenths of a rebound per game. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"One guy who's made huge strides since Day 1 is Wade Schetter," said Sall, in his first year as Wildcats head coach after successfully guiding the Ferris State men's program for 11 seasons.
"The game can be really fast for any freshman, but Wade's been coming on every day and working hard in practice. You can see he's getting better and gaining a lot of confidence.
"It's been a huge, huge, huge, huge effort by him."
Sall noted that Schetter scored his first points of the season on Jan. 18 at the Berry Events Center, a 3-pointer in each half of Northern's 61-59 upset of the coach's former team.
"Those were real big baskets for us against Ferris," Sall said.
Those were also his only shots taken in 11 minutes of playing time, each giving the Wildcats their biggest lead that half. The first came less than two minutes after entering the game and gave NMU a 17-9 lead, the other 28 seconds after he re-entered in the second half and putting Northern ahead 50-40.
It's a far cry from the start of the season.
"Those first two weeks of practice, you kind of wondered if he was capable enough to be a player in this conference," Sall said.
He added that for players like Schetter and fellow freshman Brett Branstrom out of another Upper Peninsula Class D school, Mid Peninsula, there is a big adjustment to be made.
"Branstrom was used to being the biggest guy on the court every game he played in high school," Sall said of the 6-5, 225-pound forward. "He was the 'Shaq' (former NBA star big man Shaquille O'Neal) of his conference.
"Now he's the smallest power forward in the GLIAC."
Branstrom is at least 15 pounds heavier than any Wildcat who's seen the court this season, though teammates Dorrell Foster, Michael Smith and Brandon Havercamp all have one, two or three inches on him in height.
Branstrom, who saw more playing time than Schetter early in the season, now has numbers similar to Schetter's at about seven minutes playing time, one point and about 1 rebounds per game.
"A lot of freshmen make their biggest strides in the spring and summer after their freshman year," Sall said. "They've been absorbing it all and the game starts to slow down for them. It doesn't, actually, but they start catching up to what's going on."
More than wins and losses
Sall knows with a team that is effectively all freshmen - "none of these guys really had any collegiate playing experience coming into this season" - he has to look beyond the win-loss column.
"We're continuing to make some progress," he said after the Wildcats lost at Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State last weekend to slip to 4-12 overall and 3-9 in the conference.
"We came away with a couple of losses, but playing at Saginaw Valley, the game came down to the last possession. We just didn't get the look we wanted. It's disappointing only in that we didn't play that well."
He said it's been a common theme this season for NMU to be a bit lethargic or without pinpoint focus on Thursday only to come back with a strong effort two days later on Saturday.
"Against Wayne State, it was a tale of two halves," Sall said, alluding to the Wildcats sizzling the nets by making 60 percent of their shots in the first half before hitting the deep freeze and sinking just 18 percent after intermission.
"To their credit, Wayne State upped the defensive pressure (at halftime) and we did a poor job executing under that pressure. The good news is that a month, a month and a half ago, that would've been a 20-point loss.
"It's a huge deal that we were shooting 17 or 18 percent and it still was a three-point game with three or four minutes to go. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Now we just have figure out how to make the next step."
2 U.P. rivals in 5 days
The Wildcats face three of the GLIAC's best teams between now and Monday, starting with two home games. Lake Superior State (17-3 overall, 9-3 GLIAC) comes to Marquette at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by Northwood (13-7, 9-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Then Northern plays at Michigan Tech (12-4, 8-4) at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
NMU hosts a pair of high-flying teams each with four players scoring in double figures, led by LSSU's Derek Billing averaging 21.1 ppg and Northwood's Wes Wilcox at 19.4 ppg.
Tech has the highest scorer of them all, though, in Austin Armga at 24.9 ppg along with 5.1 rebounds.