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Schulte earns starting nod with Redhawks men
An injury during preseason practice slowed Nate Schulte's progress and limited his minutes early this year.
Schulte never got down. He kept his nose to the grindstone.
"I just figured I'd keep working, wait on my time, and when I do get in there, play my hardest," Schulte said.
That diligence paid off. Schulte has been among Southeast Missouri State's top players in recent weeks.
Schulte, a 6-foot-5 junior college transfer guard/forward, has scored 39 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the last two games.
Schulte had a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds during a loss at Southern Illinois-Carbondale on Dec. 8, then scored 19 points and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds during Saturday's 101-52 rout of NAIA Hannibal-LaGrange for Southeast's first win.
"Nathan is really playing well, making a lot of progress," said Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad is 1-10 overall and 0-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference heading into Sunday's OVC game at Jacksonville State.
Schulte, hampered by a hip injury when the season began, played a total of 16 minutes in Southeast's first four games. He scored four points and pulled down two rebounds.
But beginning with a Nov. 24 contest at Arkansas, Schulte has played at least 23 minutes in each of the Redhawks' last seven games while starting the past five at small forward.
Schulte is averaging just more than 10 points and nearly eight rebounds during the last seven games. He is averaging almost 13 points in the past five contests.
"I'm getting a lot more playing time and I'm just getting more comfortable, getting used to playing with everybody," Schulte said. "It's nice [to be starting]. I feel like I've worked for it."
Schulte's season averages are up to 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds, which rank fourth and second on the Redhawks, respectively.
While Schulte is shooting an unspectacular 31.8 percent (7 of 22) from 3-point range, he began the season by missing his first nine attempts.
Schulte was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc against Hannibal-LaGrange and is 7 of 13 from long range in the last three games.
"We've been encouraging Nathan to shoot," Nutt said. "He can knock down some 3-pointers."
Schulte said with a laugh that he doesn't need much encouragement to let fly.
"I like to shoot the 3 a little too much sometimes. I know coach gets on me some," Schulte said. "But I think we need that [outside shooting]. I feel like I can bring it."
While Schulte has displayed a solid offensive game, the muscular 215-pounder is known more for his blue-collar play that attracted Nutt during the recruiting process.
"I can score. I did it in high school," Schulte said. "But playing hard-nosed basketball, playing with a lot of intensity and effort, is what I base my game on."
Nutt liked what he saw from Schulte during his sophomore season at Kaskaskia (Ill.) College last year. Schulte averaged 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds for the junior college program.
"Nathan is a warrior, a blue-collar type of guy," Nutt said. "He works really hard."
Schulte, a Las Vegas native, averaged 20.5 points and 10.6 rebounds as a senior to lead Palo Verde High School to a state title. He was named the Nevada player of the year and ranked a three-star recruit on a five-star scale by rivals.com.
Schulte said he was drawing recruiting interest from Pac-10 programs Stanford, Washington and Washington State when he suffered a torn ACL in a pickup game shortly after his senior season ended.
That put Schulte's college basketball career on hold because he did not attend school for a year so the NCAA clock that requires players to use their four seasons of eligibility within a five-year period would not start.
Schulte then attended Arizona Western Junior College during the 2008-09 season but played in only seven games before his knee required another surgery, a cleanup procedure.
"The limit [for receiving a redshirt] was six games, so I basically lost a year," Schulte said.
Schulte finally was able to put in a full season last year at Kaskaskia. He played well enough to be recruited by several schools from the Big West and Big Sky conferences.
But one visit to Southeast was all it took for Schulte to know he wanted to join the Redhawks.
"This was my first visit and I just felt really comfortable here," said Schulte, a four-time academic all-state selection in high school who had a 3.6 grade-point average at Kaskaskia. "I decided that day I was coming here. I didn't take any other visits."
Probably the only thing Schulte didn't expect was such a poor record by the Redhawks. But Schulte believes they are ready to turn the corner.
"It feels like we're doing the right things. We've been working really hard," Schulte said. "We've got a lot of new guys and I think it's just been a matter of getting used to playing with each other. Eventually we'll put it together."