Bears forward signs with Delta State

Nov. 22, 2012 @ 02:57 PM

SEVIERVILLE — Since his sophomore year with Sevier County basketball team two years ago, Devin Schmidt’s always been one of the best players on the court — no matter who the Bears are playing.

Next season he’ll get to try out his game at the next level.

Schmidt, a 6-2 forward for the Bears, signed with Division-II Delta State University (Cleveland, Miss.) Tuesday afternoon in the SCHS library.

“(Delta State) is first-class,” Schmidt said. “(And) It’s like here, everybody knows each other. It’s nice, pretty awesome.”

Schmidt has led the Bears in scoring the past two seasons, making a name for himself locally, but it wasn’t until he decided to play summer AAU ball this year that he was really discovered by college recruiters.

Schmidt’s AAU team, the Tennessee Chosen Few, went to UTC camp in the summer.

“The (Delta State) assistant coach saw me then and told me that they’d be interested,” Schmidt said. “They followed me around AAU... and they just kept constantly talking to me.

“Coach (Ken) Wright said I needed to get some exposure and play against top guys, so I guess it really paid off.”

Though he might not say it to his player’s face, especially during the season, Wright’s been a fan of Schmidt’s game since his sophomore season.

“Success is the result of hard work, and Devin’s worked hard,” Wright said Monday. “He’s one of the last of the true gym-rats, I’m afraid. It’s nice to see someone like that that wants to be good. He wants to be the best, and he’s worked that way.”

Wright, before coming to Tennessee, coached several players in Georgia who went on to top-flight college programs and even the NBA. He knows talent, and he said Schmidt’s got the skill to compete at the next level.

“Devin’s going to compete with whatever he comes up against,” Wright said. “The only thing that separates Devin from the elite-of-the-elite is the athleticism part of it. I had a couple of Parade All-Americans and NBA players that I was lucky to coach, and those guys were special athletes. They had tremendous athleticism to go along with that tremendous work ethic. Devin is a great athlete at the high school level, and his athleticism will improve in college.

“Once he gets into a good strength-and-conditioning program his athleticism is going to improve, and then we’ll see where his skill-set takes him from there. Right now he’s as prepared as any of the kids I’ve had go to college to play at the next level.”

All that preparation helped Schmidt lead the Bears to the District 2-AAA Tournament Championship last year, though the team was missing several key players from injuries sustained either in football or in during the course of the basketball season. Schmidt was forced into the role of go-to-guy for the Bears. “Basketball is not equal-opportunity,” Wright said with a smile. “Your best players better be getting the most shots. Devin was our best player, just like he is this year. What we do offensively is built around Devin. We’re doing the same thing this year.

“We try to do things to get the ball in his hands, and Devin takes care of the rest of it. Devin has been special to us, and we’re expecting him to have a great year this year.” Part of that great year would be continued growth as a team leader.

“Devin’s not the vocal leader,” the coach said. “Devin just goes out there and plays.

“I’d like to see him take more of a vocal leadership part of this team because all of the players look up to the best player. During crunch-time I guarantee all the eyes are on Devin. So you’d like for him to step up and take on a leadership role. He hasn’t had to do that, he’s always been the younger guy. (But) being a senior and the best player, we need him to be that (leader). If he’ll step up and take over that leadership role, I think that will be the coup d’état of his high school career.”

Schmidt hopes the team will continue the success they’ve had in the past three years, which included two 2-AAA titles. This year, they’re hoping for another one and possibly more.

“More than that, hopefully,” Schmidt said. “I’m trying to be more of a team player this year. Last year I tried to put everything on my back, and I really didn’t have to. This year hopefully we’ll play as a team more than we did last year.”