By Kausha LeBeau
Photos by Highland High student Sydney Stam
The biggest guy with the biggest heart found himself in the biggest moment of the season. And he came up – you guessed it – big.
Highland senior Rick Schmidt, all 6-foot-8 of him, scored 16 points and was crucial on the defensive end as Highland defeated its rival East 71-65 in double overtime during the annual Freak East game. He sent notice that he is a force to be reckoned with in Region 5 and is a name that everyone should know.
A senior at Highland High School, Schmidt has dominated the court for nearly 12 years. He keeps his head in the game because playing is what he loves most. Schmidt towers above the rest on and off the court, and Schmidt’s height has proven to be crucial for Highland basketball.
Schmidt has been playing the game since kindergarten. At the age of six, his dad organized a small Junior Jazz team, where Schmidt’s love for the game started. Being the youngest of six, he has watched his older siblings play through adolescence and basketball has been a big part of Schmidt’s family.
Game day soon became the most important day of the week for Schmidt, as did the game itself, something that has carried for nearly 12 years.
“I began to regularly drag my dad to the church gym after a long day of work so he could rebound for me,” Schmidt said. “I wanted to be the best player I could possibly become.”
Schmidt distinctly remembers when he truly began to care for the game. At just seven years old, basketball started out as a friendly shoot around with his dad and often a game of HORSE.
Most of the time, Schmidt didn’t win and would take the losses to heart. He wanted to become better, to do better. Now 18, Schmidt has done just that.
A game can be very taxing, physically and emotionally, not to mention there are so many things a player can’t control. Schmidt has learned to take unfortunate, and sometimes unfair, mishaps as they are and move on.
“I’m convinced that from what I have seen and experienced, that getting frustrated over such things is a waste of energy and time,” Schmidt said. “You control your attitude, and continue on. Down by 30 or winning by 30, letting character slip is something I won’t let happen.”
Schmidt has had many jaw-dropping performances this season. The most notable include the team’s favorite victory against long-time rival East High. However, Schmidt’s best solo performance was against Murray in pre-season. Schmidt scored 33 and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“In that game I felt I couldn’t miss, it’s a good feeling,” Schmidt said.
He had a similarly huge game in the Rams’ first-round state tournament rematch with the Spartans, when he dropped 26 more on Murray.
As a freshman, Schmidt played on all four levels and grew three inches, something that proved detrimental. While running drills at practice, Schmidt pulled his hip flexor for the second time.
He missed most of that season due to the growth-related injury. Schmidt’s strength nearly cost him his basketball career.
“I was able to view the game from a different perspective,” Schmidt said. “Sitting out was a humbling experience.”
Schmidt is the one of the state’s most well-rounded players. As a forward, he aims for a double-double every single game and he averages more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game. Highland basketball coach Jim Boyce could not have placed Schmidt better.
If dreams became reality, Schmidt would love to play for the Knicks or his hometown team, the Utah Jazz. He should have no problem continuing his basketball career beyond high school.
With his height, stamina and integrity, Schmidt hopes to be on a college roster. Westminster as well as Southern Oregon University have showed interest in him.
Schmidt not only has his own talent and determination to thank, but also other influences, including his parents.
“My parents have shown me how to handle and carry myself. I wouldn’t be the half the man I am without them,” Schmidt said. “School teams and major AAU tournaments have provided me with a wide variety of experiences, competing with players my age from across the nation. I’m grateful for all that basketball has done for me.”
Schmidt is not easily broken. Beyond high school, we’re sure to hear the crowds chanting his name once more.
Highland High senior Kausha LeBeau wrote this story as part of the of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.