March 21, 2009 in Sports

Schaefer shows maturity

By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

Gonzaga senior Jami Schaefer is 38 points shy of becoming a 1,000-point scorer as the Bulldogs get set to play in the NCAA tournament.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

It doesn’t take a baby to make a mother.

But Jami Bjorklund was always like that around her teammates on the Gonzaga women’s basketball team, so there wasn’t much of a change after she married Drew Schaefer last summer.

“I don’t see a difference on the court but off the court you can see it, her mannerisms are a lot more adult-like,” sophomore point guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “She kind of reminds me of my mom.”

“I don’t see a lot of difference,” injured junior guard Tiffany Shives agreed. “She’s always just been our leader, the role model everybody tries to follow, the good girl who doesn’t do anything wrong. I think she’s having more fun this year. It’s her last year.”

Senioritis could have as much to do with Schaefer’s demeanor as matrimony.

“She’s always been mature beyond her years,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “I have found her to be a lot more relaxed this year. I don’t know if it’s because she’s married or she’s a senior.

“She’s become pretty reflective, very inspirational. She was always inspirational because she was such a hard worker and she led by (example). This year she has been very vocal.”

He saw that with previous seniors.

“(Stephanie) Hawk was like that, (Ashley) Burke was like that as seniors,” he said. “I don’t know if that has anything to do with being married. When you’re a senior you almost feel like these are your little chickens and you’re the hen. Hawk was really good like that. I used to kid her at practice, ‘Get your chickens together, Hawk, let’s go.’ ”

From her days as an all-state player at University High School, Schaefer was always focused on the task at hand, which is why basketball never affected her academics and marriage hasn’t affected her basketball.

“I don’t think anything changes, besides when I go home I’m married,” she said. “When I come to the gym I’m here to play basketball. It doesn’t change anything about my game. If anything changes, I have more support from Drew.

“He listens. He gets excited for me for games, gets me pumped up for games. He’ll come and rebound for me. I just think by living with him, he can see how important it is to me so it changes Drew’s perspective.”

“She doesn’t talk basketball as much as the rest of her family does, fortunately,” Drew said. “She gets over a bad loss pretty quick. She might want to talk about it a little bit, but it’s never an issue. Basketball is not my sport. I enjoy watching Jami and (sister) Angie (now at Tennessee). I’ve always known her as a basketball player, but there is more to her than basketball.”

With the marriage, the Bulldogs didn’t lose a teammate as much as they gained one.

“He’s such a great guy, I think it’s had a positive effect,” Graves said of Drew. “He comes to our team functions. He’s so likeable, so positive. They’re so cute together, they really are. He’s added to the team dynamic, another positive, outgoing, fun person.”

“I’m a teammate,” Drew said. “I kind of look at them as friends, just have fun with them. I like showing up and getting the free food.”

Will answer call

One might question why Xavier star Amber Harris, who has missed all of her junior season with an injury, might try to play against Gonzaga tonight, instead of redshirting.

She is on track to graduate next year and will be eligible to turn professional. Sitting out to gain a fifth season isn’t a consideration.

That’s how the career of Tennessee star Candace Parker played out.

“I think she can probably play 10, 12 minutes – 15 would be the max,” Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. “And within that, I think she could score around the basket. She could be a good post defender, because she’s still so long and athletic. But she wouldn’t be the dynamic player we’re all used to seeing.”

Hometown favorites

Less than 300 miles from Spokane and 500 from Missoula should make today’s doubleheader – Montana vs. Pitt and Gonzaga vs. Xavier – in Bank of American Arena at Hec Edmondson Pavilion a partisan crowd for both Northwest underdogs.

“I sure hope that we have enough fans for it to feel like a home game,” Graves said. “The one thing about Gonzaga fans is that they travel well en masse and they are very vocal and excitable.”

Grizzly fans also travel well.

“We get a great following back at home and I know a lot of fans are very excited that Seattle was so close to us,” Montana senior guard Sonya Rogers said. “I think that it’s definitely to our advantage to get a lot more of our crowd here.”

Montana led the Big Sky Conference in attendance at 3,826 a game and Gonzaga led the West Coast Conference at 2,466.

•Misty Atkinson of Clarkston, a redshirt freshman at Montana, had reconstructive shoulder surgery Thursday and is not with the team. It was the third surgery for the former All-Great Northern League pick.

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