Before Carter Schick became everybody’s favorite teammate, and well before she became a crowd favorite at McCarthey Athletic Center, she almost altered the path the Gonzaga women’s basketball program.
It was day the walk-on went to weight training with her new teammates for the first time and was asked by the superstar-to-be to spot her.
“She was really shy,” All-American point guard Courtney Vandersloot recalled. “Nothing like she is today; completely opposite.”
But when Vandersloot couldn’t hold the weight, Schick was totally unprepared to catch it and, as Vandersloot tells it, the barbell just missed her head.
Fans might shudder when they think about how things might be with a different outcome that day. Would Gonzaga (28-4) be ranked 20th and heading into its third straight NCAA tournament, set to take on No. 25 Iowa on Saturday afternoon – at McCarthey no less?
“We still joke about it,” Vandersloot said.
There is no joking about Schick’s contribution to the team, even if some of it is as the team crack-up.
As Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves said, “Somebody on every team has to fill that role; every team needs that carefree player.”
“I feel comfortable around my team,” said the 5-foot-5 guard who was called the hardest worker in the weight room – by Vandersloot. “I was really shy. When you’re put in a new situation, who wouldn’t be, especially when you’re a walk-on? But as soon as they got to know me, it didn’t last long.
“I think they miss that shy girl. They’re mad about the monster they created. I think I’m the most annoying person on the team and they let me know.”
Her teammates give her a bad time for picking uniform No. 1 just to be listed first in the program, even though it was assigned to her. They hassle her as the worst dresser, to which she agreed, and the worst dancer, though she called herself the best. And they love her.
“She’s very much (indispensable),” junior center Shannon Reader said. “She’s a great teammate. That’s an amazing thing to find, especially in college basketball. … She cheers on every single one of us. She’s a piece of the puzzle we really need.”
“She brings energy, enthusiasm, a love of the game,” Graves said. “It’s important for everybody, it’s especially important for somebody like Carter who doesn’t play much. She better love the game because she doesn’t get rewarded with many minutes. (And) she’s a constant reminder to everybody (to play for the love of the game).”
The fans at McCarthey have picked up on her value. As the Bulldogs roll over opponents they chant her name and go wild when she reports to the scorer’s bench.
“Graves said, “They identify with her. Most of the people in the audience don’t play like Courtney Vandersloot or they’re not as tall as Kayla Standish or they don’t jump as high as Katelan Redmon. A lot of them look like Carter Schick.
“There’s always something special about that player at the end of the bench. She’s endeared herself more to our crowd than most do at most schools, but isn’t there that Rudy at the end of every bench that they like to cheer for?”
By the time Schick was a senior at Olympia High School she planned to run cross country at Central Washington. Then she finished sixth in the state golf tournament and she was offered a little money to play at Gonzaga. That was a no-brainer for Schick, who became a Gonzaga fan in 1999 when Casey Calvary’s buzzer-beater against Florida put Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, until she got on the golf course.
“I was terrible,” she admitted. “Oh, I was so bad. I had trouble adjusting to college. I hated (golfing) competitively. Even in high school when it’s not that competitive I didn’t enjoy it.”
But basketball was different. She would shoot all the time, often timing her sessions to the Zags’ practices, which she would watch by sneaking under the bleachers.
Graves watched her shooting one day and encouraged her to come to open gym, which amounted to a tryout.
It’s not like Schick didn’t have any game, she once scored 15 on Vandersloot in a playoff game. Of course Vandersloot had 30 on her as Kentridge won. It was Vandersloot who took the lead in making Schick feel welcome.
“The first practice was overwhelming,” Schick said. “It was amazing to put on the Gonzaga jersey but we weren’t in high school any more, you had to pick up on drills right away. To this day we joke about it because I’m still trying to learn the drills. It’s a team joke that I’m still learning the plays and it’s true.
“I think Coach is baffled by me every day.”
Schick played 11 minutes in six games her first year and hit one 3-pointer, which she thought was an airball when she released it. Last year it was 20 minutes in 11 games with a free throw and an assist as her contributions.
She’s going out with a bang this year with 17 points in 65 minutes spread over 17 games, but that’s still a lot of time on the bench, where she expends just as much energy.
“It would still be fun if I didn’t get in, but I wouldn’t want that because close games give me heart attacks,” Schick said. “People always say I’m the emotional leader. Honestly, I’m not doing it because it’s ‘my role on the team.’ I’m doing it because my best friends are doing such amazing things on the court. Who wouldn’t want them to succeed? … I’m not going crazy on the bench because I have to, I want to.”
And in the big picture, that’s what matters.
“It shows that regardless of your skills, athleticism, your place on the team, everybody’s important. Everybody,” Graves said emphatically. “She’s a good example for all the young kids who may not be the fastest, the strongest or the best – ‘I can still contribute.’”