Thursday, June 26, 2014

Schaefer sees immediate playing time at Xavier

Contributed Photo. Xavier's Leah Schaefer (23) makes a move in a game against Georgetown last season. The 2013 Highlands alum averaged 28.9 minutes, 5.3 points and six rebounds per contest her freshman year.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Many players have to wait a couple years to see the court as much as they did in high school.

Leah Schaefer’s freshman season for the Xavier Musketeers women’s basketball team proved to be an exception. The 6-foot-2-inch forward and 2013 Highlands graduate started in 24 games and played in two more. Schaefer averaged 28.9 minutes, 5.3 points and six rebounds per contest.

“(Schaefer) demonstrated a good feel for the game and she has solid all-around ball skills,” said Brian Neal, Xavier Head Coach. “Where we need her to improve this upcoming season is in aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.”

Schaefer ended up leading the team with a .426 shooting percentage making 52-of-122 shots including 9-of-30 from three-point range for 30 percent. Schaefer also grabbed 156 rebounds including 126 defensively for an average of six per contest good for 13th in the Big East.

“I really enjoyed (playing right away), but my teammates really helped me along,” Schaefer said. “The seniors and especially the sophomores since we didn’t have any juniors would tell me when I messed up and tell me what I needed to do to become better and help them out. My teammates are great.”

Schaefer scored in double-figures three times. She hit 13 points against Murray State on Dec. 4 in a 70-66 home win and against St. John’s in a 70-65 victory on Jan. 5. Schaefer also scored 11 in a 67-64 loss to Longwood on Nov. 21. She hit double-digits in rebounds with 12 against Kansas in a 64-59 win on Nov. 29 in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The win against Kansas was one of just two wins for the Musketeers away from Cincinnati.

Xavier struggled last year in its first season in the Big East Conference. The Musketeers finished 8-23 overall and 3-15 in conference play.

That was nearly the opposite of her senior season at Highlands. The Ladybirds finished 26-8 that year winning the 36th District title and were 9th Region runner-up.

“It was tough to lose those games, but a lot of them were close,” Schaefer said. “We were all trying to learn how to play with each other. But I think we’ll win those games next year. We have a lot of great players coming in.”

Schaefer said the toughest part of college basketball was adjusting to the speed of the game. She also said balancing basketball and academics was also tough.

“Our conference was tough,” Schaefer said. “You have to have a certain mentality in college. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m tired’ and stop. With school, you have to have time management. Sometimes you have to stay up later because you’re traveling. You need to get your work done when the teachers want it. The basketball is a lot harder so you have to be tougher physically and mentally.”

Xavier played man-to-man defensively most of the time with some zone. Schaefer said it depended on the opponent. Schaefer also said the offensive strategies varied.

“If we have an open shot or transition opportunity, then we go,” Schaefer said. “But if we have the game under control and can slow it down, then we slow it down and take the good shot.”

Schaefer is one of two players from Northern Kentucky listed on the returning roster. The other is Ryle alum Jenna Crittendon.

“I was so welcomed with this Xavier team,” Schaefer said. “It felt like a family. The transition wasn’t bad at all. It was awesome.”

Schaefer is a Pre-Pharmacy major. She would not tell her grade-point average. But Schaefer did say she did not have to attend study tables after the first semester because it was a 3.0 or better. Schafer had to attend them from 7-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the fall of 2013.

Her biggest goal for the upcoming season is to become physically stronger. That will help her hold up better near the basket.

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