The Harlem Huskies Girls Basketball team find themselves competing for conference championship this season and one of the biggest reasons has been the play of standout guard McKaela Schmelzer.
“I’d say she’s a leader.,” says Harlem Girls Basketball Coach Beth Meyers. “She steps up when she needs to. She takes on a lot of responsibility, and she’s very dependable.”
The senior guard is in her fourth year of playing varsity. Since then she has been racking up the accolades. As a sophomore she was all-state honorable mention by the Illinois basketball coaches association. Last year as a junior not only did she receive a special mention again, but she was all named first team All-NIC 10 and qualified for the State three-point shootout contest. It’s not exactly how Schmelzer saw things playing out.
“Kind of,” says Schmelzer. “I mean my freshman year we went to regionals, or won regionals, went to sectionals. So that was pretty big. I mean I was kind of a roll player and I never expected that.”
“I even remember watching her in middle school just tearing it up thinking man this kid is going places,” says Meyers. “She’s got a huge chance at big scholarships and basically anything she wanted to pursue. You could see glimpses of that before.”
Schmelzer picked up basketball at an early age. She began her basketball career at the age of five and hasn’t stopped playing since. But the game is also in her blood.
“My mom played high school basketball and my dad played at rock valley for two years,” says Schmelzer. Probably just the competitiveness. I love being competitive. I played club ball and that seemed more aggressive.”
McKaela spends her summers playing in the AAU Circuits against some of countries best basketball players. In 2014 her team went to Nationals in Washington DC. She says the level of competition really helped her game.
“It’s stepped it up a bunch because at school it’s definitely not as aggressive,” says Schmelzer. “In club it’s way more aggressive, and there’s just bigger, better people… just the atmosphere of the college coaches. Everybody wants to be there and play and standout.”
Schmelzer has put up impressive numbers in her senior year. She scored 27 points against Jefferson, 29 points against always competitive Auburn, and 35 points against Guilford back in December. But the part of her game that has elevated the most this season has been her leadership.
“I think the leadership has taken on a new role for her,” says Meyers. “She’s a senior, she’s a captain, and she’s really living into that in ways that she never did before. So not only she was our best player before, and she was the key go to but not necessarily the leader or the captain where now she’s really stepped into that role, owned it. It really makes a big difference in the way she plays and in the way she is on and off the court.”
“I think stepping up has been a big thing,” says Schmelzer. “Stepping up is kind of what I’m known for. What people expect from me. I guess I’m known as a leader, and I kind of have to fit that role.”
For how good is she is in basketball, Schmelzer is also a very talented soccer player. She played a defender as the Lady Huskies captured the 7A Regional championship this past spring. She’s already had talks to play soccer for Northern Illinois University. But Schmelzer isn’t ready to give up basketball just yet.
“If I had a choice I’d probably go for both… because I don’t think I can give one up yet.”
People in the past have successfully juggled two sports and a full college work load, and it seems that McKaela Schelzmer has the determination and talent to achieve that very goal.