Countdown to 2015–16: Leader, Throwback, Baller. You name it, Katie Schubert does it for UT Martin

Photo courtesy of UTM Athletics

Last season, if the game was on the line and his team needed a bucket, UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan was going to call one of two names: Ashia Jones, or Katie Schubert.

Jones, the 2014–15 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, was dismissed from the program this past summer. Thus, Schubert becomes even more vital, when it comes to continuing UT Martin’s stirring run of recent success.

She can do clutch, like when she hit a game-winning three against Eastern Illinois this past February. But her most telling contribution to teams, the gift she’s been giving since she starred for Springboro (Ohio) High, is unquantifiable: selflessness.

For four seasons at Springboro, Schubert, a 5–11 wing, played out of position at point guard. And did it well. As a senior, she helped Springboro to a 22–2 record. She won two state championships.

McMillan’s analysis, from watching tape? Basketball player. “She just kept doing things to help her team win,” he says. “I told my staff, she’ll figure out what it takes to get the result.”

Since McMillan took the UTM job, six years ago, he has led the Skyhawks to four OVC tournament titles (in a row). Schubert helped win two of them, in her first two years.

There was the way she responded to missing out on that fifth consecutive tourney title, last spring. It might make all the difference.

McMillan: We lost to Tennessee State in the championship, and Katie was outside with her family, and she was crying. I went over and told her, ‘Come on, we’ve got to get on the bus and get back.’ As we were walking back to the bus, all she could say was, ‘I let Butler and Newsome down.’ (A reference to Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome, two UT-M all-time greats who graduated in 2014.) She repeated it three or four times. Want to know why she is who she is? She wasn’t thinking of herself, even then. She was thinking of two kids who weren’t even on the team anymore. She felt like she’d let them down, she felt like she’d let the program’s tradition down. To get a kid who cares that much about people and the program…she just gets it.

“There’s not many players willing to do the little things, and embrace that role,” says McMillan. “With everything that is going on in the game today, Katie is a breath of fresh air.”

He calls her a dinosaur. The likes of Schubert are fast disappearing from the collegiate ranks.

This, from a kid who was better at soccer than basketball, growing up. “When I got my start in AAU, it was hard to take both basketball and soccer seriously,” Schubert says. “When I found out I made the A team for AAU, I started bawling my eyes out to my mom. I wanted to play soccer. But she said I was better at basketball, so I went with it.”

She couldn’t tell you her “natural position” anymore, and she doesn’t much mind. “My favorite is probably the three or the four, but I’ll go wherever I’m needed,” Schubert says. “Last year, I feel I was good at point guard, even if it’s not my favorite position to play. I trust Coach, and he trusts me. That’s important for a point guard.”

Heading into her senior season, Schubert has started 88 games for the Skyhawks: all but three as a frosh, the final 25 as a soph, every game as a junior.

She compiled 123 assists in ‘14–15, transitioning to point after playing the 4 as a sophomore. Her 2.24 assist to turnover ratio was the 27th best in DI. McMillan remembers that in high school, her A/T ratio hovered around 4:1. Not bad, for always playing out of position.

Courtesy of UTM Athletics

“Her versatility is what makes her so important,” says McMillan. “She just does whatever the team needs to be successful. She’s played every position on the floor for us, except the five. That type of mentality demands respect from teammates. Katie has been willing to sacrifice, as well as make big shots. That’s kind of the role she’s had.”

Schubert’s game isn’t taking defenders off the dribble, but she is one of the best shooters in the country. As a sophomore, her 44.8% three-point accuracy ranked fifth in the country. She’s scored just over four-fifths of her career points from deep.

When asked about this marksmanship, Schubert chuckles. She remembers her first year at UTM, when McMillan told her she’d be a top-25 shooter in the country. “I turned to him and said, ‘You’re crazy!’,” Schubert says. “I wasn’t a three-point shooter, coming into college. All that credit goes to coach.”

In ‘14–15, she averaged 7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals, while hitting 41% of her field goals and 39% of her threes in 29.7 minutes per game.

“And one thing you don’t see on a stat sheet is pass deflections,” says McMillan. “She’s absolutely off the charts. I don’t understand how she does it. She’s not that athletic or quick, but she figures out a way to get it done.”

McMillan remembers running plus/minus charts during Schubert’s freshman season. “When she was on the floor, our team played well — and it didn’t matter who she was on the floor with, or the situation,” he says. “She was just off the charts.”

Assist to turnover ratio: formidable. Shooting percentage: Top-5 in DI two seasons ago. “And her three-point percentage dipped at the beginning of last season, when we had to move her to the point,” says McMillan. “It was down in the 20s, but she shot about 45 to 50 percent once she got comfortable. What people don’t notice about her is that she gets the ball where it’s supposed to be, and when. That’s so vital to a team’s success.”

Seems fitting, that so many of Schubert’s most vital contributions often go unnoticed. But she’s never been too concerned with attention — just getting work done.

This ethos becomes all the more essential this coming season. Despite the dismissal of Jones, one of DI’s best scorers, expectations for ‘15–16 haven’t diminished. A strong core returns; Schubert will try to make it three conference regular season titles in a row, and begin a new streak of tournament championships.

After all, last season was supposed to be a step back, following the losses of Butler and Newsome. Then, the Skyhawks became the sixth team in OVC history to go undefeated (16–0) through conference play. They held an 18-game win streak before that loss to Tennessee State.

Schubert has always been a role player, working behind the scenes. Making the show run smoothly. Now, she needs to become the face of the Skyhawks, and figure out how to optimize her supporting cast’s production. Knowing Schubert, she’ll throw herself into the task. This is about maintaining a tradition she holds dear.

She has no family in Tennessee; Martin is completely different from her home of Springboro. And yet, she says, Something about this place stuck with me.

“My decision was about the program,” Schubert says. “It’s about the people, and the tradition and honor that have been created. That motivates me to be a better player.”

Breath of fresh air, indeed.

Courtesy of UTM Athletics

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops