Schmidt helps lift Bethel to success
The career of one of the architects of the revival of Bethel College women’s basketball will soon come to an end as senior post Abby Schmidt plays her final games.
In four years at Bethel, Schmidt hold most of the school’s rebounding and blocked shots records. She also is among the team’s all-time scorers.
Schmidt has been a part of 64 wins in four years, with at least one more game to play.
She’s part of one of the most successful classes in school history, earning the team’s first-ever NAIA national tournament appearance. The 2018-19 team set the school record for most wins in a season at 20.
This season’s team had a chance to meet or exceed that record, but a number of games were canceled, including all but two nonconference games.
To top it off, she is a third-generation Bethel athlete.
“I grew up coming to Bethel games all the time,” Schmidt said. “Basketball has been really strong in my family. My grandparents played here. Both my parents played here. I grew up around Bethel. I just always kind of knew I was going to play here when I got to college. I was really excited to come to Bethel. It’s a really special place. I could see the people here are really special. The community here is really special. Everything about it seemed like the place I wanted to be.”
Schmidt said she was recruited by several other schools in the KCAC, but she decided on Bethel pretty early in the recruiting process.
One of the early challenges for Schmidt was a coaching change before she even started playing. Schmidt was recruited by Adam Esses, who left after the end of the 2016-17 season for a position at Texas-San Antonio.
Brought in was the husband-and-wife team of Drew and Nichole (Ohlde) Johnson.
“I was a little disappointed when the previous coach left because you never know how those transitions will go,” Schmidt said. “It was the best thing that could have happened. Drew and Nicole came in with new perspective, a bunch of talent, a bunch of skill and a desire to make this program something it hadn’t been in a long time.”
Under Nicole Johnson, Schmidt got the tutelage of a former post player at Kansas State and in the WNBA.
“Nicole brings a whole new perspective to everything,” Schmidt said. “You know she’s gone through so many practices, games, skill camps and brings new drills. It’s really cool her ability to make tiny adjustments that can make all the difference between a wide-open shot and being guarded.”
Schmidt’s role changed a bit from college to high school. A Newton High grad under Randy Jordan, Schmidt’s main role was a rebounder and defensive specialist. The Railers had a number of players they could rely on for offensive output. She averaged about nine points a game in four years at Newton, many of them off rebounds.
At Bethel, Schmidt has become a force on both ends of the court.
“I think I’ve become a more complete, more confident player,” Schmidt said. “Drew and Nicole believed in me and had extra reps with me, taught me stuff I can work on my own. All four of my years have been so different here. As we built each year, Drew and Nicole have brought in so much talent. It’s been fun to balance the offensive and defensive side.”
While at Bethel, Schmidt has been the KCAC Defensive Player of the Year three times.
“Nobody plays basketball for the awards,” Schmidt said. “I believe team success and the fun that you have in a season is a much more important indicator. Those are the things you remember. It’s been a unique experience to do that back-to-back-to-back."
Schmidt is majoring in business administration with a minor in sports management.
“I’m looking at graduate schools right now,” Schmidt said. “I eventually want to get a master’s degree in athletic administration. I don’t know if I want to stay around this area, or go someplace different. I want to go to graduate school next year and maybe be a graduate assistant.”
Under NAIA and NCAA rules, she could have an additional year to play as a graduate student if she chose.
“We talked about that, Coach Drew and I, as those rules came out,” Schmidt said. “We both agreed it could be an option. I really wanted to focus on playing this year and having fun. It probably will be my last year, but I don’t want it to end. The four years I’ve had here and the experiences I’ve had here, I don’t feel unsatisfied. I feel good about where the program is at.”
This season has brought special challenges as Bethel’s season was shortened. Games were added and postponed at a moment’s notice. The team had long stretches off and long stretches with many games scheduled.
“It was a little touch and go at the beginning of the season,” Schmidt said. “I was a little apprehensive about what the season might be. I feel so grateful for the season we had. It was a lot more normal than I thought it might be. It really made us be flexible and be adaptable, which helped us win some games. We were able to switch up the scout when we’d play someone else. I feel really blessed that we were able to play almost a whole season.”
Mark Schnabel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SCHMIDT FILE
No. 25 Abby Schmidt, 6-2, sr., C, Newton
Three-time All-KCAC First Team
Three-time KCAC Defensive Player of the Year
2020-21: 14.7 points per game, 14.0 rebounds per game, 81 blocked shots, 13 steals, .571 shooting percentage.
Career: 115 games-r, 1,707 points (14.8 ppg), 1,393 rebounds-r (12.1 rpg), 45 assists, 305 blocked shots-r, 45 assists, 64 wins-r.
Single-game bests: 33 points, 23 rebounds, 7 blocked shots, 4 steals, 3 assists, 65 double doubles.
National rankings — 2nd in total rebounds (349), 3rd in defensive rebounds per game (9.88), 4th in blocks per game (3.24), 4th in total blocks (81), 5th in total rebounds per game (13.96).