ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – In his 37 seasons at Washington University, head coach Mark Edwards says he has never had a group of local talent like this. Four players from St. Louis, six from inside the state, two are senior captains and four of those players are major contributors to the No. 2 ranked team in the country.
It’s not unusual for there to be at least one local starter on WashU’s men’s basketball team, but to have four that all average at least five minutes of playing time per game is something Edwards says he’s never seen. Washington University in St. Louis touts a highly selective admissions process, with 90 percent of its undergraduates coming from outside the state of Missouri.
Senior captains David Schmelter of St. Louis University High School and Matt Highsmith from Parkway South have started all of the Bears 18 games this season. Leading WashU to a 16-2 overall record and 7-0 in the University Athletic Association.
Schmelter, a 6’9″ center is two blocked shots away (82) from owning the No. 10 spot on on WashU’s all-time record book. He’s the team’s leading rebounder, pulling down 10.4 per game this season – and is about half a point away from meeting his season goal of averaging a double-double.
“It would be cool if I could make it on to an all-time list,” Schmelter says. “But more than anything I want to do it just because averaging a double-double would just be huge for the team and I want to contribute where I can.”
If he completes his goal, he’ll also easily make the all-time top-10 list in rebounds (537) at WashU.
Both Schmelter and Highsmith say they chose WashU not because of basketball, but for academics, as one of the top-ranked universities in the country. But basketball has been a welcomed challenge.
“Coming here I knew exactly what I was getting into,” Highsmith says. “There’s the legacy of the program, you knew you were going to have success coming in.”
Since the bears won back-to-back National Championships in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, WashU has made the NCAA Championship Tournament in all but two seasons. And this year’s team is on pace to set a new scoring record at the school, if the current average of 86.5 points per game stays above the current record of 85.3, set in 1994-95.
“I think it’s the unselfishness of this program, every guy on this team is willing to make that extra pass, that extra play just to make sure we have the best-possible look for our offense,” Highsmith says. “Everyone contributes and I don’t think there is any one player that stands out way too high above the rest and everyone kind of contributes.”
The Bears have four seniors in its starting lineup. Senior forward Andrew Sanders, No. 20 all-time in career points at WashU, leads with 17.5 points per game. Senior point guard Kevin Kucera dishes out seven assists per game, sitting forth in career assists. Freshman super-sub Jack Nolan is the team’s deadliest three-point threat, shooting 53 percent from 20-feet and contributing 12.2 points off the bench.
Schmelter admits the No. 2 ranking is on his and the minds of his teammates, but Edwards has a good way of putting it in perspective.
“When you’re ranked, really what it is saying is how people perceive what you can achieve,” Edwards says. “It’s not relaly what you’ve done. It’s what you can do. And I think these guys have a great grasp of that.”
WashU hosts conference opponent Rochester at 8 p.m. for its Sports Hall of Fame Night, then hosts No. 15 Emory on Sunday at 11 a.m.