All-Area Boys Basketball: Schramski exhibits a shooter's touch
It is scary to think how good Ben Schramski could be if he got sick more often.
Going into Lake City's game against La Crescent on Feb. 15, the Tigers' senior admitted he felt terrible, but his shot was healthy. And once the game started, everything else faded away."I was sick for the majority of the week going into the game," Schramski said. "It was starting to feel better that game and then just during the game, all the sickness went away."
Lake City fell behind quickly, giving up 46 points in the first half. The Tigers took the Lancers for granted, Schramski said.
But in the second half Schramski almost single-handedly helped Lake City take control of the game, finishing with 43 points.
Schramski knocked down nine 3-pointers and 12 of 14 free throws as the Tigers completed an 81-74 comeback victory, and Schramski tied a 34-year old school record set by Randy Breuer, who played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I told him, 'You should be sick more often,'" Lake City head coach Shawn Sweeney said. "He didn't want for a minute to let me know that he wasn't feeling good. I still smile when I think about that it."
"I did not see myself ever accomplishing that," Schramski added. "It was a special night; I'll remember that for the rest of my life."
For his record-tying performance and his consistent scoring ability for the Tigers (21-5) all season, Schramski is the 2012-13 Republican Eagle All-Area Player of the Year.
"I'm honored," Schramski said. "I had quite the crew around me to help me out. I couldn't have done this alone. It's special; I didn't expect it at all."
Schramski led the Tigers with 17.1 points per game and added 3.54 rebounds and 1.78 steals a game as Lake City reached the Section 1AA-West Subsection semifinals. He had the highest free-throw percentage on the team at 74.6 percent and scored in double figures 22 of 26 games this season. Schramski never scored fewer than nine points a game in the 2012-13 campaign.
"He's always been a scorer for us since he came into the lineup sophomore year," Sweeney said. "He had the shooter's mentality. He could be quiet and all of the sudden he'd erupt, and when he did, it was good; it was always something we needed.
"I couldn't even begin to tell you the number of times where he would come up with a big shot in the clutch or a game-changing 3. The good thing about his scorer's mentality was every shot is a good shot. I'm not going to have to worry about reining him in."
Schramski finished his career sixth on Lake City's all-time scoring list with 926 points and third in career games played at 76.
"He hasn't missed a start in three years for us," Sweeney said. "There were a couple games where he was under the weather, but he answered the bell for us. With the incidence of injuries, it's pretty phenomenal. He played three years and he was never incapacitated by injuries. He's very fortunate that way."
But the game wasn't always as easy for Schramski. In middle school, he struggled to get playing time and had to rework his shooting form.
"Early on in my basketball career I was nowhere near a starting lineup role, I really didn't play that much," Schramski said. "I mean I shot the ball two-handed; that doesn't really work in basketball. It was coaching me to shoot the right way and then just practicing it until it's a habit so that every time it comes off the same way.
"It was so awkward. It's bizarre changing something, especially when it was as drastic as a two-handed shot to one-handed. It felt weak, you didn't know how to shoot it the same way especially when you were so used to it. It came with practice, especially from my dad helping me out. He's been my No. 1 coach through everything for sure."
The time Schramski put in created a quick release and an aesthetically-pleasing jump shot.
"He had ice-water veins," Sweeney said. "If the game was tied, he was the guy from the perimeter you'd want to take the shot. And when he was able to do that, we'd be off and running."
Sweeney called Schramski's number more often as the year went on. He took advantage of Schramski's prodigious shooting -- 52 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from behind the 3-point line -- and sky-high confidence on the court.
"There were a number of different looks we had to get him the ball," Sweeney said. "We ran more of them late in the season. He was capable of coming down in transition, catching the ball at the 3-point line, and some of the time I'd cringe because he'd shoot it with no one under the hoop, and then you'd say, 'Nice shot.'
And Sweeney's confidence was warranted as Schramski poured in 38 of 85 3-pointers as the Tigers won eight of their final 10 games.
On Jan. 22, Lake City traveled to face Rochester Lourdes and left with a blowout 83-58 loss. The defeat was embarrassing, but the Tigers quickly refocused and were nearly unstoppable en route to a Hiawatha Valley League Blue division title.
Lake City played for the HVL championship against 10th-ranked Byron on Feb 23, less than a week after the Tigers defeated the then seventh-ranked Bears 60-43 in Byron. The Feb. 19 game was one of Schramski's favorite moments from the season.
"We were not expected to be in that game at all. They were a state team; they were a very talented group. It was fun," he said.
The Tigers dropped the HVL championship game to Byron but got a chance to avenge their loss in the section finals of football and the earlier loss to Lourdes when the two teams met in the sub-section semifinals.
For much of the game, it looked like Lake City would get revenge, but a last-second tip-in by the Eagles left the Tigers with their only what-if this season. Schramski got few open shot against Lourdes' zone defense in the game and still finished with 12 points.
"It's frustrating because we easily could have had them in both games," Schramski said. "I still think there's always those woulda-coulda-shouldas. You wish a lot of things could have been different in both sports late in games."
Lake City prided itself on team camaraderie throughout its run to the Section 1AAA finale during the football season and basketball was no different. As the wins piled up, stats were never an issue for the Tigers. Schramski's scoring average continued to climb but he was never one to gloat about it.
"I thought with all his success, he remained a team guy," Sweeney said. "That's not necessarily easy for a high school player to do. He was always quick to compliment his teammates."
In the fall, Schramski will head to Concordia University, St. Paul, on a football scholarship. He will compete to play quarterback for the Golden Bears. It will be weird to hang up the basketball sneakers and see Sweeney retire as head coach of the Tigers, Schramski said.
"It's going to be hard to come back here next year and not see Coach Sweeney coaching and not to be playing," he said. "But it is exciting to go (to Concordia) next year and continue on and keep playing and keep working to get better."
If his basketball career is any indication, Schramski has a successful college football career ahead of him. As a middle school basketball player, Schramski felt he wasn't good enough to start and as a senior, Schramski was one of the most dangerous offensive player in the conference.
"I'm thankful for everything," Schramski said. "I'm really blessed to be in this position. Last year was Cedric Dicke (named All-Area Football Player of the Year) and I remember looking up to him for countless amounts of years thinking how sensational of an athlete he was. It just humbles me to think that now I'm following him."