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Bemidji State guard Jake Schalow puts up a shot in a game against Minnesota-Crookston earlier this season. Schalow ranks among the best shooters in the country: His 93.5 percent accuracy from the free throw line leads NCAA Division II and his 56.2 percent shooting from three-point land would rank first in Division II if he had hit the minimum number. To be considered for national rankings a player has to average 2.5 successful 3-pointers per game and Schalow is averaging 2.45. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Father's help vaults Schalow to next level

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BEMIDJI -- BSU senior guard Jake Schalow ranks among the best shooters in the entire country. His 93.5 percent accuracy from the free throw line leads NCAA Division II and his 56.2 percent shooting from three-point land would rank first in Division II if he had hit the minimum number. To be considered for national rankings a player has to average 2.5 successful 3-pointers per game and Schalow is averaging 2.45.

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The reason for the success?

According to Schalow, the steps toward this season began in August of 2007 when he and his father Michael Schalow -- the head coach at Kaukauna High School (Wis.) -- spent every day in the gym together working on the basic fundamentals of shooting.

"The thing he stressed the most was trying to develop the 'perfect shot,'" Jake Schalow said. "It started after my sophomore year of high school. I played AAU throughout the summer and August was our month off. August started with a family vacation, but the rest of the month was all shooting.

"I don't think I shot a single three-pointer or even anything outside of the lane," Jake Schalow added. "I think that was the biggest jump I have ever made as a player. I was an okay high school player, but my shooting got me onto the map."

Michael said he knew his son wanted to play at the next level and he wanted to help. He also knew that he would have to find a way to gain separation from other players with the same dreams.

"At that time in his career, I felt it was a time he needed to make changes that would enhance his ability," Michael Schalow said. "We spent a lot of time breaking down his shot and working on the basic fundamentals.

"I thought he was already a pretty good shooter, but that helped him become so much more consistent," Michael Schalow added. "At the time we were hoping (his shooting), along with his physical growth, would help him prepare for the college level."

Jake went from being a role player as a sophomore to a captain as a junior and someone who really started to draw attention from coaches at the next level.

"He came off the bench in his sophomore year for a team that went on to win a conference championship," Michael Schalow said. "His junior year kind of set the stage for him to be a leader for us."

After seeing the improvements from just a month of shooting and working on mechanics, the father and son knew what to do in the following summer.

"After my junior year, we realized how much that month helped," Jake Schalow said. "So we started having 1-on-1 individual drills throughout the summer. We would come in a half hour before open gym started each day and I would try to get 500 to 1,000 shots in before anyone else got there."

Jake’s shooting ability may have developed during his high school years but his father’s basketball influence began at a very young age.

"I would go on scouting trips with him to watch other teams, even at a young age when I did not really know what was going on," Jake Schalow said. "I would be on the side drawing up plays for him. It was a great way for the two of us to bond."

"Then I made varsity as a sophomore and played the next three years under him," Jake Schalow added. "Everything I knew about the game of basketball came from my dad."

Not an easy transition

Although Jake is having a career-year this season, his four-year career has not passed without a test of character and commitment.

After a sophomore season where he played in all 31 games, with five starts, Jake saw his playing time nearly cut in half during the following season under new head coach Mike Boschee.

"It was a challenge," Jake Schalow said of the decrease in minutes during his junior season. "A new system takes time for anyone to get used to, but I have been so blessed to play for both (Matt) Bowen and (Mike) Boschee over the last four years."

"I think it was difficult because Jake wanted to make a contribution as a junior," Michael Schalow added. "It was a true test to his character to be able to handle that and see the big picture."

Although it was tough to handle at the time, when he looks back, Jake calls it a blessing that was disguised as a curse because it made him work even harder to improve.

"If you're a freshman and do not see a lot of time, that is one thing," Jake Schalow said. "But to have the playing time and then lose it; times like that show your true colors. Not playing much in that first half of the season really helped me evaluate my own strengths and weaknesses as a player and it really helped me as a player."

As a senior, Jake has started in all 24 games for BSU (18-6 15-5 NSIC) and is averaging 14.1 points per game in 34.2 minutes per contest.

"I would be lying if I came into the season thinking that I was going to do this," Jake Schalow said with a laugh. "I always take the most pride in my shot, but, again, I owe so much of that to my dad. I am happy with the season I have had and hopefully I can keep helping the team as we push towards the playoffs."

"He has worked really hard on his offense and his ability to shoot the basketball," Michael Schalow added when talking about his son’s senior campaign. "The way the offense is being run, it really allows him to play to his strengths."

A long road to Bemidji

If the nearly 500-mile drive from Kaukauna to Bemidji was not enough of a hurdle for Michael and his family to see Jake play, his coaching schedule makes it even more problematic.

The varsity head coach in his 27th season -- 19th season at Kaukauna -- has games of his own on most Friday nights, but still finds a way to see his son play whenever he can.

"It is really special when my family can get here," Jake Schalow said. "He is still the high school coach at Kaukauna so he struggles to see Friday games, but he usually watches the Saturday games on the internet. Even on the Friday games, my mom is up in the bleachers streaming the game online."

"Every now and then, if they are home and we are home on the same weekend, my dad will get the game film on a disc and watch it on his laptop while my mom starts driving," Jake Schalow added. "Sometimes they will stop half way, sometimes they will drive straight through and get here at four in the morning and call me at noon asking if I want to go have lunch."

Aside from some of the Saturday games, the family has managed to make some of the exhibition games over the last four years, as well as games in last season’s NSIC tournament in Rochester.

"It is just amazing how fast the four years have gone." Michael Schalow said. "We have tried to get to as many games as we can."

"It is really special when they can get here," Jake Schalow said. "I would not say it changes the game, but as player it makes you want to play that much better."

 
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