Schattler leads soaring Falcons squad

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published February 27, 2018

 Rochester High senior point guard Hunter Schattler, right, brings the ball up the floor during a contest earlier this season. A four-year varsity player and team captain, Schattler is averaging 19.5 points per game.

Rochester High senior point guard Hunter Schattler, right, brings the ball up the floor during a contest earlier this season. A four-year varsity player and team captain, Schattler is averaging 19.5 points per game.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROCHESTER HILLS — In his first season coaching varsity boys basketball, Vance Kirkwood is extremely thankful to have Hunter Schattler on his roster.

A decade removed from serving as a guard at Troy High, Kirkwood now sees much of himself in his current guard at Rochester High.

“Hunter is extremely talented in so many ways, and he can do things that I could never do on the court,” Kirkwood said after a Feb. 15 practice. “He’s the ideal point guard because he’s a coach out on the floor. He is always in communication with me and is really an extension of what I want to do out there.”

Now in his fourth year on varsity, Schattler captains a club that was 14-4 overall at press time.

“I’m not just saying this, but Hunter is every coach’s dream player,” Kirkwood said. “He makes my job a lot easier. I don’t have to teach my captain how to be a captain. When he works hard, everyone works hard. Everything he does, the other guys fall in line and do. That’s the mark of a great leader.”

Schattler said he relishes the role.    

“I embrace the responsibility, and I like taking the younger guys under my wing. I try to not only set an example for the varsity, but for the JV and freshman team too,” Schattler said. “It’s an honor, and I don’t take it lightly. It’s a very important role on the team. You can average as many points as you want, but if you don’t have leadership, nothing is going to work.”

Schattler does his share of scoring as well, averaging 19.5 points per game. He also chips in 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds a contest.

“The offense flows through him, and I give him a lot of freedom out there,” Kirkwood explained. “We run the fast break a lot this year, and that’s been very effective. It works because he’s the one pushing it up. The ball always starts in his hands, and he has a green light on his shot selection because his basketball IQ is through the roof. He’s always making the right decision of where to go with the ball.”

That green light results in Schattler taking a high volume of 3-pointers. He averages nearly four makes from beyond the arc per night, something he credits to an even higher volume of shots on his own.

“Ever since sixth grade, I’ve put up 500 shots a day,” Schattler said. “I believe in hard work, and that has helped me to be more confident with my shot. I do 1,000 a day in the summer and 500 each day after school. I try to find rebounders, but if not I just go by myself. I have no days off with it; I even shoot on Christmas.”

Kirkwood believes that confidence in his shot has carried over to other aspects of his game.

“He’s obviously a great shooter, but I think what really gets overlooked is his defense. I often put Hunter on the best player on the opposite team because I know he won’t relent and won’t back down. He loves that challenge and he gives 110 percent every possession,” the coach said.

Additionally, Kirkwood praised the smarts of his point guard.

“On top of everything, Hunter is like another assistant coach for me,” Kirkwood explained. “He was more familiar with the program than I was when I came in. He knows how it ticks and what it takes to get different guys motivated. I look to him for help all the time and bounce ideas off of him. I trust him and know how valuable he is to this team.”

Schattler said he values his mother, Patty, and Kirkwood as two of the biggest influences in his life.

“My mom has been my biggest supporter since day one, and all of my success and work ethic comes from her,” Schattler said. “(Kirkwood) is great; off the court he’s always there for me. He lets us play and make mistakes but not dwell on them. I’ve learned a lot from that and have gotten a ton of confidence.”

Kirkwood said the feeling is mutual.

“It’s sad that our time is winding down together. In practice the other day, I got teary-eyed thinking about the home stretch coming up and how I only got one year with him,” Kirkwood said. “He’s been such a joy to coach and has been as close to perfect as you can get as a captain. It’s amazing the way he carries himself, and I’ve never felt that way towards a player I’ve coached. I know that 10 years from now, we’ll be even closer and we’ll always be in each other’s lives.”

The duo hopes that their shared journey can end with a postseason push.

“We want to win the league this year and, more importantly, we really want to win the district,” Schattler said. “I’d love to win it for coach.”

Schattler has never won a league or district title in his three previous seasons with the Falcons. The Falcons were 10-2 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division with two games remaining. That mark put them tied for first with Lake Orion High. The squads split their regular-season meetings.

“Nothing would make me prouder to see him go out as a league and district champion,” Kirkwood said. “I’m going to lean on him because I know he’ll do whatever it takes to get there as a team. He’ll crawl off the floor if he has to, but he will make sure we win that league and district.”

The Falcons open their Class A district in the semifinals against Utica Eisenhower at 5 p.m. March 7 at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.

Regardless of the playoff finish, Schattler hopes to play at the next level. He has struggled to garner college interest due to his 5-foot-8-inch frame.

“I wish that people would look past his stature,” Kirkwood said. “He’s right up there with any kid in the county. I’ve never seen a kid play like him. You don’t see his leadership ability often at this level. He definitely can pull his own weight if he was given the opportunity at the next level.”