There’s something about Jake Schmeltz that sets him apart from other players.
The Eastwood backcourt boss, who is in his fourth year of varsity basketball, is off to a quick start, averaging 21 points per game while splitting time between point guard and shooting guard. The driving force behind the Eagles’ offense, Schmeltz is a versatile talent that can shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and create points for his teammates.
His Eagles have struggled to get wins, however. They are 1-3 and 0-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, though second-year coach Matt Routson says they are showing steady improvement and due for a turnaround. Their three losses came on the road, two of them to Rossford (53-42) and Lake (52-49), both of which were picked to finish at the top of the league.
Schmeltz, who scored 33 points in the team’s 66-53 season-opening win over Maumee, believes his point guard position gives him leading responsibility to the club.
“When I’m at point guard, I know that I need to score and rotate the ball on offense,” said Schmeltz, who helped lead Eastwood to an NBC title in 2012. “When you play point guard, your mentality changes and you want to get the other guys involved.”
Routson says Schmeltz, a three-year starter, brings a lot to the table.
“Jake is a weapon on offense,” Routson said. “Good things happen for us when he has the ball. He’s our best three-point shooter. He’s an excellent passer. He sees the floor well (and) he has a knack for making a play. When we need a play, we go to him. He’s also done a nice job getting our post players involved and getting them open looks, as well as our other guys.”
Schmeltz, who is 6-1, is joined in the starting lineup by four other seniors in point guard Michael Flipse (5-8), guard/forward Jordan Faykosh (6-2) and big men Grant Peters (6-4) and Steven Bradley (6-4) in the post.
The bench features aggressive paint man Zach Jacoby, who would start for many teams. Jacoby, who stands 6-4 and plays in the post, is averaging five points and has proven to be formidable presence down low while providing depth in the frontcourt.
Guards Nick Coffman (5-10) and Noah Smith (5-9) have also provided some production off the bench, as has senior post Jacob Rahe (5-10). Routson is especially complimentary of Rahe, a captain who provides leadership and helps to play interior defense and rebound. And junior Tim Hoodlebrink, a starter on last year’s squad, will return to the lineup after missing the season’s first four games.
“We’ve focused on our size,” said Routson. “We’ve got three athletic post players and we’ve tried to get them involved in our offense and we feel that things can open up on the perimeter if things go well on the inside.”
It is the second year of varsity action for Bradley (11 ppg), Peters (9.8), Faykosh, Flipse and Rahe, something that has proven to be instrumental in their improved play this season following an 8-15 campaign last year.
“I have some guys that played a lot of basketball last season as first-year varsity players,” Routson said. “They have a lot more confidence in their abilities.”
Schmeltz, who led the NBC in scoring averaging 18 points last season, has seen the difference, too.
“(The second year) has definitely helped them,” he said. “They’ve just matured so much more physically after getting in the weight room and they’ve been working in the summer. They’re a lot more confident. They know their roles and what they have to do to be successful.”
Though they’ve had a tough start, things are looking up for the Eagles. They’ll be getting into the heart of their conference schedule and believe they have some winnable games coming up. They were picked to finish third in the league, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t recover after having already faced the two best teams in the NBC on the road. In addition to that, Eastwood was recently moved down to Division III, something that gives them a better shot at making a run in the postseason.
Routson has plenty of confidence in the team.
“We have a pretty good group of seniors that work hard and I’m excited to see what we can do as we move forward,” he said. “We’ve probably underachieved a little at this point and we’re hungry.”
Routson saw their three-point loss to Lake as a possible turning point. Despite losing, the Eagles held a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and were ahead until Flyers guard Jacob Rettig connected on a three-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining to give Lake the win.
“I thought we played a pretty good game at Lake,” he said. “We were really competitive with a great team on their floor. I feel like we’re improved and I’m excited to get back on the court.”
As for Schmeltz, he excelled at football and baseball, too. A three-year starter at quarterback and safety, Schmeltz led the football team to the inaugural NBC title in 2011 and an appearance in the regional semifinals. This gridiron season, he helped Eastwood finish 8-3 and advance to the postseason before losing to eventual-state champion Coldwater.
Schmeltz says his experiences as a football player is something that he will cherish forever.
“(Playing football) was one of the funnest times of my life,” Schmeltz said. “To be successful made it enjoyable. To have a good coach like Jerry Rutherford made it all worth it.”
Despite losing in the first round, Eastwood was probably one of the 10 best teams in the state this year. The Eagles did fall to Coldwater, 42-16, after being down just 21-16, at the half, and it should be noted that Eastwood played the Cavaliers are hard as any other team in the postseason. In fact, no other team came within 25 points during Coldwater’s run to the state title.
Schmeltz also helped lead the baseball teamton a Cinderalla run during his freshman year when they advanced to the D-II regional semifinal. As a sophomore, Schmeltz, who primarily plays third base but also splits time between pitcher and outfielder, hit .345 and earned All-NBC honors, and just last spring, he was given honorable mention distinction in the league for his efforts. When it’s all said and done, Schmeltz will have earned 11 varsity letters (football 3; basketball 4; baseball 4) during his time at Eastwood.