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Fun and games

Bill Brink | Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blue-collar?

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the phrase described her senior guard pretty accurately.

Lindsay Schrader wasn’t sure about that. Sure, the collar on her No. 24 Irish jersey is indeed blue, but she couldn’t envision the term “blue-collar” applying to a basketball player.

“The way I show emotion on the court, that’s one thing that really helps me get going and everything,” she said. “Some games I’m just not feeling it, and its hard, and my other teammates pick it up.”

She paused, thinking.

“Blue collar?”

Whatever phrase Schrader feels will accurately describe her, Schrader’s production on the court this season necessitated a lot of hard work. A reworking of her jump shot and a motivational session with a coach got her on track to success.

Having fun

Schrader has fun on the court. She’s intense, but enjoys herself.

“She just looks like she’s having so much fun,” McGraw said. “She’s enjoying every minute. She’s upbeat at practice, she’s upbeat at film sessions.”

That attitude carries over into postgame press conferences, where Schrader will elaborate on other players’ answers, interject her opinion and pressure her teammates to respond well when asked about her. All in good fun.

“Why would you do something if you’re not having fun with it?” she said. “Why would you do something you hate? You’re never going to survive that way. If you’re going to play college basketball you’ve got to love it.”

It’s not all fun and games, however. McGraw said Schrader’s confidence infects the other players and that her vocal leadership has improved.

“She’s been kind of a leader by example during her time here and even at the beginning of this year, but I think now she’s really seeing a sense of urgency,” McGraw said. “She’s playing with so much confidence that it’s exuding from her now and I think she’s really enjoying being in that role.”

Schrader said being energetic on the court helps both her and her teammates, and that she carries confidence into every game and expects to outperform her opponents.

“I have the mentality that we’re good, and they’re going to have to stop us instead of the other way around,” she said. “We’re going out there with a chip on our shoulder because we are a good team and we just have to prove it.”

Revamping her game

Schrader leads the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game and in rebounding at 7.4 per game. Part of that comes from a retooled jump shot that Schrader spent all of last summer perfecting.

The reason for the reconstruction: the old way wasn’t working.

“It wasn’t going in,” she said.

The ball was falling too far behind her head, she said, which threw off her motion. She focused on shooting the ball from in front of her face.

“It helped me tremendously,” she said. “I just got into a bad habit. That’s all I did this summer is my jump shot.”

Her overall game changed in one moment, she said: a meeting with assistant coach Jonathan Tsipis.

“Coach Tsip and I had a moment,” she said.

What kind of moment? Happy, sad, angry?

“A face-to-face moment. Between a coach and a player who really wants to succeed,” she said. “After that it was just a 360.”

“Night and day”

Schrader had the skills and confidence since her freshman year. Against Boston College her freshman year in the NCAA Tournament, she dropped a career-high 29 points. Four days into practice sophomore year, however, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and missed the entire season. Junior year, she came back and scored 10.3 points per game. This season, her game has flown to new heights.

“It’s been night and day,” McGraw said. “She’s become so much more vocal. She’s playing a bigger role within the team in terms of leadership. She’s been our go to player.”

Before, McGraw said, Schrader had a business-like approach to the game and didn’t take it as lightly as she could have. Now, McGraw said, Schrader understands that enjoying the game will allow her to play better.

“I think before it was all basketball,” she said. “I think now she’s just as serious about basketball, but there’s an edge of fun to it, which has helped her game.”

The fact that Schrader can get a medical redshirt and play next year with the same teammates has created better connections with the team, McGraw said.

“She’s closer to this team. I think there’s a chemistry, like its’ a better chemistry than it has been,” McGraw said. “She was a little more aloof in her first couple years. I think she sees her role a little differently.”

Don’t let all this talk of a fun-loving player fool you: Schrader is as intense as they come. Watch her drive the lane with the shot clock winding down or out-rebound an opposing post player three inches taller than her and it’s immediately apparent.

“[Her teammates] always respected her leadership by example but they love her intensity,” McGraw said. “They love when she makes a big shot and gets excited and looks excited after making a shot, I think that fires them up. They really like in the huddles when she can bring some intensity.”

In fact, McGraw said, Schrader’s intensity makes her the go-to player in a close game. McGraw used words like toughness, intensity and competitiveness to describe Schrader, but her analysis of Schrader’s ability to play well under pressure says it all.

“When we’re down, she wants the ball, and when we absolutely have to have a basket, she wants the ball,” McGraw said.

Off the court

Schrader said people would be surprised to see how relaxed she is when not playing basketball.

“Everyone probably thinks I’m so focused, mean, stuck up, b****, stuff like that, but off the court I am so relaxed, easy-going, I try to be a little funny,” she said. “I have a totally different aspect outside the court. And I think that’s good to have.”

Schrader enjoys “Grey’s Anatomy” (“If I have a game Thursday I have to record it and watch another time”) and “Life.” If she gets the chance when the team has two days off, the Bartlett, Ill. native will go home.

“I just go home for a night just to get away from it,” she said. “Seeing these girls all the time, don’t get me wrong, I love them. I love my coaches. But it’s good to get away for a while. It just helps you clear your mind.”

Schrader has torn defenses apart on the court lately. She’s led the team in both scoring and rebounding in four of the last five games, including a 23-point performance in a win over Syracuse on her birthday.

She said she knows what to expect this weekend at the Big East tournament in the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., and she doesn’t care who she plays – except for the teams the Irish lost to. She’s well aware that with a win Saturday over the winner of Friday’s Syracuse-St. John’s game, Notre Dame faces Villanova, whom the Irish lost to on the road. Should they win that, they get No. 1 Connecticut.

“I know the atmosphere, I know what it takes to win,” she said. “We’re going to come in with confidence, at least I am, and have some fun.”