A return to full health has Brooke Schulte playing the best basketball of her college career.
Feb. 4, 2015
CHICAGO – After two years of trying to gain traction in her college basketball career, the real Brooke Schulte has emerged this season---and just in the nick of time.
The highly decorated two-time All-Stater who was the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year in 2010 got off to a rocky start when she tore a knee ligament and missed her 2012-13 freshman season.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 2013-14 season that Schulte was feeling completely recovered from knee surgery.
“It took me until halfway through last season to get back to game speed,” Schulte said. “Even after you’re cleared to play, it takes a while to regain the form you had before the injury.”
As the top reserve on the DePaul women’s basketball team, Schulte cut loose for 14 points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes against Texas Pan-American in the second game of the season. She notched a career-high 15 points and added five boards at St. John’s.
The 5-foot, 9-inch sophomore had 13 points and five rebounds against Xavier and scored 11 points against both Marquette and Providence. She came down with a career-high eight rebounds at Chicago State and a career-high four steals against North Dakota State.
Schulte’s emergence as an impact player has helped ease the loss of Megan Rogowski whose season was cut short by a knee injury. The Blue Demons (17-6, 9-2)head into a Friday morning BIG EAST Conference showdown at Butler (12-10, 8-3) having won eight of their last nine games.
“It is very important for our program to replace Megan Rogowski after the unfortunate season-ending injury,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “Brooke was a key contributor even when Megan was healthy. Brooke can fill some of the void left by her absence.
“What we’re seeing from Brooke this season is what we saw in her as a high school player. She is an excellent big guard with the versatility to play multiple positions. She is strong in there and can rebound well. She was really a special player coming out of high school.”
Schulte was an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State First Team selection in 2011 and 2012 and St. Louis Post-Dispatch First Team All-Metro Basketball and Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2012. That same year, Schulte was the Monroe/Clinton County Female Athlete of the Year.
In 2010, she was the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year. She graduated from Mater Dei in Downstate Breese with the career record in points (1,907) and steals (295) while leading the Knights to a 103-14 record and sectional titles in 2009 and 2011.
“She had to overcome major adversity after tearing her ACL as a freshman and missing her entire first season,” Bruno said. “It usually takes about two years post-operation to bounce back. Brooke is getting back to what she was before the injury.”
Dealing with all the adversity wasn’t easy.
“It’s been really frustrating,” Schulte said. “You battle through rehab and try to keep a positive outlook. What helped me through the tough times was the closeness of the team. I can talk to my teammates about anything. They kept me feeling positive and helped me push through on the days when I was down.
“Both Trixie (Chanise Jenkins) and Tee-Tee (Centrese McGee) had knee injuries. They talked to me about their experiences and told me how it gets better as time goes on. They said the results are good in the end.
“The toughest part was getting through phase two of ACL rehab. Once you pass phase two, you are cleared to do basketball-specific activities. I failed the first two times. But I kept rebuilding the knee, and with each failure, I kept getting stronger.”
Finally feeling like her old self, Schulte was a workout demon over the summer.
“I went into the gym and worked on game-speed type plays,” Schulte said. “Coach always says it is you against yourself. I would imagine players in front of me and on the side.
“Then I would make plays against them at game speed. I’d make game-like moves, pull up and take a shot. I did a lot of reps like that.
“I’d be in the gym by myself four times a week and put up around 300 shots each time. I worked on moves that I was not comfortable making. The hard work is paying off. I’m more confident this season making those moves and I’m more confident in my shot.
“My roommate Megan Podkowa is the one that notices the most how my game has evolved.”
Schulte hated to see Rogowski tear her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I looked up to Rogo and everything she did,” Schulte said. “She was always the Energizer Bunny out there running up and down the court. It was like she never got tired. I try to emulate her by running hard and hustling on the court.
“It was tough to see her season end. I do what I can within my range to help make up for her absence. There’s no replacing someone like her, but defense and rebounding can help out the team.
“Rebounding is something I’ve always liked to do. Coach is always emphasizing that defense and rebounding are what wins games. On defense, there are always plays you can make like getting to a 50-50 ball. I see how Megan Podkowa runs down a rebound, and that leads to scoring points.
“I’m kind of like the sixth man on our team, and it’s amazing. I’m playing the game I love, and it’s nice to be back in top condition. Coach always tells me not to think. What I’m trying to do this season is not overthink every play while also improving my basketball IQ.”
Her inspiration to succeed in sports comes from her father. Joe Schulte was a 6-3, 200-pound pitcher who was an 11th-round draft pick of the Houston Astros in 1985 and spent four seasons in their minor league system.
“My dad always talks about how hard it was pitching in the minor leagues and how he always had to fight for his spot on the team,” Schulte said. “He said you always had to be ready for when you’re called upon to perform. That helped me through my injury and the following season. I had to be ready in case coach called my name.
“I get my athleticism from my dad. He was a baseball and football player. He would rebound for me during shooting drills and sometimes we’d play one-on-one. He is 6-3 and was always too big for me growing up. But in high school, I started getting quicker and he was getting older. That’s the first time I was able to beat him.”
And now, a healthy Brooke Schulte is ready to make up for lost time.
“Brooke is a major player right now and a major part of our future with two full seasons after the current 2014-15 year,” Bruno said. “She will have a huge impact on the success of our program now and in the years to come.”