As far as Keaton Schultz is concerned, the last two seasons have been a case of better late than never.
After playing two years for Newman, Schultz decided to take a redshirt year last season to work on his game and put on some muscle.
The results have far exceeded any expectations he or anyone associated with the program could have conjured up.
"I definitely wanted to play, but I knew I needed to work on some things," Schultz said. "I didn't really have the stress of games to worry about, so I was in the gym as much as I could."
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The 6-foot-3, 170-pound junior leads the Jets in scoring at 15.3 points per game and leads all of NCAA Division II in three-point shooting, hitting 57.3 percent of his shots (59 for 103).
More amazing has been what Newman (15-4, 8-1 Heartland Conference) has been able to do as a team. The Jets are in first place with a two-game lead in the standings and a seven-game winning streak headed into today's game against Incarnate Word (13-6, 6-3) in Wichita.
"We know how big a win this could be, because we're all focused on getting a title," Schultz said. "Since we're playing the second-place team, it makes this an even bigger game."
Schultz, a Neodesha product, rarely saw the floor in his first two seasons, but now seems the perfect fit for coach Mark Potter's fast-paced style of play that features four players who average 10 or more points — Schultz, Jaray Mathews (10.6), Chip Steven (10.4) and Jake Darby (10.4) —and Justin Berry, a 6-foot-6 swingman who averages 9.7 points.
"That's our style, it's definitely run and gun," Schultz said. "We're making sure to get the ball into the post and that opens up a lot of shots."
Today's game starts at 4:30 p.m. at Fugate Gymnasium, and fans who bring two canned goods for a Haiti relief effort will receive free admission.