State Colleges

Newman Jets enter league play battle-tested

In case the Newman men's basketball team was wondering: No, your coach will not be letting you cash in on your early-season successes anytime soon.

"I talk about it so much, that I'm sure it wears on my guys a little bit," Jets coach Mark Potter said. "But I never want them to lose their edge. I constantly talk about it because I think it is so important."

Newman's edge at this point in the season comes thanks to one of the more challenging nonconference schedules in school history, a gamut that the Jets emerged from with a 6-2 record heading into Thursday's Heartland Conference opener against St. Edwards at Newman.

The schedule included two exhibition games against Division I teams Wichita State and North Texas, and three games against MIAA schools Emporia State, Pittsburg State and No. 22 Fort Hays State.

The Jets' two losses came at the hands of the Tigers and another ranked team, No. 18 Midwestern State, but also saw Newman go 2-1 against MIAA schools with wins over the Hornets and Gorillas.

"Being in the Heartland, we always want more respect on the national level," Potter said. "And if you want to be nationally known, you've got to go and beat teams from the MIAA, which is a conference that's as good as anywhere in the country."

While the Jets have benefited from the standout play of returning all-league forward Jaray Mathews (10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 1.8 blocks), perhaps the biggest surprise has been the play of 6-foot-3 junior guard/forward Keaton Schultz, a Neodesha product who leads Newman at 13.4 points per game and scored 28 points in the win at Emporia State.

Schultz made the decision to redshirt last season after playing sparingly his first two years.

"I think Keaton's decision to redshirt shows the type of patience he has ... and the dedication to becoming the best player he could be," Potter said. "He's been phenomenal for us so far offensively, but I think even he'll tell you he's got a ways to go defensively."

After hosting St. Edward's on Thursday at 8 p.m., Newman will host Incarnate Word, another Heartland foe, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.