When Nooksack Valley girls' basketball coach Shane Wichers began to assemble the 2010-11 version of the Pioneers, it didn't take long for him to realize the hard working attitude post player Melissa Stadt embodies.
"I mean, last year coming into tryouts, it was obvious she put in a lot of time, and she was playing with a lot of confidence, " Wichers said in a phone interview. "She got more and more confident as the season went on and has picked up right where she left off last year. She's just like your blue collar worker. She doesn't care about being flashy, she just wants to get the job done."
After averaging 8.7 points per game starting as a sophomore last year, Stadt has developed into a dominating post presence this season, averaging 13.2 points per game - good enough for the fourth best scoring average in the Northwest Conference.
And just as Wichers quickly took notice of Stadt's abilities, so have the rest of the coaches in the NWC.
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"It's been even harder for her to score this year, because she has kind of become a marked person, "Wichers said. "Last year she wasn't really on anyone's radar, so to speak. She catches double teams a lot now, and even with all that going on she still continues to work hard and find ways to get points."
Wichers, and even Stadt herself, said she's always been a more offensive minded player. But, with the graduation of seniors such as Breanna Warner and Allison Johnson, who Stadt said she learned a tremendous amount from last year, the strong junior post has begun to transition from an offensive minded player to an all-around threat.
"Last year I was able to get a lot of varsity minutes, and I was able to pick up things and see different things that worked for (Johnson and Warner), " Stadt said in a phone interview. "I developed (my game) a lot over the summer, and I have a lot more moves. I did one thing last year. This year the offense is a little more focused on me, so they get me the ball a little more."
In fact, Stadt's rebounding and free throw shooting abilities proved crucial in Nooksack Valley's win over Meridian on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Tied at 37 with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, Stadt grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and converted one of two of her own free throws after being sent to the line. The Pioneers won 38-37.
"I think that (Stadt) is priding herself more and more in (rebounding), " Wichers said. "She's one of the tallest players on the team. She is very smart and understands angles of shots. She's really good at pinning defenders and is getting better and better at that."
In two years playing varsity Stadt's development has been quick and vast, and Wichers credits the improvements to her willingness to give maximum effort on the basketball court.
Stadt said she adopted the mentality at an early age.
"Well, I've always thought that there's going to be people that are more talented than me, but I'm going to work harder than them, " Stadt said. "They have more talent, but I'm always going to go 110 percent. In sports and in school, I won't slack off."
And as Stadt's realizing her play is garnering the attention of opposing NWC defenders and coaches, she is doing her best to spread her offensive production around to the rest of her mostly young Nooksack Valley teammates.
"I'm just trying to open my teammates more by screening, " Stadt said. "Once they hit shots on the outside and hit 3s, that opens me up and I can score. But, when two people are on me it's harder to score. Usually the more people that score, the tougher your team is. Coaches will say so and so makes so much per game. I don't want coaches to say, 'just guard Melissa.'... Julie (Campos) and Kaycee (DeBruin) are really picking it up."
While Stadt has worked hard to quickly develop into one of the top post players in the NWC, her work ethic doesn't stop once she piles her shoes and jersey into her gym bag.
Stadt is a running start student and Wichers said she maintains an impressive GPA.
"I guess ever since I was little I had a knack for school, " Stadt said. "Everything (in school) kind of comes easily for me. My parents push me, and I enjoy getting A's. If I'm putting everything into school, I don't feel like I'm doing good enough. I always go hard and try not to get behind."
While Stadt seems to be destined for continued academic success throughout the remainder of her junior and senior years, she would like to see her Nooksack Valley basketball team enjoy similar strong results on the court.
"I just want to play good, always work hard and I want our team to do well, " Stadt said. "I feel like everyone on my team is a pretty hard worker. I think everyone gives 100 percent. I'm always going to. I don't think there's a reason not to. I've always thought if you aren't (giving it your all), why are you there."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.