Schmitz “greatest” to ever play at Dollar Bay

Dollar Bay's Devin Schmitz lays the ball up against Cedarville's Chase Fisher on Tuesday in Escanaba. (Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood))

ESCANABA — After Dollar Bay’s win over Rapid River in the regional semifinals, I wrote that despite appearances, Devin Schmitz was a mere mortal.

I was wrong.

Us mortals are warm-blooded, and whatever is running through Devin Schmitz’s veins is ice cold.

How else do you explain his on-court antics? The bigger the stage, the bigger he plays.

And against Cedarville in the quarterfinals, he was huge. He was also completely cold-blooded.

Schmitz scored 35 points to lead Dollar Bay to a 74-68 win and a trip to East Lansing. To top it off, he made four clutch free throws down the stretch and became Dollar Bay’s all-time leading scorer.

See what I mean? Not like the rest of us.

Mortals have a natural instinct to crack under pressure, while Schmitz does the opposite. For him, it’s easy.

“Good players have to step up in these kinds of moments,” he said matter-of-factly following the game.

And that is what makes Schmitz such a special player; his no-nonsense, “I’m just going to take over this game because I have to” mentality.

That’s what makes him one of the best high school basketball players I’ve ever seen. He’s got a handle that can break ankles, a sweet shooting stroke and an ability to blow by anyone in order to get to the hoop. But it’s his instinct and cool demeanor that make Schmitz worth watching.

When I moved to Houghton in October, people tried to explain to me just how good Schmitz is. It’s not that I didn’t believe it, but I’m stubborn, so I wanted to see for myself.

It took less than a half of basketball for me to get it. Actually, it took one play.

It was just before halftime, and Dollar Bay was playing Lake Linden-Hubbell. I watched Schmitz corral a bad

pass just inside half court, take one dribble to shake his defender and drill an off-balance NBA 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Consider me a believer.

He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player. But if you don’t want to take the word of a Colorado-transplant who’s lived in the area for less than six months, I get it.

Take Jesse Kentala’s word instead.

Before Kentala was coaching at Dollar Bay, he was playing there, and before that he grew up watching the Blue Bolts. In other words, he’s a pretty good authority on Dollar Bay basketball. And when it comes to his star player, Kentala doesn’t mince words.

“He is the greatest. He is the best, no doubt,” Kentala said. “There have been some great Dollar Bay players, you know, Pete Deux, Tim Dunstan, Rob Reed, some of these guys come to mind, but he is such a killer, such a player. How about a big-time player? That is what he is. He shows up when we need it in the bright lights. He certainly isn’t always perfect, but I would pick no other guy to be on my team in clutch games.”

Just like for me, it didn’t take Kentala long to believe the Devin Schmitz hype. When the coach met Schmitz as a fourth grader, his athleticism and natural basketball ability were instantly apparent.

“He has an innate ability of just understanding how to dribble the basketball. That is something we work on so much with our elementary schoolers, but we didn’t really have to work on ball handling with Devin because he just knew how to do it. It is just a natural thing to him,” Kentala said.

Now, after nine years of build-up, Schmitz’s time as a Blue Bolt is almost over. He has a minimum of one game left, and a maximum of two. If by some inexplicable chance, you’ve yet to watch Schmitz play, find a way to see him take on Southfield Christian on Thursday. And if you’ve watched him play 100 times, still, find a way to watch him play on Thursday.

Because when the season is all said and done, the best player to ever wear that red, white and blue uniform will graduate, leaving an immense legacy, and an irreplaceable pair of shoes.

And you’ll want to be able to say, “yeah, I saw Devin Schmitz play at Dollar Bay, and damn was he good.”