When Jerry Finkbeiner accepted the position as the head coach of the Utah State women’s basketball program in 2012, coaching colleagues told him to keep an eye on one particular 5-foot-6 guard from Mesa, Ariz.
Looking at Jennifer Schlott’s statistics and stature, he wasn’t sure what to make of their recommendations. Her sophomore season, she averaged just 5.8 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
Two years later, he sees what they were talking about. With one week left in Schlott’s final regular season, she is averaging 25.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while notching 118 assists. She has done what every collegiate athlete hopes to do in leaving her mark at Utah State.
“Jen is a special player. She has come so far on her own initiative, but has also really fit our system 10 times better than I thought she would,” Finkbeiner said. “She has something in her game of explosiveness and confidence that we didn’t see until we opened things up and gave her a chance to score.”
In a game against Seattle last season, Schlott surprised everyone when she scored 32 points. That night, Finkbeiner’s plans for the 2013-14 season clicked.
“At that point I made the decision that she was going to be our go-to player her senior year,” Finkbeiner said. “It’s too bad more of Cache Valley didn’t have more prep time for her coming along because it’s been a special year.”
When you see the success that Schlott has seen, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and take the credit for yourself. Schlott is not that kind of player. In any conversation someone has with her about the game, she is quick to turn the subject around to focus on her teammates and the coaching staff.
“This year has been so successful for me because of my teammates,” Schlott said. “My teammates and coaches have put me in such great positions to play my game and just fill that role.”
Schlott has used this season to leave her mark in the record books of Utah State and the Mountain West Conference. She has taken the top spot in both career assists (405) and career free throws made (385) at Utah State, while also setting the school and conference single-season scoring record (697).
“It’s been really great to leave my mark and my legacy. It all plays into Coach Fink’s system. It’s high-energy, high-pace and that plays to my strengths,” Schlott said. “He puts a lot of confidence in me and has just let me run with it.”
Still, Schlott has a hard time accepting the recognition and attention.
“These records have been great, but all the credit goes to my team. They put me in good positions,” Schlott said. “With the assist record they make the shots, I just pass them the ball. They do the hard part.”
Though Finkbeiner has only been with Schlott for half of her career, he has seen and learned so much from her. He hopes to use her as an example throughout his coaching career and help other players become like her.
“She’s very talented. She’s been raised right giving her teammates and coaches credit. She’s been blessed with good talent and a work ethic that she’s invested in and now she’s reaping the rewards,” Finkbeiner said. “She’ll be the type of athlete that I’ll be able to share stories about in the journey of becoming a good Division I athlete.”
Throughout her career, Schlott has spent a lot of time in the shadows of the various standouts who have worked their way through the Utah State program. In 2010 and 2011, there was Ashlee Brown. The 2012 and 2013 seasons were all about Devyn Christensen. Now, all eyes are on Schlott.
“The last couple of years it was Ashlee’s team and then Devyn’s team, but everyone gets their time,” Schlott said. “I waited for mine and that’s my role this year.”
As she’s worked her way to the top, Schlott has figured out the key.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time here is that you have to put in what you want to get out,” Schlott said. “Invest yourself in what you want to get done, whether that’s on the court or in the classroom. Investment and hard work pay off in the end.”
Schlott will graduate in May with a degree in marketing. With a bright future ahead, she is simply trying to focus on the remaining weeks of the season.
“This last week for me has been filled with mixed emotions. I’m excited to play my last game here, but sad at the same time. I’m happy for the ride,” Schlott said. “It’s just crazy right now that this is my last week here and that these are the last games I’m playing in the Spectrum. I’m filled with mixed emotions, but it’s a good thing.”