COLUMBIA — Clad in Rock Bridge green and white, senior Claire Schaeperkoetter calls out the play from the top of the three-point arc.
Clutching the ball, she surveys the defense and her options. After a quick move, she drives to the middle of the lane and bangs with the bigger bodies before sinking a basket.
It is one more bruise to add to the collection she has gained during the early stages of the Bruins’ girls basketball season.
Schaeperkoetter has been on the varsity squad since she was a freshman and has been an All-District selection every year. In her time at Rock Bridge, she has played in 70-of-73 games. Last season, she led the team in assists and was second in point production.
Because of her experience, Bruins coach Jill Nagel calls her “another coach on the floor.”
“She sees the floor extremely well and reads the defense very well,” Nagel said. “She notices as soon as a team switches up on defense, and she can call out an offense just as quickly as I can.”
Senior M.E. Kanago agrees with Nagel’s assessment.
“She is definitely always talking to people and helping people if they forget something,” she said.
Even though she has become a staple on the varsity squad, Schaeperkoetter is still working hard on improving her game.
“I played a lot over the summer to work on playing at a higher intensity,” she said. “I am trying not to take too many possessions off. More than anything, it has helped me adapt to the physical playing style involved in varsity basketball.”
A look at Schaeperkoetter’s arms shows she is playing a physical style of basketball. Bruises line her arms, looking like a blueprint for the game Connect-the-Dots.
“She is fearless,” Kanago said. “She goes in there (under the basket) like crazy, and she has bruises all over herself because she is so intense all the time. She brings this intensity to the rest of the team.”
During practice, Schaeperkoetter seems to be the vocal leader of team, calling out plays and letting the other players know where they should be on the court. She has not always played this role. It took some coaxing from Nagel when she arrived during Schaeperkoetter’s sophomore year.
“I think that I have just played basketball for so long that I have a somewhat high basketball IQ,” she said. “I just try to share my knowledge, not that it is better than anyone else’s, with the younger members of the team.”
Both Kanago and Schaeperkoetter are captains on this year’s team. It is a role that Schaeperkoetter knows well. For the past three seasons, the team has voted her a team captain.
Nagel said it is important that the team select a captain they can trust and that is why Schaeperkoetter was such a good candidate.
“It means a lot to me because our players vote for the captain. The fact that they see me as a leader and are willing to vote me team captain means a lot,” Schaeperkoetter said.
According to Nagel, Schaeperkoetter and fellow senior Andrea Seabaugh make up a powerful backcourt, and it is not just because of their shooting abilities.
“Andrea and Claire have been in this program for four years now, so they know what is expected,” Nagel said. “They have played the best that they can play with Rock Bridge. They know everything that we want to do in every type of situation and make sure the kids do it.”
After a day of school, basketball and homework, Schaeperkoetter is ready for bed. On nights before game day, however, this is easier said then done.
“I get pretty excited the night before a game, and sometimes I have trouble sleeping because I am so excited,” she said. “I do not know if it is a good thing, because it is always nice to get sleep before a game. I try to share my enthusiasm with the team.”
From the time Nagel saw Schaeperkoetter as a freshman, she knew she had a great youthful player.
“She saw the floor well then, and it was just a matter of continuing to mature and work hard,” Nagle said. “She is one of the hardest workers I have been around, and it pays dividends for her.”