By Frank Long
Standout Garnet Valley High School Basketball player Carl Schaller masks up and hits 1,000 points.
Carl Schaller has been a prolific Garnet Valley basketball player for four years now. As a freshman, he quickly took the program by storm, producing amazing performances at such an amateur point in his high school career. Making the starting lineup as a sophomore, he excelled at the point guard position and delivered one great performance after another. During his junior year, he elevated his game even more and started receiving recognition as one of Delaware County’s top players. That season, Schaller finished First Team All DELCO and won the Central League’s MVP.
Schaller was poised for a huge senior season. He prepared diligently in the offseason, constantly working on his skills and striving to get better. Not only did he want to be the most skilled version of himself, but the strongest version of himself. As a result, he focused on putting on muscle and engaged in extensive weight training. Schaller’s work ethic was parallel to that of a college athlete as he strived to erase any imperfections in his game.
Another huge leap Schaller took in the offseason was joining the well-regarded AAU team, KLOW Elite, which was founded by Philly native and Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowery. Schaller was ready for any tests he was going to face as a member of that team. But what he did not know was that he was going to be faced with his most difficult test yet: a pandemic.
COVID-19 put Schaller’s season at risk, and the distractions were evident. Schaller didn’t have a chance to play in full games for an extended period of time. But he never gave up hope, and eventually Schaller was able to lace up and mask up and continue doing what he loves. Summer games with his AAU team resumed, as did his workouts with his trainer. Soon, Schaller was back on track and ready for that senior season.
Still, during the fall, COVID cases in PA began to rise again, and the outcome of winter sports was being questioned. PA and the Central league postponed the start to the season. After a lot of discussion, it was decided that the Central League and Garnet Valley would indeed have a season. It would be shortened, and players were required to wear masks and stay socially distanced on the bench. Only family members would be allowed in attendance. Schaller was ready for a unique season, and despite the challenges and distractions, he was ready to take advantage of his opportunity to play.
As it happened, Schaller didn’t just take advantage, he took over. He started the season with a Christmas gift, although it wasn’t given to him, it was earned. On Christmas Day 2020, Schaller announced that he was committing to Gettysburg University to play basketball. This was huge news and his family, friends, coaches, and teammates were all proud and supportive. Starting the season knowing he would be competing next year as a college athlete must have energized Schaller, as he averaged 20 points and 5 assists through 13 games, including a 33 point performance against Radnor. Another highlight was when he reached the 1,000 point milestone against Springfield. This was a huge accomplishment, as he became one of only seven players to score 1,000 points for the Garnet Valley men’s program, solidifying Schaller’s place in Garnet Valley basketball history forever.
After wrapping up the regular season, Schaller had led his team to a 10-3 overall record, being 5-2 in the central league and the 2nd seed in the Central League. Schaller hopes to win Garnet Valley its first second league title in 20 plus years, which is in my opinion clearly attainable. Now the question I have is, how was Schaller able to accomplish all of this during such a strange and difficult time? Also, I was interested in the science behind what made him so great. So thankfully I would receive these answers and more because Schaller generously allowed me to interview him. In the following Q&A, you will learn about the details of how he managed to be so great in such a rough time:
Q – “You recently reached your 1,000th point, was that an achievement you had in mind going into the season?”
A – “It was definitely in the back of my mind to start the season. I had 800 (points) going in and everyone was asking if I was going to hit it with the shortened season. So it was definitely there but I tried not to focus too much on it and think about getting the win.
Q – “It was such a crazy offseason due to COVID, did you feel that you were able to still improve during that offseason?”
A – “I played AAU and got some games in and the competition was really good and I was still able to work with trainers in the Philly area. So I feel like I definitely got the most out of the situation as I could.”
Q – “In terms of improvement do you feel as if you have improved the mental aspects of your game?”
A – “My trainer had me watch a lot of films and really study Chris Paul ball scenes. I improved in that area, but a huge focus was on me gaining strength. Since I was smaller in previous years, gaining that mentality to get stronger really made me gain and improve on things such as getting to the rim.”
Q – “Since you are a senior do you feel as if you have taken on a leadership role, and made an emphasis to help the younger players learn new things?”
A – “Yes I did, this year more so than last year. Last year I was in the starting lineup and had to be a leader. But last year the core of our team was older, such as guys like Chris Coyne. But this year I had to be more of a leader because the team has a lot of young guys like Max Koehler and be more of a mentor to those younger players. The more input I can give them the better off they will be.”
Q – “ With all of the changes this year with no fans, playing and practicing with masks, how were you able to keep yourself and the team focused this year?”
A – “Playing with a mask is sort of tough, but it comes down to either you have a season or you don’t. Last year, spring sports got cancelled and I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like for me if this year got cancelled. So our mentality was every game could be our last, someone could get COVID and we would be out for 14 days, so we tried to think of every game just as important as if none of this happened.”
Q – “Has playing with a mask on had any impact on your performance so far this season”?
A – “Playing with a mask was a challenge. But we were lucky to get a head start on things with open gyms and summer leagues. But in a game it was difficult and my endurance was rough, but as the season has gone on I have definitely gotten used to it.”
Q – “Have you gained anything as a person or as a player from having to deal with all of this adversity this season?”
A – “I think definitely throughout the year and not just in basketball it’s been hard. Being able to not see anybody is hard for everyone. So I have learned to stay motivated, be smart and really stay out of all the bad habits in life. Basketball has also really helped with that, with Coach Brown (GV Head Coach) and all of teammates being there has really been great and a way for me to bring that with me, because everyone our age is having the same problem.”
Q – “With the season coming to an end is there anything you would like to accomplish that you haven’t already?”
A – “The goal is definitely to win a Central League championship. We haven’t won one in 20 years and since Coach Brown has come here and has done such a great job. His record speaks for itself and there would be no sweeter exit for me, than getting that Central League championship for Coach Brown and the rest of the program.”
Q – “Reflecting on your time at Garnet Valley, how has this program been able to impact you as a person, and as an athlete?”
A – “In middle school, it was between Sallies (Salesianum School) and Garnet Valley. Middle school coaches saw something in me and so did Coach Brown. So I made the decision to go to Garnet Valley. Ever since then it’s been the best choice of my life. The toughness Coach Brown brought, such as being on time, and being prepared, really gave me a lot of skills and was able to help me mature as a person. It is the most supporting coaching staff you will ever find and they were always on you trying to help you improve. Being around good people really helped me with the basics of life and being a better person.”
Q – “So Carl, I just wanted to wrap this up with a final question about the future. I know you are going to Gettysburg University, what are you most looking forward to playing on that team?”
A – “I am most excited about meeting my teammates, getting to know Coach Dunn (Gettysburg Head Basketball coach) more. Ultimately getting in the gym and being able to practice and really experience what it is like to be a college athlete.”