So Good, So Young
The coaching staff at Marquette University — the same staff that would lead the Golden Eagles to a Final Four berth less than a year later — had been hot on Jon Scheyer's heels for weeks.
Tom Crean and his assistants had heard great things about this freshman-to-be from Glenbrook North High with a game that belied his age, and their ears were burning. For weeks, they kept calling Scheyer's home, trying to get him to come to Milwaukee and attend their 2002 summer camp.
It took a lot of convincing before the soft-spoken Scheyer relented. But once he arrived, it only took him a day to make the camp his own.
Scheyer started out grouped with players his age, but it quickly became apparent that the only thing he had in common with his classmates was a 1987 birth date. Crean pulled Scheyer aside and told the youngster that he wanted to see how he fared against better competition, so Crean brought Scheyer to work out in two-on-two drills with Marquette players, including Conference USA Player of the Year Dwyane Wade.
Not surprisingly, Wade schooled the schoolboy. But when the day was done, Wade saw enough in that skinny kid to give Scheyer pointers on what to improve on and encouraged him to keep at it because he had skills.
Scheyer was elated. To him, it was the culmination of one of the best days of his young life, if only because he knew that playing against a guy who would eventually be taken fifth overall in the NBA Draft the following summer had taught him more about the game than anyone ever had.
But the whirlwind had just begun.
"[The Marquette coaching staff] came up to me and said, ‘Great job today. We want you to come back as soon as you can. And we want you to know we have a scholarship waiting for you,'" says Scheyer, 16. "My life completely changed after that. I was just in shock."
Thus began the legend of Jon Scheyer. Still just a sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 165-pound combo guard has become one of the best players in Illinois and one of the top underclassmen in America, rated the No. 12 recruit in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com.
After taking some pointers from Wade and then bursting onto the scene last year by averaging 16 points a game as a freshman for a Glenbrook North team that finished 24-9, Scheyer took his game, along with his teammates, to a new level this season. As of press time this year, Scheyer was averaging 25 points, six rebounds and five assists per game and had led the Spartans to a 19-3 record.
"He has brilliance other players just don't have," says Glenbrook North head coach Dave Weber. "We all know he can shoot and score, but he makes some passes that you just think, ‘How did he know that guy was even going to be open?' He reminds me of a young Larry Bird."
In an era in which many guards fall under the category of either a slasher or a shooter, Scheyer's best strength is that he can do both. He also maintains a great court presence and is the consummate teammate, a point illustrated when Weber named Scheyer a captain before his sophomore season.
"We named him captain because he plays so hard. He's the most competitive player
I've ever coached," says Weber. "In every aspect of the game, he is top notch. He does just about everything to perfection."
Marquette was the first school on Scheyer's list, but the Golden Eagles certainly haven't been the last. At last count, Kansas, Arizona, Florida, Cal, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Duke, Wisconsin and Texas have either offered scholarships or shown serious interest. It's been quite a ride for a kid barely old enough to drive, but Scheyer is wise enough to know that all the attention he's received from schools and the media will come to an end quickly if he doesn't keep himself focused on the task at hand.
"The reason I've been able to stay humble is because the people around me — my friends and my family — keep me humble," says Scheyer. "I've heard about kids that listen to their own hype and then fall off the map. I have to worry about myself, not what the papers say."
What makes Scheyer's story all the more remarkable is that despite his early success as a basketball player, he doesn't come from any sort of hoops pedigree. He's the youngest of three kids, but neither of his sisters is particularly tall (Brooke, a sophomore at Texas, is 5-foot-1, and Jen, a senior at Michigan, is 5-foot-3), and they never played basketball in high school. His parents, Jim (5-foot-9) and Laury (5-foot-5), prefer swimming and racquetball to basketball.
But Scheyer's family has been a huge help with keeping things in perspective. Though his father's duties as president of Uniek, a picture framing company, keep him out of town much of the week, Jim and Laury attend every Glenbrook North home game. Scheyer also talks to both of his sisters on a weekly basis.
"They're my best friends and my biggest supporters," says Scheyer. "I can talk to them about anything, and sometimes it's nice to get my mind off basketball."
Known mostly just to college coaches and hardcore high school hoops fans right now, Scheyer's chance to make a name for himself will come touring on the national hoops circuit this summer with the Illinois Warriors. The Warriors, who feature other blue-chippers such as Homewood-Flossmoor High's Julian Wright and Peoria Richwoods High's Jamar Smith, have the potential to be among the top AAU teams in the county.
Chicago fans already know how good Scheyer is. Now he wants the nation to know.
"This is the biggest summer I'll ever have to put myself on the map and establish myself as one of the best players in the country," says Scheyer. "But it's much more important for me to improve my game. I want to put on some weight and work on every aspect of my game."
Dwyane Wade would be proud.