ALGOMA - Taylor Schmidt says she looks down a lot during games. Looking down, she could draw inspiration from her left knee, where she had her ACL repaired in the off-season; but she prefers looking at her sneakers.
Schmidt's Algoma Wolves will play in the Division 4 girls basketball state semfinals Thursday, and joining her on the court, by way of messages on the toes of her sneakers, will be her late grandfather. She found out he passed away after a regional game this postseason.
"I put on my shoes and I know he's with me and I love him," said Schmidt. "Heaven gained an angel, he's been with me this whole time, I thank him every night for what he's been doing for my team. It's just great knowing he's in a better place and enjoying it up there."
The black ink on her shoes helps. Schmidt's teammates have also been crucial in getting through such a tough time.
"We all went to the wake, we've just kind of have been trying to help her," said forward Kennedy Blahnik. "She's really strong, she's a great person; she's really battled through this."
It's difficult to take any positives from such a challenging situation, but Schmidt was able to draw some guidance for a decision she's been working towards her whole life. She recently decided to play college basketball at UW-Oshkosh.
"I'm pretty sure my grandpa impacted that decision. I knew I needed to be where my family was," said Schmidt, adding she thinks he'd be happy with the decision.
Expect a lot of Algoma supporters at the Resch Center for state, plus fans from Kewaunee rooting for their neighbors. Schmidt's biggest fan will be rooting from above, but will join his granddaughter on the court.
"It really gets to me when I see (the writing about my grandpa) on my shoe," said Schmidt. "I know he's going to be with me through the state tournament as well."
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