Bison reversed course from last year with Abby Schulte running the show
North Dakota State junior made the full-time switch to point guard and the Bison are No. 2 seed for Summit tourney
FARGO — North Dakota State guard Heaven Hamling has been busy this season slashin’ and burnin’ opponents in almost every offensive way possible, further reinforcing her status as one of the top scorers in Summit League women's basketball. She can give an assist to teammate Abby Schulte.
Not one of those passing assists, mind you. It’s more of the mindset Schulte made in the two switching positions — with Schulte moving from the shooting guard to point guard and Hamling vice versa. NDSU dabbled with that move late last season and made it more of a permanent thing this year.
What Schulte has sacrificed is more opportunities to score. And she’s fine with that.
“I never take the most shots so it’s been an easy role for me to slide into,” she said. “I love to pass so that fits me well. It’s kind of who I’ve been my whole life.”
The results speak for themselves: The Bison at 18-10 have the most wins since 2004-05 and at 12-6 the most Summit League victories since their second year in the conference in 2008-09. They’ll take their highest seed ever, No. 2, into the Summit tournament’s first round at 3 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Denver and Kansas City.
Schulte is averaging the same 7.1 points per game as a year ago, but her assists have almost doubled from 47 to 91. Her turnovers are up slightly from last year, but she’s also handling the ball at a much higher percentage than she did last season.
“To me it hasn’t been super different,” Schulte said. “Maybe kind of the little things like getting the outlet pass, knowing all the plays and knowing where everyone is supposed to go and calling things out. I think it’s a bigger role communication-wise.”
Switching positions for the 5-foot-8 Hamling with the 5-10 Schulte probably goes against conventional basketball wisdom of putting the smaller player at the point, but the move has helped Hamling find more space from other areas of the floor. She's averaging 16.5 points per game and her 203 3-point field goal attempts is already 31 more than last year.
“I love that, I think Heaven is so creative when it comes to getting her shot off or creating for other people,” Schulte said. “As much as we can get her in positions like that, I’m all for it.”
Plus, the game has changed over the years with centers shooting 3-pointers and guards going anywhere on the floor. Schulte has gone from being a small forward as a freshman to out front.
“But she was a point guard in high school so she’s comfortable doing that,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins.
That doesn’t mean Schulte hasn’t had her moments of effective scoring. She had 13 points and was part of a second half rally in an 86-75 win over Kansas City at Scheels Center two weeks ago.
Schulte has been a model of consistency scoring between six and 13 points in 18 of NDSU’s 28 games. Never has she forced the scoring load from NDSU’s leading scorers in Hamling and guard Elle Evans.
As the point guard, she’s been more in tune with directing the show.
“Coming into this year she was interested in doing that full time,” Collins said. “I think it’s been good for us. It’s allowed Heaven to free up a little bit more offensively. But Heaven’s also pretty good with the ball in her hands, so it’s just been a good combo for us.”
Last year, when Hamling was more the point guard, opponents often hounded her with full-court defense in an attempt to wear her out.
“Even just a little bit of full-court pressure changes the game for a point guard,” Schulte said.