The North Bend Eagle


Schuetz family
Donna Schuetz, center, now makes her home in Gretna. She is pictured with her family, son Matthew, daughter Jamie, husband Jon and son Ryan.

Schuetz to be first Tiger in Hall of Fame

by Nathan Arneal
Published 4/3/13

It’s 7:15 a.m. on a January morning in 1982.

The halls of North Bend Central are still relatively quite at this hour. But if you walk past the gym, you’d hear the distinctive, repetitive slap of a ball bouncing on the tartan floor.

Bounce, bounce, bounce. Pause. Swish.

The lone occupant of the gymnasium is senior Donna Chvatal. She dribbles out to the wing, faces up and lets another shot fly. Swish. She jogs to retrieve the ball, dribbles out to the opposite wing, then repeats the routine, over and over again.

It was an early morning ritual Chvatal repeated nearly every day before school. During the summers when she didn’t have access to a car, she would ride her bicycle from her family farm near Morse Bluff over the Platte River bridge to the high school in order to get her shooting in.

Donna Chvatal resumeAll of the time she put in, the millions of shots she put up in the gym, the city park or the driveway, the thousands of imaginary defenders she drove past, it all paid off.

She was a two-time all-state first teamer. Following her senior year she was named the honorary captain of the 1982 all-class all-Nebraska basketball team. Street & Smith’s magazine named her a high school all-American.

Three decades after she finished her Tiger career, the accolades are still rolling in.

This past weekend, it was announced that Donna Chvatal Schuetz will be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, becoming the first North Bend athlete to be so honored.

Having a player like Schuetz sure made a coach look good, said Karen Nicodemus, who coached Schuetz for her final three years of high school as well as junior high.

“She could handle the ball and bring the ball down court, but she played at a forward spot,” Nicodemus said. “She could post up and play with her back to the basket. She was just a solid all-around player that had so many dimensions. There’s not any weaknesses in her game, plus she was very team oriented.”

Steve Richardson, a science teacher at NBC who was an assistant coach while Schuetz was in high school, said her ball handling really set her apart.

“She could handle the ball like any boy could out on the basketball court,” Richardson said. “She shot pretty well from the outside, but she moved so well with the basketball in her hands that nobody could guard her.”

Both of her former coaches said it was the hours of work that Schuetz put in by herself that made her a special player.

“You could tell she grew up with a basketball in her hand,” Richardson said. “You don’t just take off with those kind of skills as a freshman in high school. She was a gym rat.”

By the time she graduated from NBC, Schuetz held most major basketball school records. She set single-season standards for points, free throw percentage, field goals and steals. She established career records for points, field goals, field goal percentage, assists, steals and rebounds.

With teams playing more games per season now, most of those records have fallen, though she still holds the record for steals in a single season with 117, when she averaged 5.6 steals per game as a junior.

Schuetz was named to both the all-East Husker Conference and Fremont Tribune all-area first teams for three straight years.

During her four-year high school career, the Tiger girls put up a record of 74-6 and won the East Husker Conference every year.

But one goal eluded her for most of her career. After falling just short as a sophomore and junior, Schuetz and her classmates were determined to make the girls state basketball tournament as seniors, despite the fact NBC moved up to Class B for the season.

“After losing those two close games the years before, we were on a mission,” Schuetz said. “The girls that were on the team all got along and we worked together. We had a great coach who took us where we needed to be.”

The Tigers cruised through the 1981-82 season undefeated, winning games by an average of 30 points. NBC entered districts ranked No. 2 in the state.

In the district final, NBC jumped all over Hartington CC, taking a 22-4 lead after the first quarter. Schuetz scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 60-38 victory and earn the top seed in the programs’ first-ever state tournament berth.

After dispatching Albion in the first round, NBC fell to Grand Island Northwest in a low scoring 38-31 game. The Vikings used an unusual tactic to stymie the high-flying Tiger offense.

“The girls ran into a defense they had never seen before and we had never coached against,” Richardson said. “It sounds silly now, but it was a 1-3-1 zone. We were lost on how to attack it.”

While Schuetz led the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting, the 5-foot-9 wing also pulled down 9.1 rebounds per game and dished 4.8 assists. Setting up her teammates was her favorite part of the game.

“That was funnest part of the game, making good passes and getting steals,” she said. “I wasn’t a big shooter. I got a lot of my points off of steals and rebounds. We had a great team that could press. It was just a fun part of the game.”

While basketball was certainly her forte, Schuetz took great pride in being an all-around athlete.

“We had a great girls program when I was (at NBC) in volleyball and basketball and even track and softball,” she said. “I’m most proud that we were very successful throughout all the years I was there. We didn’t win any state championships, but we were very successful and we had a lot of fun.”

Schuetz helped lead the Tigers to three straight conference titles in volleyball, where she was named first-team all-conference three times, second-team all-state as a junior and first-team all-state as a senior.

In track she was a three-time state qualifier and a state medalist in the long jump. She also played softball in the summer.

“Whatever sport I was in, I loved,” Schuetz said.

Her exploits at NBC earned her a basketball scholarship to Creighton University. There she won a starting spot on the Bluejay squad her first two seasons, but she missed the last few games of her sophomore year with a torn meniscus in her right knee.

Schuetz’s luck didn’t get any better, and she tore her ACL in her left knee during the first game of her junior season.

“Back then, ACL surgeries were a lot different than they are now,” Schuetz said. “It took a good year to come back. It was really tough.”

Without modern surgery or physical therapy techniques, an ACL tear often meant the end of a basketball career.

After missing her whole junior year, Schuetz returned for her senior season, even starting a few games, but she wasn’t the same. She graduated with a teaching degree in physical education.

In 1986 she married her high school classmate Jon Schuetz. They lived in several different states as Jon pursued a career in television. The family made it back to Nebraska when Jon was hired at KETV in Omaha.

After teaching for five years in the Omaha Public Schools system, Donna got a teaching job in Gretna, where the family lives today.

Jon and Donna have three children. Ryan, 23, is in the Air Force after recently graduating from Augustana College. Matthew, 22, will be graduating from the Air Force Academy in May then going to pilot school. The youngest, Jamie, is a junior at Gretna High School.

Donna Schuetz will be formally inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame during a Sept. 15 ceremony at the Lied Center in Lincoln.

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