Patience and perseverance have defined the first three seasons at Augustana for former Wilmot standout Brandon Schattner.
And now he’s reaping the benefits of both.
Schattner has seen steady minutes throughout the postseason — a trend he hopes continues as the Vikings compete this weekend in the NCAA Division III Final Four at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va.
Augustana (23-8) advanced to its sixth Final Four appearance and will face Williams (Mass.), also 23-8, in one semifinal tonight at 6:30. The other semifinal pits Whitman (Wash.) versus Babson (Mass.), and the winners face off Saturday at 5 p.m. for the championship.
It goes without saying, but Schattner is more than excited for the opportunity.
“I think it’s a dream for a basketball player like myself to get an opportunity to essentially compete in the Division-III version of the ‘March Madness’ tournament,” he said.
“It has been quite a journey to get to this point where I am now starting to play significant minutes. I have learned a lot through the whole process and knew that if I kept working hard, I would eventually get a chance to play.”
The wait for the junior hasn’t always been easy, but Schattner kept grinding through practices and the Vikings’ junior varsity schedule for most of his first two seasons.
And after a high school career when he saw the floor plenty, that adjustment took some getting used to.
“(That) is always difficult for a competitor like myself,” he said. “You want to get in the game and make an impact, but like a lot of things in life, sometimes you just have to wait your turn. In my situation, there were things I needed to work on and get better at to be able to play.”
Schattner’s high school coach at Wilmot, Jake Erbentraut, isn’t surprised with anything his former player has accomplished.
And he couldn’t be happier to see him enjoying the fruits of all that labor.
“(He) has definitely had to put his teammates before himself, but it looks like he has found his moment to excel,” Erbentraut said. “I didn’t know if he would be able to stick it out, especially considering that he had other schools recruiting him besides Augustana.
“But he had his mind set that he was going there and was going to pursue a degree. I know him well enough, though, that when he sets his mind on something, he’s going to do it. I’m not surprised.”
Through the Vikings’ four tournament games to this point, Schattner has seen at least 13 minutes and as many as 17. In Augustana’s first-round win over St. Thomas, Schattner scored seven points.
But it was in Augustana’s regional semifinal win over Wartburg where Schattner really made an impact. His 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Vikings a 43-42 lead, and they turned that momentum into an 80-69 victory.
When asked, Schattner admitted that play turned a little bit more on luck than many may have realized.
“Honestly, I don’t think the pass was intended for me,” he said. “But it went right through one of my teammate’s hands and just kind of landed in mine. I was open and the shot clock was running down so I said, ‘Why not?’”
It goes without saying that there’s just one big goal left for Schattner and his teammates — and that’s the second trip to the national title game in three years.
Augustana lost to Stevens Point in the 2015 game, but the thought of getting past Williams tonight and then finishing the journey is something Schattner can’t quite grasp just yet.
But it’s always good to dream and dream big.
“Winning a national title would be amazing,” he said. “I mean, that’s why you play, to compete, have fun and win championships.”
And while he’s certainly not looking past these next two days, the momentum that Schattner has built throughout this season will be a springboard to his senior campaign.
It’s hard to believe, but his fourth collegiate year will be here before he knows it.
“It’s crazy to think I have one more season left,” Schattner said. “It has been one incredible journey. I definitely would not have been able to do it without all the support from my family, friends and coaches.”
And just like he did at Wilmot, Erbentraut fully expects Schattner to once again give everything he has.
“I give a lot of credit to Brandon for our recent success we’ve had because he was the first one to really care about the team,” Erbentraut said. “(We) are truly indebted to him for his contributions. And I’ll say, with Brandon on the team at Augustana, its not surprise to me that they have won a lot of games.”
Just two more, and those efforts will be rewarded with the ultimate prize — and a ring.