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Schmidt signs to play basketball at Northern State University

Submitted Photo Westbrook-Walnut Grove's Audra Schmidt (seated) signs her letter of intent to play basketball for Northern State University next season. Standing (l-r) are head W-WG Coach Maury Kuehl, Kris Schmidt, Jim Schmidt, and W-WG athletic director Leo Theisen.

WORTHINGTON -- It was a strange twist of fate.

Originally interested in the softball program at Northern State University, it was an accidental meeting in the hallway that set the events in motion for Westbrook-Walnut Grove's Audra Schmidt.

Events that led to Schmidt to sign a letter of intent Thursday to play basketball for the Division II school located in Aberdeen, S.D.

"We were waiting for the softball coach to come find us and to go on a tour of the school," Schmidt said. "The basketball coach came over and started talking to us and I started talking to him about how I played basketball. That's how we got started on the whole basketball thing."

As a basketball player that was flying under the radar, Northern State head women's coach Curt Fredrickson saw the Schmidts and immediately went to their aid.

"It was one of those funny deals where she was actually up on a softball visit," Fredrickson said. "I saw her walking in the hall and I asked if I could help her because it looked like they were looking for somebody. Her folks said they were looking for the softball coach, and I said, 'Someone as tall as you should play basketball.'"

From there, Fredrickson received game tapes, and after another visit, Schmidt officially inked with the Wolves Thursday.

"It feels good to finally know where I'm going and have the process done," Schmidt said. "It's kind of nice."

As a three-sport athlete, the W-WG senior narrowed her decision to two sports -- softball and basketball -- leaving volleyball behind.

"I really didn't know how I'd choose one or the other, but basketball just seemed to be something I want to do more of," Schmidt said. "I always wanted to play basketball over softball."

While Fredrickson was impressed with Schmidt's basketball abilities, it was her athletic ability as a whole that caught his attention.

"I've played baseball my whole life and a lot of fast-pitch softball and I'm impressed with anybody at 6-feet-2 that can go out and pitch in fast-pitch softball," Fredrickson said. "She's one of the better pitchers around there. Being a baseball and softball guy that I am, that impressed me as much as the basketball part of it."

But after looking at game film, Fredrickson decided Schmidt would be a good fit at NSU.

"There were some things that we saw as far as jumping ability and mobility that impressed us a little bit," Fredrickson said. "We're always looking for tall girls, and they came up on another visit and stayed with some of the girls and she really liked that. Everything seemed to click and everything went well, so she decided to join us."

While the athletics impressed Schmidt, academics were just as important.

"I went to visit the school and I talked with some of the professors that I would be taking classes from," Schmidt said. "I was really impressed with the school, and it felt like a right fit for me."

Schmidt is planning to major in business and is excited about learning in the classroom, as well as on the court from Fredrickson.

"I hear from a lot of people that he is a good coach, but he's tough, so I'll have to get used to that," Schmidt said. "I'm sure it will take a while to get adjusted, but he's going to coach me and improve me as a player. It will be nice to have that, too."

Since the Red Rock Conference is limited in the number of players 6-feet or taller, Schmidt will have a change once she starts playing Division II basketball.

"For me, (the biggest adjustment) will be getting used to playing against people who are my height," Schmidt said. "In school when I practice, there isn't really anybody to play against that is my height. I'm not saying that they're not challenging, it's just easy to shoot over somebody who's not as tall as you. I'm hoping to improve and expand my shooting, and not always play so close and be more of a versatile player."

As she makes the adjustment to the college game, Schmidt will have an opportunity to play right away.

"She has a nice frame for college; she just looks like a basketball player and we are a little thin at the post position right now, so we're hoping she's going to fit right in and be able to contribute for us," Fredrickson said. "One of the things that we have at Northern that a lot of the other Division II schools don't have is that we have a JV program.

"There isn't any sitting on the bench here. Our kids get a chance to play right away, whether it's at the varsity level or the JV level. They can play in 27 games a year. We try to use those freshmen and JV games for a building block for our varsity."

NSU, which is ranked No. 1 for attendance for Division II women, competes in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and will face teams such as Southwest Minnesota State University (Marshall) and Minnesota State University, Mankato -- colleges close to home.

"The games that we play are in Minnesota or not very far away from here, so having people from my town come watch is a big factor," Schmidt said.

But before Schmidt starts mixing it up down low with Division II players, she has one season left in a Chargers uniform.

"I'm going to get my 1,000th point this year," Schmidt said. "I'm like 107 points away from that, so I'm going to be pushing for that right away. But mostly I want my team to have a really good record or an improved record from last year."

After the basketball and softball season, it will be back to the halls of NSU, where the accidental meeting occurred.

"It was pretty funny," Schmidt said, "but it seemed to work out pretty well."