Junior guard Matthew Schner has helped lead the Emory men’s basketball team to a 17-3 record this year. The Eagles sit tied with Brandeis University (Mass.) and Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) (Mo.) at the top of the University Athletic Association (UAA) standing, and are ranked No. 9 nationally in the NCAA Division III standing. The Eagles’ strong record owes itself in large part to the play of their starting junior guard. For Schner, though, this season is just another installment in his basketball life.
Schner came from a family centered around basketball, saying that basketball was always his “first passion” and that the sport was “in [his] blood.” Basketball never stopped in the Schner household. Schner’s father, Larry, played college basketball at Northwestern University (Ill.) and his older brother Jacob is a redshirt junior guard at Florida Southern College.
“My basketball career, through middle and high school, was all centered around playing alongside my brother,” Schner said. “A lot of times being coached by my dad, and that’s where my passion really grew.”
Although Schner is a year younger than his brother, his skills allowed him to play at his brother’s age level, against players who were often bigger and stronger. Schner got so used to playing basketball with his brother that when he was a senior at Grandview Preparatory School (Fla.), he found it strange to not only be the oldest player on the court, but to also be without his brother.
Eventually, he began to e pique the interest of several schools and planned out recruitment trips trying to find the right fit. In the end, however, he canceled all remaining visits after spending a day at Emory.
“I had a great connection with the players that I spent the day with,” Schner said. “I could see myself definitely putting on an Emory jersey and walking around this campus, so it was an obvious choice for me.”
After meeting with Head Coach Jason Zimmerman, Schner didn’t need any further convincing. Emory was where he wanted — and needed — to be.
For Zimmerman, Schner’s commitment to excellence has proven immensely valuable for the Eagles, who stand as one of the nation’s best teams.
“You know what you are going to get [with Schner], and it is pretty good most of the time,” Zimmerman said. “His consistency is something you count on, and you know we are going to get this level of focus every game and practice.”
Schner had high expectations entering his freshman season. He was excited to contribute to the team and compete for a UAA title with his new brothers, but his hopes were dashed after he broke his foot and missed the remainder of the season. Although it was difficult to be a spectator, he found his new bench role to be immensely valuable.
“That [injury] made me a more intelligent player, being able to see games from the bench and watch practice,” Schner said. “That helped shape my love for Emory basketball and all that we do.”
Though he valued his experience on the bench, he was expectedly eager to get back on the court. In his first playing season, Schner became one of the Eagles’ most valuable players. At the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, he was named to the first All-UAA team after leading Emory to the UAA title after a home win over the University of Rochester (N.Y.).
Schner continues to value the opportunity to share this experience with his team brothers and the Emory basketball family.
Junior guard Nick Stuck has been Schner’s roommate for all three years that they have been at Emory.
“[Schner] brings energy and leadership to our team every day, and played a major part in our 2019 UAA championship,” Stuck said. “He makes my job at point guard easy, and I’m excited to call him my teammate and my friend.”
This season, Schner has taken on a big scoring role. He shoots a team-high 53.9 percent from the field and averages 15.6 points per game, the second-highest on the squad.
Schner’s scoring helped him be awarded UAA Athlete of the Week for the week of Feb. 3. He posted back-to-back double-doubles in the Eagles’ road wins over the University of Chicago and WashU. The UAA games saw Schner shoot an effective 57.9 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from 3-point range.
Zimmerman and Stuck were both emphatic when discussing Schner’s consistency throughout the season. Schner’s performance last weekend was no different and no more phenomenal than it had been all season long, Zimmerman said.
“I do not think it was any better than most of the performances he has had all year,” Zimmerman said. “If you ask Matt, he could give a rip about winning that award. We won two games, [which] is way more important to him.”
While Schner is appreciative of individual awards, he believes that all awards represent team awards, as each player’s success is dependent on the continued excellence of the team as a whole. Each player, regardless of role, plays a crucial part in the Eagles’ success. Last weekend, the Eagles were able to gain separation in the UAA conference standings, staving off WashU, who is also in the race for first place.
“All the other awards that come alongside that [team success] are a product of the way that we are playing,” Schner said.
“The best is yet to come for my best experience with Emory basketball,” he said.
The team takes on New York University and Brandeis next weekend in crucial UAA home games. Schner urged the Emory community to come out and support their Eagles beginning Feb. 14.