Area colleges: Tartan alum develops into key piece for Bethel
By Sam Gordon
Bethel men's basketball coach Doug Novak has coached hundreds of players during a 25-year career. Kyle von Schmidt-Pauli holds a unique distinction.
"He's probably improved faster than anybody I've coached," Novak said. "And there's a lot of reasons for it."
Von Schmidt-Pauli, who graduated from local basketball power Tartan, barely played for the Royals as a freshman. Now a senior, the 6-foot-4 forward has worked his way into the starting lineup and is averaging 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for one of the best teams in the MIAC.
"I feel very comfortable with my three-point shot, which sets up driving lanes, which also sets up my teammates," he said. "I feel like my versatility as a player has increased over the last two or three years. I feel a lot more comfortable."
That's a far cry from the young man who, in Novak's words, was "probably deficient in some necessary skills that we thought were important, in terms of passing and dribbling."
"But," the coach added, "he was very coachable and eager to learn."
Von Schmidt-Pauli grew up a Tartan basketball fan, idolizing the varsity players and dreaming of playing for the Titans. His dream came true when he cracked the rotation as a junior.
By his senior season, he was a starter and captain on one of the better teams in the East Metro -- and catching the eyes of local college coaches.
Former Bethel coach Jeff Westlund and his staff recruited von Schmidt-Pauli throughout his senior year and frequently attended his high school games before earning his commitment the day after his senior season ended.
Once at Bethel, von Schmidt-Pauli rode the bench but noticed a culture change when Novak and his staff took over.
"For me, he just gave me freedom to use all of my skills and to increase my skills," he said. "That was big for me as a player, to feel like I could play with freedom."
Novak said that although von Schmidt-Pauli was raw offensively, he had a good feel for the game and was already a good defender.
"He's a gym rat, but he doesn't waste time in the gym," Novak said. Instead, he worked tirelessly to improve his weaknesses.
Now an even better defender, shooter and passer, von Schmidt-Pauli is hitting his stride. He posted 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and made four three-pointers in a win over Macalester last week.
The Royals are 9-1 overall, 4-1 in the conference after a 76-66 win over St. Olaf on Wednesday night.
"After my freshman year and the coaching change, I would have never expected the team to look the way it does now in terms of the success we're experiencing," von Schmidt-Pauli said. "This has all come together for a really fun senior season. I'm just trying to enjoy every day."