LAKE STEVENS — Young men play high school basketball for a variety of reasons: fun, recognition, exercise.
But sometimes there is more to it than that. Such is the case for Mike Schneider.
Captain of the highly successful Lake Stevens High School boys basketball team, Schneider is the Vikings’ steady, reliable point guard.
“The biggest reason why I play basketball,” Schneider said, “is because of the guys I play with. I want to win for these guys. It’s never for me.”
He proves that on the court.
The 6-foot senior, a third-year varsity starter, often passes up open shots in order to get better looks for his teammates. When he shoots and misses, he takes it hard.
“I feel horrible when I miss a shot — I really do — because that’s a missed opportunity for (a teammate) to get a shot off,” said Schneider, who averages about six points per game for the Vikings, the co-champions in the Western Conference North Division. They open play in the Class 4A District 1 tournament Wednesday.
In many ways Schneider is the ideal teammate, a guy anyone would love to play with. When Lake Stevens needs a clutch rebound, a smart pass in a high-stress situation or a timely steal, he frequently steps up. Yet Schneider craves no individual glory.
“He’s one of the most unselfish kids I’ve coached in terms of putting the team’s needs above his own,” Lake Stevens head coach Mark Hein said.
Schneider gives so much to his teammates because they have given much to him.
Schneider’s basketball family
Mike Schneider and Aaron “AJ” Maw are the starting guards in the Lake Stevens backcourt.
But the seniors’ connection goes much deeper than their time on the basketball court. For the past year and a half, Schneider has been living with the Maw family.
Prior to that, Schneider bounced around, spending his first few years of high school living with his father, his mother or his former step mom. The summer after his sophomore year in Lake Stevens, he moved to Oklahoma to live with his mother.
A month in Oklahoma made Schneider realize the importance of the friendships he built over the years in Lake Stevens. “I called all these guys, and I just realized that my real family is every one of these guys I grew up with,” he said.
That’s when Maw’s parents, Ray and Karen Maw, offered to take Schneider into their home. They even paid for his plane ticket from Oklahoma. In August 2008, Schneider moved back to Lake Stevens.
‘He’s always been my brother’
Schneider has played basketball with AJ Maw and other seniors on the Lake Stevens varsity boys basketball squad since elementary school.
Ray Maw, AJ Maw’s dad, was the boys’ summer select team coach. The athletes spent a lot of time at the Maw home. Schneider, in particular, developed a special connection with the Maws.
“Anything I had to do with basketball, they were always taking me to it,” Schneider said.
Years later, when Schneider wanted to return to Lake Stevens, it was no surprise the Maw family stepped in.
“He knew that we wanted him here,” AJ Maw said. “He knew that he’s family with us.”
Said Schneider of his new home: “I’m happy where I am.”
Space is at a premium in the Maws’ three-bedroom house. In addition to Schneider and AJ, one of Ray and Karen Maw’s daughters also lives there. Schneider generally stays downstairs, where he and AJ hang out and play video games.
It’s a bit cramped at times, Ray Maw said, but Schneider “fit really well into the family.”
He always has, AJ Maw said.
“He’s like my brother,” AJ Maw said. “He’s always been my brother.”
A great pair
Living together has enhanced the connection between Schneider and AJ Maw.
On the court, Schneider said he and Maw communicate without saying a word. In charge of distributing the ball in Lake Stevens’ offense, Schneider sets up teammates for open shots. Often that’s Maw, a gifted shooter who is the Vikings’ second-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game.
The guards’ chemistry has been a huge plus for Lake Stevens, a tight-knit, experienced squad that features nine seniors: Schneider, Maw, Jerodan Dodge, Chris Finley, Jarett Hanson, Arvid Isaksen, Zac Israel, Ross Jones and Shane Kaska.
“From a coach’s perspective, they’ve always had a great relationship,” Hein said of Schneider and Maw. “It’s kind of funny now; they’re our starting backcourt and they share a (house).”
The Viking seniors hope to cap their prep basketball careers with a second straight trip to the Class 4A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome. To do it, they must finish among the top three teams at district. Lake Stevens (15-5 overall), the Wesco North’s No. 2 seed, plays host to Wesco South No. 3 seed Shorewood (8-12) in the first round Wednesday.
This is what Schneider’s been waiting for.
“Senior year — I want to make the most of it and give these guys my all,” said Schneider, who plans to join the Army after graduation. “That’s what I try to do every day because they deserve it.
“(They are) the best guys you could ever be with.”
Mike Cane: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.