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A November 2007 interview with the Watertown Daily News. http://www.wdtimes.com/articles/2007/11/17/news/news1.txt

Schulz stood tall in all levels of basketball

By Kevin Wilson of the Daily Times staff Friday, November 16, 2007 10:35 PM CST

Being 6-foot-4 at 13 years of age earned Rueben Schulz a spot on the Watertown High School varsity boys basketball team, but it didn't earn him much playing time.

“We had a 10 man squad, and I was only 13,” Schulz said. “The guys playing were 18-year-old seniors, so I didn't really get to play in games, but I did practice with the varsity.”

For the next 20-plus years of his life, Schulz rarely spent time on the bench.

The guy nicknamed “Boo” and “Big Rube” throughout high school became a decorated three-sport standout - a big pass-catching target in football, a long ball hitter for the baseball team, and the school's all-time scoring leader in basketball with 1,343 points.

The scoring record stood for 55 years until Pat Nichols eclipsed it in 2006, but Schulz remains the city's most heralded basketball player of all time for going on to play at the Division 1 collegiate and professional levels in the 1950s.

“I was gung ho,” Schulz said. “If I didn't do well, I was not a happy camper. I was pretty gung ho. The biggest thing I can remember is that I wanted to do well.

“The older I got in high school, the better I wanted to do. I wanted to achieve. If I didn't play first string in it, if I couldn't play first string on a Division 1 school, I would have been devastated.”

At the time of his graduation in 1951, Schulz held several scoring records in the state of Wisconsin (since broken). He was also one of 22 players in the country named to the All American team that played in the third annual North-South Classic on June 16, 1951, in Murray, Ky.

Needless to say, Schulz fielded several offers to play collegiate basketball.

“I had 30 offers from all over the country,” Schulz said. “I narrowed it to Michigan, Wisconsin and Marquette. I wanted to stay close to home so my parents could see me play.”

Schulz chose Wisconsin, but not for long.

“I started at UW,” Schulz said. “I was there for a freshman week to get everybody oriented to college life. It turned out the scholarship was not really what I thought it was.”

For his board, Schulz stayed in a private home and had to do extensive chores there. Tuition was paid for, but was contingent upon him attaining a B average in his first semester in order to be eligible to play.

“They didn't say anything of that stuff,” Schulz said. “I called up Marquette. I left there on a Saturday morning at the end of the first week. I drove a friend's car home and Marquette officials met me there.”

That quickly, Schulz switched schools, but the controversy surrounding that move didn't subside for years.

“That created a big stir because the basketball coach at UW, Bud Foster, was upset,” Schulz said. “I got called on the carpet at Marquette. For awhile, I didn't know what was going to happen. Marquette and Wisconsin did not play for several years.”

Schulz was grilled in the media as well.

“Bob Wolfe, the sports editor for the Milwaukee Journal, was the team manager for UW when he was in school,” Schulz said.

“He wrote some scathing articles about me. I got irritated one time. He wrote things that weren't true. That irritated me. He said I was probably best known for what he called ‘Rube's rhubarb.' He made it sound like that was my legacy, that I left Wisconsin to go to Marquette.

“I had a full schedule (during that freshman orientation week at Wisconsin), and I wasn't even going to classes yet. That scared me. By the time I walked back to where I lived (from campus), I was walking all over. I just said, ‘This isn't going to work.'

“So I went to Marquette, where I got everything paid for, plus $30 a month. It left me time to study. In those days, other guys on the basketball team didn't study near as much as I did. Of the guys that started out the same year I did, only 15-20 percent graduated. The rest either dropped out or didn't graduate until later.”

Schulz took civil engineering at Marquette and went on to finish 33rd in his class. That degree served him well, as he went on to become Jefferson's city engineer for 31 years.

While Schulz got an exceptional education, Marquette got an exceptional basketball player.

Much like his prep career, Schulz entered his collegiate career at an exceedingly young age. At 17, he became the youngest player ever to be part of a Division 1 basketball team at that time due to a loophole created by the Korean War.

In 1951, 17-year-olds were eligible to play because the war was on and there was a shortage of players. That exemption lasted one year, and 17-year-olds wouldn't be eligible again for another decade.

Schulz averaged 4.1 points per game his freshman season, finishing with 95 points in 23 games played. Marquette finished 12-14 that season, but closed out the season strong with three straight wins to capture the National Catholic Tournament championship in Troy, N.Y.

It was the first Marquette team to win a postseason tournament championship.

Schulz was also a member of the first Marquette team to play in the Milwaukee Arena, which opened in 1951.

Just like high school, Schulz started out as a reserve and quickly became a double digit scorer by his sophomore season, when he averaged 10.5 points per game with 253 points in 24 games played for a team that finished 13-11. He also grabbed 168 rebounds, an average of seven per game.

“I wasn't averaging 28 points a game like I did in high school, certainly,” Schulz said. “When I was a freshman in college, they were playing 11, 12 guys pretty consistently. I started half the games and didn't play more than 15 minutes per game.

“At 17, I hadn't fully matured. I played my freshman year as a 17-year-old. It probably would have been better if my parents hadn't pushed me ahead in grade school. I never thought about it in those days. After I was all done playing, I thought about it.”

Schulz peaked at 6-6 1/4 in high school, and then gradually added 25 pounds during his playing days at Marquette.

He continued to excel his junior season, averaging 11.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with 302 points and 216 rebounds in 26 games played. The team struggled to an 11-15 record.

“I think we underachieved as juniors,” Schulz said. “We had more talent than our record indicated. Maybe, we got a little lucky our senior year. That was a magical year.”

Every senior wants to have the kind of swan song season Schulz had at Marquette.

The team went 24-3, cracked the top 10 in the national rankings and came within a few points of making it to the Final Four in the program's first NCAA tournament appearance.

One of two captains on the team, Schulz led by example with 392 points and 214 rebounds for an average of 14.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in 27 games played.

Marquette posted a 12-1 record at home, a 10-1 record on the road and a 2-1 record at neutral sites.

Early in the season, Marquette put up 113 points against Ripon, a single-game scoring record which still stands. Both Schulz and the team set records for free throw shooting in a win over Creighton on Feb. 7, 1955.

Schulz hit 16 of his team's 40 foul shots in the game. His individual record has since been tied twice. The team record still stands alone.

Free throw shooting was a big part of Schulz's game, though not the only part. He ranks fourth all time in free throws made (150) and fifth all time in free throws attempted (203) in the team record books.

“I took it to the basket more often, so I got fouled quite a bit,” Schulz said. “I don't think I was what I would call an outstanding shooter, but I did have a pretty good percentage.”

Schulz converted a career-best 121 field goals his senior season, and made plenty of long-range shots back before the 3-point shot was in place.

“I changed as a player throughout the years,” Schulz said.

“That year, we went to a 1-3-1 offense, which meant I got more shots closer to the basket. I played in the low post, but also went from corner to corner, so I got lot of shots from the corner, and some baskets on fast breaks and things. I shot 20-footers from the corner. The 3-point line is 19-6 now. We were kind of a running team, too, so our total scores went up pretty high that year.”

Schulz's Marquette teams went 4-7 against ranked opponents during his time there, with three of the wins coming his senior season.

Marquette beat then No. 13 Louisville 66-62 at home on Dec. 31, 1954. After Louisville has slipped to No. 20, Marquette went on the road and beat the Cardinals again 82-78 on Jan. 12, 1955.

But the team's greatest win came in the NCAA tournament.

After opening the NCAA regionals with a 90-79 overtime win over Miami of Ohio, Marquette knocked off No. 2 ranked Kentucky 79-71 on March 11, 1955 in Evanston, Ill.

Kentucky had spent much of the season ranked No. 1 before slipping behind the University of San Francisco prior to the tournament. Marquette was ranked No. 8 at the time.

In the regional final, Iowa beat Marquette 86-80, but it remains one of the best seasons in school history in terms of wins and winning percentage.

“Everything came together,” Schulz said. “It was a year of maturity. Some guys got quite a bit better. We didn't really pick up anybody new.”

Schulz left Marquette as the team's No. 2 leading scorer all-time. In 100 games played, he scored 326 field goals, made 390-of-532 free throw attempts, scored 1,042 points and averaged 10.4 points per game. He is currently 32nd all-time in school history in scoring.

He remains 21st all time in rebounding. In his final three seasons, when rebounding statistics were kept, he grabbed 598 rebounds.

“My daughter-in-law was looking at their Web site and called me up and said, ‘Did you know you were the first Marquette player to have 500 rebounds?' I never had an inkling of that. Other players had surpassed that since.”

Schulz became the first Marquette player drafted by a professional team when he was selected in the fifth round by the Rochester Royals of New York.

But the pro league consisted of just eight teams. He turned down the Royals and opted to play in the former National Industrial Basketball League, a nationwide league made up of large corporations.

He played for Allen Bradley of Milwaukee and then for Caterpillar Tractor of Peoria, Ill., and held engineering jobs with the companies which sponsored his teams. Attendance ranged anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 per game, depending on the venue. He was the second highest scorer in the league in two out of his three seasons in the league and was named to the All Star team.

“It was a viable league for maybe 12-15 years,” Schulz said. “All the players in it were outstanding players from college. In those days, the pro league itself only eight teams. It hadn't gotten up in stature like it is today.

“I can remember that 80 percent of the players made that standard contract - $7,500. A couple guys on each team made more, but not a whole lot. I was making more, but I was working too, then. As an engineer, I made more than that base salary. (Professional basketball) wasn't the lucrative thing it is today.”

But Schulz wasn't in it for the money.

“I definitely wanted to keep playing,” Schulz said. “It was good competition. I got to travel a lot with Peoria. We played a 35-40 game schedule. It was nice getting around.

“We got down to Rio de Janeiro. We had a Caterpillar plant down there. We played the top Brazilian team at that time, and played two or three games against them in five days. The fans were really rabid, I'll say that. There were 8,000 fans, and they were more boisterous (than fans up in the U.S.).”

A recession ultimately ended Schulz's professional basketball career.

“I was working at Caterpillar in East Peoria, where 30,000 people worked,” Schulz said. “There kind of a road building recession, and I got laid off. They went down to 12,000 for half a year. I had the chance to go back to the league and another job, but it still looked iffy, so I opted not to. The league folded a year later.”

Schulz moved back to Watertown where he accepted a job as assistant city engineer, and ultimately became Jefferson's city engineer.

But he kept playing basketball, as a member of the Watertown Stags.

“We were in an amateur basketball league, and we played a lot of Milwaukee-oriented teams in Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and Fond du Lac. It used to be pretty intense, compared to what it is today. You don't see amateur basketball these days.”

Schulz played for nine years until he was 34, when his body and his doctor started telling him it was time to retire. The man who never missed a game in high school or college, and who once held the record for the most games played at Marquette, finally acknowledged that his durability was nearing its end.

“I probably over the years had a couple dozen sprained ankles,” Schulz said. “It was my one weak point. I'd be going up for a shot and would come down on someone. I always had to be taped. When I finally quit, I was starting to turn it inward. That (last) one stayed swollen for a year. The doctor said, ‘If you want to walk when you're 65, you'd better stop playing.' So I did.”

Not only is Schulz still walking in his early 70s, he's still involved with sports as a referee in football and basketball and as a baseball umpire.

“I never really had a yearning to officiate, but in baseball I got started because the guy who coached the Stags, umpired in Rock River League,” Schulz said. “He needed a partner and recruited me to do it. In football and basketball, I worked with Richard Block, and we had three man football crews in those days. Those guys all quit very early and I just kept doing it and doing it and doing it. I enjoy doing it I guess.”

Schulz still umpires in the Rock River League, and at the high school level for the Southern Lakes and Rock Valley Conferences. He officiated varsity football and basketball until the age of 65, and still officiates those sports at the JV level.

It's been a good way for Schulz to stay connected to the three-sport roots of his childhood.

“I participated in baseball and football and softball in summertime,” Schulz said. “Generally speaking, there wasn't (summer basketball leagues like the AAU). Most athletes in basketball didn't spend a lot of time playing during the summers.

“I had a hoop up at my house. I guess I shot a lot on an individual basis. Those days, there wasn't as much workouts in the offseason. That evolved over the years, where athletes limited themselves more to one sport, not doing every sport. I enjoyed more the diversity of playing other sports.”

That said, basketball was certainly the sport for Schulz.

“I was always considered pretty quiet - I didn't complain much, and took things in stride,” Schulz said. “But I had a fire for the game.”


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