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2013 Foothill League girls basketball preview: Canyon's Jaya Schultz, Her own biggest critic

After four heartbreaking career playoff losses, Canyon’s Schultz is determined to win a CIF title

Posted: January 6, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 6, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Canyon girls basketball's Jaya Schultz is 71-20 and has played in 12 playoff games during her three years on the varsity squad. This year, she's looking to lead the Cowboys to a Foothill League title and another deep postseason run.

 

By Cary Osborne

Signal Sports Editor

 

T

here are few local prep athletes who glow as much as Canyon senior basketball player Jaya Schultz.

Her smile is bright, her voice is enthusiastic and her outlook for her team is always optimistic.

And why shouldn’t it be?

The four-year varsity veteran plays for the best basketball team in the Santa Clarita Valley over the last four years.

She is one of the area’s best basketball talents — a 6-foot-tall girl who can slash to the basket at will, who has developed a jump shot that she can hit from all points of the court and who is a matchup nightmare on offense and defense.

The Pepperdine University commit, though, wears a great disguise.

“She is her own biggest critic,” says Canyon head coach Chuck Johns. “I don’t know if I’ve had someone as tough on herself as Jaya. She has a tendency to not move forward and she relives what could have or should have been. But she’s been doing a lot better job of letting the game come to her.”

The self-criticism is something that has driven her for years to be the player she is today.

Her basketball beginning is emblematic of that.

Schultz tells the story of being a 7-year-old and finding the game for the first time.

“When I was in second grade, my dad took me to the Sports Complex and I was shooting on an 8-foot basket. I couldn’t make a basket, and I was so upset with myself. I didn’t want to leave till I made a shot,” Schultz remembers. “I wanted to shoot over and over again.”

Today, Schultz still has this unquenchable thirst to get things right.

She reveals that she still gets nervous before every basketball game.

This despite going 71-20 over the last three seasons with the Cowboys and playing in 12 pressure-packed postseason games.

This despite being an All-Santa Clarita Valley Team Honorable Mention as a sophomore and a second-teamer as a junior.

Others probably wouldn’t buy that she has nerves.

She doesn’t shy away from the big shot and she wants the ball in big situations.

And there’s something that stands out when one talks to other coaches in the Foothill League.

They can tell from afar that she has qualities that are above and beyond most.

“She’s driven to play hard. She has a fire in her belly to succeed,” says Saugus head coach Kent Eaton. “She can dribble. She can shoot inside, outside. She can block shots. She’s so dangerous.”

Says Valencia head coach Jerry Mike: “She keeps improving. She steps behind the line and shoots. She has a nice stroke. She’s relentless and works hard on every possession. She’s been a pain in our neck the last few years. She keeps working on her game and is not satisfied with what she has.”

How does a rival coach who barely knows the girl know that?

Mike says he can just tell by the way her game has grown over the last four years.

And here’s the confirmation about how hard Schultz works.

“She sets a tone and has always been the hardest worker,” Johns says. “To be one of the best players and to be the hardest worker, we talk about an ‘A’ in talent, ‘A’ in mindset, she has both. When you get that, it’s pretty special.”

Schultz is humble about it all.

Maybe because basketball is a very humbling game.

The last three seasons, she has had her heart broken.

As a freshman, her team lost in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs.

On March 10, 2011, Canyon was down 45-44 to Rialto High in the waning seconds of the second round of the CIF-State Girls Division II Basketball Championships tournament.

Schultz drew a foul with 15.6 seconds left to play and missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Cowboys lost the game.

She was brave in taking the shot, and strong after the game.

“Oh my gosh. You didn’t see me in the locker room,” she says. “I was balling my eyes out. I felt I let the team down, like I ended the seniors’ careers. Once I saw all the parents and fans, I thought, ‘Cool it. Don’t worry about it.’”

Last season, Canyon lost 57-56 to No. 1 seeded Mark Keppel in the Division IIAA semifinals on a last-second shot.

Schultz still laments the fact that she missed shots in the game.

Her sister, Leena, now a freshman and her teammate witnessed all the games and says Schultz took every one of them hard.

“She definitely wants to get further in the playoff season after all the heartbreak games,” Leena says. “She’s definitely hungry for getting those big wins. She really wants to get that.”

That’s something Schultz won’t disguise — a burning desire to finally get this right.

“I replay those heartbreak games,” she says. “It gets the fire in my belly, makes me want to do better and better. For my teammates, it’s definitely fuel for us.”

And until she gets it right, there’s always something she feels she needs to work on.

Maybe this season, she’ll find the satisfaction.

 

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