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President Schafer?

A big man with big ambitions
by: ROLAND SIMMONS, Oregon City post player Sammy Schafer wrestles for the ball in a recent game against Canby.

OREGON CITY - Oregon City starting post Sammy Schafer has ambitions far beyond the sport of basketball, and he is hopeful a stint with the Air Force Academy will help him accomplishment his lofty goals.

'I want to be president of the United States,' Schafer says with conviction. 'I love politics and I love being around people. Debating, resolving issues, mediating disputes; finding more productive ways of doing things….

'I'll be a representative, senator or mayor first. Whatever it takes. And then, hopefully, by the time I'm 35, I'll be ready to take over as president and lead the country.'

Schafer, who turned 19 on Dec. 21, recently accepted a scholarship to the Air Force Academy.

The University of Hawaii, University of Seattle, University of Portland, Portland State University and the University of California at Berkley were among other institutions that showed an interest in his athletic abilities. Schafer says he chose Air Force because of the academics.

'I'm excited!' said Schafer. 'I've got a full-ride scholarship to the number one academic school on the West Coast and one of the top five academic institutions in the world, which is pretty cool, because I love school.'

Schafer has had both academic and athletic success at Oregon City. He's just one 'B' shy of a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA. He says he plans to retake the class in which he got a 'B' next spring.

And Schafer has been a major player in the success of Oregon City's boys basketball team this winter. The Pioneers, through play Dec. 27, sported a perfect 9-0 record and they were ranked the second-best Class 6A high school boys basketball team in the state.

Through nine games, Schafer was averaging 12.4 points an outing, while shooting with better than 60 percent accuracy. He was also averaging around 12 rebounds and three assists.

Plagued by illness his sophomore and junior seasons at Oregon City, Schafer has improved in leaps and bounds over a year ago.

'I had walking pneumonia my sophomore and junior years,' Schafer says. 'It developed into a respiratory ailment and bronchitis. I lost 18 pounds in two weeks last year around the time of the Les Schwab tournament.

'But now I'm healthy. I feel great!'

In last week's win over Jefferson, the second-ranked team in Class 5A, Schafer scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, corralled 13 rebounds, dished out three assists, stole the ball three times and rejected two shots.

'The difference from last March to now is dramatic, and he's going to get better as the season goes along,' says Oregon City coach Mike Doherty. 'Last year we were kind of waiting for him to step up. He's done that now. He's become a competitive basketball player….

'His dribbling and passing skills are pretty good for a big kid, and he's pretty quick….

'He's still got a ways to go in his decision-making and he's going to have to beef up to play at the Division I level, but Sammy's got tremendous potential.'

Schafer, who stands 6-9-1/2, wasn't always the tallest basketball player on the floor. He says he grew 6 inches to 6-7 in the three months preceding his freshman season at Alaska's Wasilla High School.

'I played point guard until my freshman year [at Wasilla],' said Schafer. 'I like dribbling the basketball.'

Schafer started for Wasilla's varsity as a freshman and he helped lead the team to third place at Alaska's state tournament.

The second youngest of seven children, Sammy moved to Oregon City with his family after his freshmen year at Wasilla.

'We have a lot of family in the area,' said Schafer. 'My brother goes to Oregon. My grandma was going to move in with us and we didn't want her to have to endure the harsh weather of Alaska.'

Sammy Schafer comes from a basketball family. His father Dick, who stands 6-10, was an All-American in high school. He earned a scholarship to play for Arizona State, where his career was cut short by a knee injury.

His brother Ray Schafer stands 7-0 and plays for the University of Oregon.

His younger brother Jimi Schafer stands 6-5 and is a freshman in Oregon City High School's basketball program.

Schafer says that the Air Force Academy will graduate its 'two big men.' But he has no illusions about making an immediate impact.

'I have room to improve everywhere,' he said. 'There's no area where I've reached my full potential. I want to keep working on my shot, and I need to get stronger and bigger to compete at the next level.

'It's going to take a lot of hard work, but it's going to be a lot of fun. I've got a passion for the sport. I just love being out there on the floor, whether it's in a practice or in a game.'

Basketball isn't Schafer's only passion.

'I love reading,' he said. 'I read everything. There are so many good books out there, you can never get around to all of them. I'm reading three books right now.'

He says his favorite book is 'Anthem,' by Ayn Rand.

'I've read it four times,' Schafer said. 'It's an amazing story of being yourself and breaking away from the ordinary. I learn something new every time I read it.'

Asked to name his favorite teacher and subject, Schafer had difficulty stopping at just one. Among his favorites: Clif Wegner in American Literature, Sheila Zachry and Greg Hellman in English, Mark Bell in biology and J.J. Winkle in history.

Although Schafer loves the sport of basketball and classroom learning, he says he's got two greater passions: his family and his faith.

'I get my passion [for basketball] and my energy from God and from Jesus Christ,' Schafer said. 'The only things that matter in this life are the things that are for God….

'I like basketball and I've got a tremendous appetite for learning. But God and family. Those are the most important things in my life.'

Come next march, Schafer would like nothing better than to join his teammates in raising the championship trophy aloft at the Class 6A boys basketball tournament.

'We hope that if we work hard and stay focused, we can win the state championship,' Schafer said.

Doherty has said of this year's Oregon City team: 'We've got as good a shot [of making the 8-team state tournament] as we've ever had….'