Ryan Schachter calls Connor Schimmelpfennig the best leader he’s had in his 13 seasons as the Corona del Mar High boys’ basketball coach.
With a long name like Schimmelpfennig, Schachter also calls his point guard “Schim.”
The 6-foot senior is really “Schim” to all, and that includes CdM’s official roster. The uncommon name, German for “shiny penny,” isn’t simple to wrap one’s tongue around, and Schimmelpfennig — like his game — wants to be of assistance.
“I sometimes just make it easy for [others],” he said. “It’s S-c-h-i-m-m-e-l-p-f-e-n-n-i-g, but it’s easier for some people if they just call me ‘Schim.’ I have no preference.”
“I thought Schachter was a tough name,” his coach said, “but Schimmelpfennig has me topped, that’s for sure.”
Everything else about CdM’s point man and his game is effortless.
Schimmelpfennig led the Sea Kings into the title game of the Gary Raya SoCal Elite Tournament on Dec. 15. He prodded the team through victories over El Dorado, Woodbridge and new Surf League rival Edison, and in a comeback attempt against Tesoro, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A poll, that fell short in the final. The Titans beat CdM 59-52 at Woodbridge High.
“We had three really close games, really good defensive games for us, and really fought hard as a team,” said Schimmelpfennig, who dished out 26 assists and made the all-tournament team. “The last game didn’t go our way, but it opened up for us in the sense that we know what to do [in these situations] later on and we know how to finish games well. We figured out in the tournament that our success will come through defending and rebounding.”
CdM last season failed to win 20 games for the first time since 2011-12, so there’s great hunger, Schimmelpfennig said, to challenge for league and CIF titles. The competition will be tougher in the Sunset Conference’s Surf League and in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs. Schachter said he wouldn’t be shocked if the Sea Kings made a deep run or lost in the first round.
Schimmelpfennig, who is averaging 5.9 assists, 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds through a dozen games, is key to whatever success the Sea Kings find. They went into Friday with a 7-5 overall record.
Maybe we can plug in any other guy who can make a shot, but we don’t have another guy to plug in and to be the leader and the playmaker that he is.
Schachter calls Schimmelpfennig his MVP, the engine of the offense and the head of the snake for the defense. Schimmelpfennig is pass-first point guard, who is taking the role as offensive engine to another level.
He and the Sea Kings embrace a new challenge in the new four-team Surf League, which also features Newport Harbor and Edison, which shared the Sunset League title last season, and Los Alamitos.
“He runs the team,” Schachter said of Schimmelpfennig. “Maybe we can plug in any other guy who can make a shot, but we don’t have another guy to plug in and to be the leader and the playmaker that he is.”
CdM has a pair of natural shooters in Jake Hamilton and Jack Stone, a strong-shooting post in Jack Garza, and a superior athlete in John Humphreys, who missed the Edison and Tesoro games last week while on a football recruiting visit to the University of Notre Dame. Schimmelpfennig orchestrates.
“Over the years, I’ve always been a pass-first point guard, which has helped me,” said Schimmelpfennig, who has played the position since he was in elementary school. “I’ve had a real connection with [my teammates], growing up with them. I kind of know what they’re doing, feel what they’re going to do, and get them the ball easily.
“[Playing the point] gives me the opportunity to see the whole court and kind of captain the offense and the defense. I bring the ball up the court and can look to get certain guys open or give the ball to certain guys in key moments, and then on the defensive side, me and [Garza] sort of control the defense with talking and getting people in the right situation, the right positions.”
Schimmelpfennig, who plans to play intramural basketball and club lacrosse at Texas Christian University next year, was one of two point guards in his class, and the program split up him and Luke Chelf so each could develop on their own. They were expected to compete for the starting job last summer, but Chelf decided not to play his senior season.
“At that point, we knew for sure it was going to be Connor’s team to run,” Schachter said. “I think that gave him more confidence to not have to worry ‘if I make a mistake, I’m coming out,’ or ‘I have to be better than somebody else.’ He has the freedom now where he’s not afraid to make a mistake, and he has really blossomed.”
Schimmelpfennig averaged just six minutes a game last season as one of two understudies to senior Ben Coffman, who ran the Sea Kings’ offense for three years. He calls Coffman “a really good mentor.”
“I think he learned from Ben that you can be very impactful without scoring a lot,” Schachter said. “Ben didn’t really score a lot for us as well, but Ben was a tremendous asset to the team. I think Schim kind of learned from that and was able to make it his own and improve upon it, in a way. He’s trying to take it to another level. I think he has.
“I don’t think in 13 years we’ve had a guy put up the assists he does. Connor’s at about six [per game] right now, and I think he’s just going to get better. We’re running harder and guys are starting to learn, ‘Hey, if I get out and run, Connor’s going to find me.’ He’s definitely a willing passer.”
Born: Feb. 9, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 165 pounds
Coach: Ryan Schachter
Favorite food: Hamburger
Favorite movie: “Space Jam”
Favorite athletic moment: “Just playing basketball and hanging out with the guys.”
Week in review: Schimmelpfennig finished with 26 assists in four games last week, helping the Sea Kings reach the final of the Gary Raya SoCal Elite Tournament on Dec. 15.
SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottJFrench