Will Tschetter made history on Monday when he announced that he will play college basketball at Michigan.
Tschetter will be the first Stewartville graduate to play Big Ten basketball.
But he might have also made a small mistake.
Now that his whirlwind recruitment is finally over, he’s going to have a little more time on his hands. Kasey Morlock knows how to put her sons to work. The family farm will have calves to take care of, a garden to tend and a whole bunch of hay to bale. There’s a never-ending list of things to do on a farm.
“I was talking to my dad this morning, and we just got a lot of hay in,” Morlock said. “He goes, ‘Oh, can Will drive the truck so we can pick it up?’ Yes, he can! Because he’s so much more free now! Maybe, he made a mistake of not waiting until the end of the summer.”
But a year from now, Tschetter might not have time for chores., all because a hot-shot college basketball coach fell in love with a once-under-the-radar, sweet-shooting kid from a town of 5,900 people.
Morlock loves to work hard and also play hard. She’s a self-made woman, propelling herself to become one of the best Stewartville girls’ basketball players of all time. She was named Minnesota's Miss Basketball in 1993, while also earning First Team Class A All-State honors by the Associated Press.
Morlock turned down high-major offers –– including one from the University of Minnesota –– to go to North Dakota State. She finished her college career as NDSU’s all-time leading scorer with 2,233 points, holds 13 school records, and is in the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame.
Will's dad, Garth Tschetter, was a wide receiver for the NDSU football team in the 1990s.
So, it’s not a huge surprise that Will Tschetter is a heck of an athlete. It’s in his DNA.
Originally, coaches didn’t want him to play basketball. Minnesota football pleaded with him to consider playing tight end. A 6-foot-8 tight end would be a matchup nightmare in the red zone, and plenty of other Big Ten football programs were all over Tschetter, who is Stewartville's starting quarterback in the fall.
But basketball is his true love. There’s a full basketball court right in the middle of all the farm equipment at his house. During Minnesota’s vicious winters, Tschetter regularly shoveled off the court so he could get more jumpers up. No amount of snow could deter him from practicing.
He started to attract serious attention from recruiters last summer on the AAU circuit. His play last winter solidified the fact that he was a high-major player. As a junior, Tschetter led the state in scoring at 33.4 points per game, and more and more big-time programs started to sniff around.
“I coached in Rochester when there were a couple Division I-caliber athletes in there,” Stewartville head coach Adam Girtman said. “I kept going back to what he was as a freshman, and he was ahead of them. And then his sophomore year, he was better and grew better and still growing into his body. Last year, he finally grew into his body. There was no awkwardness. All the time he put in, paid off. I thought he could play in the Big Ten, but you’re never certain, right? And then this spring came and the offers just started coming in. I knew he could probably play Division I as a freshman, as long as he continued to work. If he continued to work, I thought he’d get there.”
Michigan wasn’t Tschetter's first Power Five offer. That honor belongs to Eric Musselman and Arkansas. The Razorbacks loved what they saw in Tschetter and thought he was good enough to play in the SEC.
But on June 1, the Wolverines became the first Big Ten school to offer the Stewartville superstar. Nebraska and Minnesota pulled the trigger a few hours later, and Iowa added itself to the mix on June 23.
Even before Michigan coach Juwan Howard extended Tschetter a scholarship offer, he was already well on his way to making a strong impression on Tschetter.
Tschetter’s June schedule was crammed with Zoom calls, and Howard blew away Morlock and the rest of Tschetter's family.
“I found him to be incredibly sincere,” Morlock said. “His manners are impeccable. He has an amazing life story that Will is going to learn from. He is incredibly proud of the University of Michigan. He told the story about the time he was doing Michigan homework on the plane during his first year in the NBA. The character is just top-notch. When you think of the ’30 for 30’ documentary, you kind of forget about that because he’s so unassuming when you talk to him. He really wants to get to know his players, so I think he’s going to be really fun to play for.”
FOURTH OF JULY VISIT
Tschetter just had to know. The COVID-19 pandemic has made recruiting anything but ordinary. Howard and ace assistant Phil Martelli had done everything right throughout the recruiting process.
Howard talked to Tschetter about how much he loved that he played quarterback. Howard is a big football fan and promised Tschetter that he’d come by Stewartville to catch a football game this fall. He told Tschetter how he wanted to dance at his wedding one day.
But Tschetter still had some doubts. He didn’t want to make his college decision without visiting the campus. The plan was to hold off until the NCAA allowed on-campus official visits. He wanted to see and experience what the school could potentially be like before pulling the trigger.
However, the NCAA pushed the recruiting dead period back to Aug. 31, meaning no in-person recruiting was allowed.
So, Tschetter and Morlock took matters into their own hands.
On July 4, the mother-son duo hopped in the car and made the 588-mile drive from Stewartville to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“We didn’t think there was going to be a lot of traffic around Chicago during the Fourth of July,” Tschetter told the Post Bulletin. “We got there and we walked around campus even though we couldn’t see the coaches. We just wanted to make sure we got the right feel for the program. We got kind of a glimpse at the campus and we got to walk around the town. We didn’t get to have any contact with anybody so it was a little weird.”
Pre-COVID-19, Tschetter’s visit to Ann Arbor would’ve been flashy and extravagant. Michigan would’ve footed the bill for all the expenses. Tschetter probably would’ve taken his official visit on a Saturday when Michigan football hosted a Big Ten rival. He would’ve been there to see the Big House packed to the rafters.
But this was different. It was just a mom and a son trying to find their way around a huge –– but quiet –– campus.
“It was a really good experience,” Morlock said. “As a mom, I just loved seeing how excited he was. It’s a really big campus. Will is kind of an adventurous kid, so it was cool to see him be excited about it where I’d be overwhelmed. It was a really great day. We got our steps in for sure!”
There were no brochures to break down Michigan’s strong academic programs. There were no guided tours of the basketball facilities or a look at where Tschetter might live during his freshman year. He didn’t get to meet his potential teammates or pick up some free gear.
But as Morlock and Tschetter wrapped up their self-guided tour and prepared for the nearly nine-hour drive home, Tschetter had made up his mind. Ann Arbor was going to be his home.
“It just felt right,” Tschetter said. “The vision that they have for me, playing in their system and the level of trust that they’ve instilled in me. And getting to know the coaches and how genuine they are. That’s why I picked Michigan. It fit me so well.”
Tschetter spent all of Sunday calling coaches of the schools he didn't choose and informing them of his decision.
“Obviously, it was tough telling all the schools ‘no,’ especially the schools that have been recruiting me for a year and a half,” Tschetter said. “It was definitely tough yesterday calling up those coaches.”
Morlock and Tschetter have a connection that’s even deeper than a typical mother and son. They both have a love for basketball and the miles they’ve spent in the car together traveling to AAU tournaments would make Morlock “sad if I tried to tally it all up.”
So, when Morlock talks, Tschetter listens.
She knows what it’s like to go through a recruitment and make some hard choices.
“Yeah, she definitely gave me some advice and things to look for,” Tschetter said. “We made a pros and cons list of every school. How I would fit at each school and what they had to offer and what I had to offer them. She was so helpful.”
Morlock added: “I hate to say this but there are so many schools that you almost start forgetting some details. It all runs together. Really, I wanted him to stay focused. Does it really matter about the dorms? Nope. Does it really matter if it’s a new locker room? Nope. I really wanted us to stay focused on the coaches and the school. Will is a relationship kid. It just kept coming back to the relationship with the coaches.”
Howard prioritized their relationship from Day One. And that’s why Tschetter is going to be a Wolverine.
“You spend so much time with the coaches and your team, so you have to really enjoy them,” Morlock said. “My coaches have had such a big impact on my life still to this day. So a big thing is definitely, ‘Is this person a good person?’ And that’s the thing with Coach Howard. His humbleness. Phil Martelli was incredibly sincere. They’re really down-to-earth guys that you feel comfortable with.”
Howard is a big-time name who is well-known around the basketball world. He’s closing in on 60,000 followers on Twitter, even though he set up his account just one year ago. After his years with Michigan's Fab Five in the early 1990s, he was the No. 5 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. He made close to $150 million throughout his 19-year career in the NBA.
And he fell in love with Tschetter, a small-town kid who doesn’t have a social media account. Tschetter isn’t ranked among the top-100 recruits in the Class of 2021 by Rivals or 247Sports. But Howard wants him. He believes Tschetter can develop into a staple of the Michigan program.
“They’ve kind of expressed, ‘Be yourself,’” Tschetter said. “They want me to have the ‘Michigan Experience.’ Some could compare me to some of their forwards from the past, but they want their recruits to blaze their own path.”
Tschetter could be Michigan’s next Isaiah Livers or Franz Wagner. Livers knocked down 40 percent of his 3-pointers last season and is getting feedback from the NBA. Wagner was one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten last year with a high upside. Tschetter currently joins Oak Park (Illinois) forward Isaiah Barnes to help Michigan form the No. 13 recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports.
“Will can do a little bit of everything,” Girtman said. “He can score from the outside. If he has a bigger guy on him, he can blow by him. If he has a smaller guy on him, he can post him up and he has an array of post moves. I’m so happy to see a kid who works so hard get what he deserves.”
Stewartville had never produced a Big Ten basketball player until Tschetter. He might be the first, but he certainly doesn’t want to be the last.
“I feel like I want to inspire other kids,” Tschetter said. “Not only in this school but in this area, to have big dreams and that they can do it too, no matter what.”