Wrightstown’s Sam Haese is using his sharpshooter mentality to attract interest from mid-major D-I/D-II colleges
By Greg Bates
The Haese name has become synonymous with basketball in Wrightstown.
With Cory being the head boys’ basketball coach, he’s been able to coach all three of his boys. The two oldest, Zac and Luke, both had phenomenal high school careers and were named North Eastern Conference Player of the Year, respectively, during their senior years.
But arguably best shooter in the Haese family has one final season remaining in his high school career. Sam is coming off a solid junior campaign and he’s trying live up to the reputation his brothers established and become one of the top basketball players in northeastern Wisconsin.
“I guess there’s a little bit of pressure just because of my last name,” Sam said. “I know other coaches for other teams, when they’re doing their scouting report, they’ll just see that I’m the coach’s kid or they’ll remember my two brothers and know that I should be a good shooter because they are and they know that I love to score.”
Yes, Sam loves to score. And he’s good at it. As a first-year starter his junior year, Sam put up 367 points in his team’s 25 games, averaging a high-leading 14.7 points per contest. He had five 20-plus-point games, including a career-high 37 points against Denmark on Jan. 9. Sam averaged 7.8 points a night off the bench as a sophomore.
With a strong senior class graduating after Sam’s sophomore year, he knew he would have to step up as an upperclassmen and be one of the main scorers. He did just that.
“I kind of knew I had to step up in scoring-wise, especially because our going-to-be senior class didn’t have a lot of scorers on the team,” said Sam, who earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior. “They were more role players and good screeners and good defenders.”
Cory saw an improved and confident player on the court with his son’s jump from sophomore to junior year.
“Every time he touched the ball and was in a position to make a play, he was confident he was going to make it, as were his teammates,” Cory said. “He got a little bit bigger and stronger as the year went on. He was able to create a little bit off the bounce. And he’s always been a deadly shooter. He shot the ball really well and his statistics proved that, and from long range.”
Sam, who is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, is known for his ability to catch and shoot, especially behind the 3-point line. He finished 73-for-182 (40.1%) on 3-pointers last season. During his coming out game against Denmark, Sam was a school-record 11-for-18 on 3s.
How has Sam become such a sharpshooter?
“I think just being in the gym with my dad ever since I was a little kid, going to his practices when I was in elementary and middle school,” said Sam, who on weekends during the summer generally puts up 1,000 shots. “I basically grew up in the gym.”
Sam has been working on his game to become not so one-dimensional. He’d like to create shots off the dribble and get to the basket where he can either shoot or dish off to his teammates.
“I’m working on my quickness so I can blow by people,” Sam said. “Since I’m such a good shooter, my shot fake could really fool defenders and then I can get to the rim and try and create and pass to my teammates or maybe even score.”
Sam is a shooting guard for his high school squad, but he could potentially be at 2/3 in college if he continues to grow.
During his senior season, Sam need to show his full repertoire to get some good college looks.
“Good or bad, he’s not selfish at all,” Cory said. “He’s not going to take bad shots. He’s not going to force issues. We graduated a lot of guys, so our depth isn’t going to be as strong. He’s going to have to play more minutes, which means he’s going to have to play harder for longer periods of time. We’re definitely expecting big things.”
During the stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sam was able to take advantage and work out quite a bit and also shoot. Without weights at home, Sam resorted to activities such as jumping rope, running ladders as well as yoga every Wednesday.
“I really think he got big, faster, stronger, quicker, more explosive since the middle of March when our season ended being home during the pandemic and working out,” Cory said. “He’s been working out on his body a lot. He loves football as well, so he and his teammates are geared up and they’re chatting with each social media-wise as far as getting workouts in.”
The basketball hoop at the Haese house has gotten its fair share of use over the years.
The three brothers would often play games. Zac is five years older than Sam, while Luke is two years older than Sam.
“We would play 1-on-1-on-1 in the driveway and they kind of whooped me a little bit because they were just bigger and stronger,” Sam said. “They’d probably whoop me still, but I think it just makes me mentally tougher and physically tougher.”
The success that Zac and Luke have had on the court has been a positive for Sam.
“They’re both gone at college, so they haven’t seen a whole lot of his games in the last few years since they’ve been gone,” Cory said. “But growing up, they’d always come and watch all of his youth games and obviously critique him – older brothers are a little more harsh than moms and dads and coaches are sometimes.”
Zac, a 2016 Wrightstown graduate, played at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and just wrapped up his career. Luke is a 2018 Wrightstown graduate who played at UW-La Crosse as a freshman.
With Sam having the opportunity to play streetball against his brothers, it made him a better player.
“Definitely it makes him stronger and tougher and just a better overall player, especially with his mental toughness, being able to handle those guys,” Cory said.
As Sam looks to his senior season, he wants to help his team win – he’s been an integral part in Wrightstown winning 44 of 50 games in his two varsity seasons – and up his game. What pushes Sam even more is knowing his brothers both won North Eastern Conference Player of the Year honors as seniors and they both hold some records that are within reach of Sam.
“I’d love to break some of them and try to become better than my brothers were,” Sam said. “So, I guess that kind of gives me a level that I want to get to just so I can have some bragging rights to my brothers.”
Zac is currently second on Wrightstown’s all-time scoring list with 1,181 points. Sam is sitting at 561 career points, which means he would need 620 points to tie his brother; he would have to average a gaudy 24.8 points in 25 games as a senior. Luke finished his career with 821 points.
Zac is currently in second place all-time in made 3-pointers with 182, while Luke is third at 161. Sam has 130 makes in his first two seasons and needs 68 in his final season to break Mitch Schaeuble’s school record.
Ready to Make an Impression
With COVID-19 limiting the normally aggressive AAU basketball schedule this summer, Sam isn’t going to be able to get as many opportunities to show college recruiters his game.
Sam is playing for the Wisconsin Blizzard 17U Emery Association team, which is co-coached by his dad.
“I’m just trying to get my highlight film out there from my junior season and then take advantage of the tournaments that I do have for AAU in July,” said Sam, who was named to Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s Division 3 All-State team last season.
When Sam played for the Blizzard last summer, being able to play with and against some of the top players in the state and country really upped his game.
He knows he needs to show a number of specific things to coaches this summer.
“I think most coaches that are looking at me know that I can shoot, they just want to see me do more with quickness-wise and defensively and be able to blow by the defender,” Sam said.
Recruiters will be glued to Sam this summer. He has the talent to play at many levels. Sam’s collegiate future will be determined by how well he plays on the AAU circuit and his senior season.
“He’s been getting some phone calls, some different things,” Cory said. “I think if we are able to play AAU in July, the D-IIs, the NAIAs, the D-IIIs are all going to be out there in numbers really trying to get a lot of recruiting in in a month. … He’s a shooter. He’s going to get out and prove that he can move laterally to be able to be able to defend at a high level and just his overall strength and rebounding.”
Cory believes Sam has a shot at playing at the Division I level. One of the Green Bay assistant coaches went to a couple of Sam’s games and talked to Cory about his son prior to head coach Linc Darner and his staff being let go in mid-May. The Haeses aren’t sure what will happen with recruiting from Green Bay since new head coach Will Ryan stepped in.
“That would be a dream school for him, I think,” Cory said.
Midwest Collegiate Prospects owner Jon Larson has communicated with a number of Division I schools, including Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, Eastern Illinois, South Dakota State and Air Force Academy.
Division II schools Nova Southeastern, Northwest Missouri State and Davenport have also expressed interest in Sam. Plenty of Division III programs have talked to Sam, including UW-La Crosse, Milwaukee School of Engineering, St. Norbert and Macalester (St. Paul).
Sam knows if he keeps working, he can make a big impact on whatever program he plays at.
“I’ll just do whatever they tell me to do and I’ll more than what they tell me to do,” Sam said. “I think when I play basketball, I’m basically like an extra coach on the court and I know what’s going on. So, I think that makes the team better as being a good leader.”