While warming up for his team's recent game against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, East Tennessee State freshman guard Morrell Schramm, ball in hand, eyed down defender and teammate Ty Brewer.
He took a hard dribble right, stepped back and shot over Brewer, hitting nothing but net. Ecstatic, he looked over at ETSU assistant (and former UTC assistant) Turner Battle and yelled, "Did you see that?"
Those are the moments that Schramm has had to hold onto in his first season in Johnson City. Awarded a spot as a preferred walk-on this past summer for the Southern Conference program and UTC rival, the 6-foot-2 former East Hamilton and Cleveland standout turned down scholarship opportunities at lower levels to take on the challenge of playing for a Division I school. It's been rough at times as Schramm has only played in five games, but he made the only shot he took, a 3-pointer in the final moments of the Bucs' 112-84 win over Citadel on Jan. 30.
He bet on himself before when he made the decision to transfer to Cleveland as a senior and averaged 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals in helping lead the program to a 33-1 record and a spot in the 2020 Class AAA state tournament, which was canceled due to COVID-19. So he's had no problem betting on himself again.
"I've always been kind of in the shadow," Schramm said last week. "I think people don't really understand my potential, and I just keep quiet and put my head down and keep working hard every day. That's what I've been doing every day now, and I feel like it's all going to pay off."
Schramm pointed to his mom Stephanie and his family as his motivation, noting that his mom "works her butt off and is paying for my school."
"I'm just grinding every day for her, and I think once I get the opportunity (to get on the court) they're going to be happy with me, and they're going to like me," he said.
It was his high school pedigree that drew the attention of first-year ETSU head coach Jason Shay.
"When you come from a winning program, I think you understand sacrifice," Shay said. "It's not about you, it's about how you can help the team within that role and how can I get better. So he brings some toughness from playing on a winning team that I like, and I think he's shooting the ball better — I don't know that he was that good of a shooter coming out of high school.
"But he's a great teammate and when you're part of that type of culture, you bring that to ours and I just see those intangibles as super important moving forward, and hopefully eventually that'll help him as he tries to get into the rotation."
Until then, Schramm just keeps working — all the while with a chip on his shoulder. Maybe down the road there will be an opportunity for him to earn a spot in the rotation. It's been a redshirt year of sorts for him, with players maintaining their current year of eligibility, so getting just a few minutes of on-court time can be beneficial going forward. Not to mention the practice time, which has helped aid in his development.
"I've always been doubted. I've always been counted out," Schramm said. "People have been unsure about me, so you have to go out and bet on yourself that you can prove them wrong.
"You don't really have to talk about it, you just work. And that's what I've been doing."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.