Jim Schmidt, a player whose career was interrupted by World War II, joined the hall of Fame in 1975. Nicknamed “Sunny Jim” or “Smilin’ Jim”, he was a key player on the Jackrabbits’ title-winning basketball team of 1943, then came back to star in the 1947 and 1948 seasons. He earned all-conference honors all three seasons.
He served in the Marine Corps in the interim years and his basketball career included a starting position with Northwestern University of the Big Ten, where he was temporarily stationed during wartime. His running mate at forward that year was Otto Graham, who went on to a brilliant career as a quarterback and head coach in the National Football League.
Schmidt led the North Central Conference in scoring in 1947 and 1948. As a senior, he averaged 16.6 points per game, leading the team in scoring in 16 of the 24 games with a season high 30 against Morningside. The 6-2 Schmidt played both forward and center for the Jacks, and was known as the “underhanded shooting wizard” for his abilities in dropping in layups and drawing fouls. Schmidt was named the state’s top college athlete in 1947 in a poll conducted by the Aberdeen American News for his basketball exploits and for his pole-vaulting abilities.
After graduating with a B.S. degree in mathematics in 1948, Schmidt had an exhibition season tryout with the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA. He also played with the Quantico Marines while in the service during the Korean Conflict. That team was the all-Marine Corps champions in 1952.
Schmidt described the Jackrabbit offense while he was a player as “basically run, run, run.” Jack Frost, for whom Frost Arena was named, was his coach in 1948.
Schmidt and his wife, Ann, have 12 children, six of whom attended SDSU.