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Despite his world travels as a basketball player and businessman, former Valparaiso High School, University of Arizona and Valparaiso University basketball star Casey Schmidt keeps coming back to the region.

Though he was born in Chicago and spent most of his growing years in Ohio, Schmidt said Valparaiso is his home.

"We love the community, and my wife Monica and I think it is a great place to raise our family," Schmidt said. "It is a little tough with the commute, but we make it work."

The commute is not to Chicago, but to and from Hattiesburg, Miss., where Schmidt is vice president of Associated Contractors, Inc. His firm, with his partner Elliot Bates, specializes in roofing and sheet metal. The company does a lot of work on schools, police and fire stations and government buildings. Schmidt makes it home every other week.

Schmidt, who went to three different high schools, starting in Chillicothe, Ohio, is used to the travel. His dad was transferred to Cincinnati, where he attended Princeton High School. The latter part of his junior year, his dad was transferred to Chicago and his family moved to Valparaiso. He graduated from Valparaiso High School in 1989 and Valparaiso University in 1995.

"It was tough at first because I had not played in the system, but we had a good group of guys," Schmidt said. "What was amazing was how much I moved around and the college scouts still found me."

While at Valpo High, he committed to Arizona and was named an Indiana All-Star. Schmidt was also the Vikings' most valuable player and an all-Duneland Athletic Conference pick.

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"It was a big honor because I had only played in Indiana for one year, but it was a thrill," Schmidt said. "This is such a big game between Kentucky and Indiana and to be a part of that tradition is really great."

After two years at Arizona, he got homesick for his new-found home and transferred to join the Crusaders.

"A lot of people told me I was crazy, but it was the right move," Schmidt said. "Valpo has good fans and I got to play at home and for a great guy like Homer Drew. I love Arizona and I love Lute Olson, but I wanted to come home.

"When I was going to transfer, I called Dave Redmond (another Valparaiso High star) who was at Arkansas-Little Rock. I said, 'Dave, I'm coming home. Why don't you join me?' He did and it was great."

In 1994, the Crusaders had their first 20-win season in Division I, laying the groundwork for the future success of the program.

"We had a good team and we had locals on it," Schmidt said. "I end up in the school's Hall of Fame and that in itself means a lot because, remember, I only played two years at VU."

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.