COLFAX — The Colfax Vikings were eyeing a deep playoff run in 2018. After three straight losses to start the year, coach Garrett Maas righted the ship and with George Scharlau at the helm the Vikings were sailing late into the season. But all the optimism came to a sudden stop in the second half of a late January game against Boyceville.
“George went up for a dunk and got undercut a little bit,” George’s father, John Scharlau said. “He was kind of horizontal about six feet in the air.”
When he crashed down, the Vikings’ season was in shambles.
“I rolled over and I looked at my arm and there was a big lump,” George said. “I tried to move my fingers and they could barely move, they just twitched a little.”
George lay there stunned for a moment. The team’s trainer quickly came over to help immobilize his arm. After a few minutes, he got up and was taken to the hospital by his father.
“He got in the truck and he just broke down,” John said.
George said he was overwhelmed with emotions. He had worked so hard dedicating himself to basketball since middle school, but one freak accident had instantly ripped it all away.
At the hospital, a surgeon reconstructed his right wrist with 11 screws and a metal plate. When he emerged the next day, George just wanted to get to back his team.
With his arm bandaged up, George returned to the sidelines to cheer on his team for the remainder of the season. But without their star player, the Vikings suffered. Colfax lost nine of its last 10 games, including a first-round loss in the WIAA playoffs.
The injury was demoralizing for the team. George had been leading the Vikings in scoring, rebounding and blocks when he went down.
“The team kind of felt like he died,” John said. “It’s like they were almost in mourning.”
But, despite the team’s struggles on the court, George was learning from his new spot on the bench. He says he realized the importance of passing up good shots for great shots. He learned that he needed to facilitate more and rely more heavily on his teammates.
Away from the court, the recovery was arduous. He says he went from curling 30-pound weights to struggling to curl two pounds.
“There were always times where I questioned [continuing to play],” George said. “But I just love the sport too much to quit.”
At first, when he returned to playing basketball in April, he was hesitant to try dunking the ball. Over the summer, playing AAU basketball with Wisconsin City Hoops Select he struggled with his confidence. But, by the time the high school season rolled around he was ready to go.
This season, George is more selfless than ever before. While most star seniors want to make the most of their last year by lighting up the scoreboard, George has seen his point totals decrease from his junior season. It’s a two points-per-game drop off, but with it has come an increase in scoring efficiency, assists and rebounding.
“When I get other people good shots it gets the team involved and I think when everyone is involved we play better,” George said.
Maas says George is probably the most unselfish player in the area.
“If a guy is open, no matter who it is, he’s going to make the right play and throw it to him,” Maas said. “Honestly, at times, I wish he was more selfish and forced up a shot.”
Senior guard Ben Thompson has been a beneficiary of George’s selfless play.
“Most people focus on him and don’t realize that I’m really good,” Thompson said. “That’s why I get a lot of points coming from him.”
Thompson has increased his scoring by almost three points this season and is the second leading scorer in the Dunn-St. Croix conference, trailing only Avery Hoepner from Mondovi.
Off the court, Maas says George is a leader. He’s always the hardest working player in practice and when his teammates start dogging it, he’ll always get on them to work harder.
“He’s by far the best leader I’ve ever had,” said Maas, who is in his sixth year as the head coach and 13th coaching at Colfax. “I hope every high school coach gets a chance to coach someone like George.”
When the Vikings take the court Thursday night in Menomonie for their sectional semifinal game against Clear Lake, George will be hoping it’s not his last at Colfax.
He’ll be nervous. He’s always nervous before big games.
“If you’re not nervous then it doesn’t mean anything to you,” he said.
The Vikings lack playoff experience and they’ll be up against a tough Clear Lake Warriors team lead by 6-foot-5 senior Bailey Blanchard. If Colfax is going to win, George is going to have to use his stellar defense to contain Blanchard. Otherwise, it’ll be the end of the road for one of Colfax’s best.