When Pacific University basketball player Erica Schultz studied abroad for a semester in Spain, she mostly heard — and spoke — Spanish.
The experience helped her drastically improve her understanding of the language, which she has grown to adore.
WHO: Pacific University senior forward/guard Erica Schultz leads the Boxers in points (14.2), steals (2.8), assists (2.1) and blocks (1.2).
UP NEXT: Friday, Whitman at Pacific, 6 p.m.
"I love knowing another language," the former North Medford High standout says. "It makes me feel like there is another part of the world I can be connected with."
A couple of years ago, the 5-foot-10 college senior found another part of the hardwood on which to be successful after she moved from the post position to the wing and guard positions.
Schultz changed spots after her freshman campaign in Forest Grove, where she averaged 9.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds.
The role reversal proved beneficial.
Schultz turned in 10.1 points a night her sophomore year and led the Boxers in scoring with 13.3 points her junior season.
Now, the Spanish major (and ceramic arts minor) paces her team in points (14.2), steals (2.8), assists (2.1) and blocks (1.2). She also averages 5.6 rebounds.
"One of the big things for me is I don't like to be a very physical player," says the 21-year-old Schultz, who has also visited Peru. "I am not about bodying someone up and making post moves. I am more finesse, so what I do now works a lot better."
In Pacific's motion offense, Schultz has honed two of her strengths: driving to the basket.
"I'm more confident with the ball when it comes to shooting and scoring," says Schultz, who finished her prep career at North Medford in 2008 as the program's all-time scoring leader. "I started driving more toward the end of my senior year in high school. I was always a post."
During a weekend last month, Schultz averaged 29 points, six rebounds, 41/2 steals and 21/2 blocks in two games, a 72-52 victory at Willamette on Jan. 6 and a 65-55 loss to undefeated George Fox the next night. D3hoops.com selected her to its weekly "Team of the Week" for her efforts.
"I am kind of modest, I don't like to talk about it," Schultz says of her performance. "From my perspective, I got lucky having two games like that in a row. It just felt right ... It was great to have a game like that against a team like George Fox, but I wish we would have won that game."
Her individual success has come amid a year of recent struggles for Pacific, which has lost seven of its last nine contests and stands 11-9 overall and 4-8 in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference.
The Boxers opened the year 9-3, the school's best start since the 1992-93 season. Despite the ensuing losses, the four-year starter said the atmosphere and chemistry have never been better.
"It's definitely a big turnaround from the previous season," says Schultz, whose team finished 7-18 last year. "This year has been really good. Last year there was a lot of individual ball. People would take it upon themselves to make a difference, which is fine but you can't take a team one-on-five. It takes a team."
Pacific hosts Whitman (12-9, 8-4 NWC) at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Boxers, who are tied for sixth place in the nine-team conference, have four regular-season games remaining. The NWC Tournament begins Feb. 23 in Forest Grove.
No matter where she may be on the floor, Schultz has made a strong connection with her Pacific teammates.
"She is one of those players you can always count on to do the big things and the little things for you," Pacific junior Paige Jensen says of Schultz. "She is the backbone of our team. Whenever we need a score, whenever we need a stop, we go to her."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com