Matt Stauter says he's been playing basketball since he was able to walk.
His playing days started in the Stauter family's living room.
"We had a little hoop set up there and I'd shoot all the time," said Stauter, a probable all-state first team pick. "There was just no way my family was going to get me out of there."
Stauter continued to hone his talents, playing thousands of pickup games during offseasons at the court near the swimming pool in Fonda.
"When there wasn't a game going on," he remembered, "I'd just go somewhere else and shoot around by myself."
All the hard work paid off for Stauter. He started three years for Paul Loos' Newell-Fonda boys basketball team, leading the team to a 51-8 mark during that stretch. The Mustangs were 18-5 Stauter's sophomore year, 27-1 last year and state runners-up as a junior and 26-2 this past season, when N-F finished fourth in the state.
"It's hard to put into words what basketball has meant to me," Stauter said. "It's taught me so much and I've have a lot of close friends because of it.'
One thing it's gotten Stauter his recognition. This season, he is the Pilot-Tribune's Area Player of the Year.
That will probably be the least of Stauter's honors after his basketball playing days are done. But that's not going to be any time soon.
Buena Vista, Simpson College, Wartburg and Northwestern College are just a few of the schools currently recruiting Stauter to play for them next winter season.
"I just want to keep playing," said Stauter. "But I'm not sure where that will be next year."
During his his school career, Stauter scored xx points, added xx rebounds, xxx assists and xx rebounds.
During his senior season, the 6-2 senior guard/forward averaged 20.8 points per game, five assists per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.
According to Loos, Stauter was a natural when it came to offense, having skills that you just can't teach.
"He was always a great natural offensive player," said Loos Sunday night. "He could always drive to the hoop, penetrate the defense, and he was a great passer and shooter. But what impressed me about Matt was how hard he worked on his defense. Over his three-year career, he became a much better defensive player. He led our team in deflections this season."
Stauter, Loos said, was the focal point of the Mustangs' offense for the past two seasons. Teams had to stop him first before they thought about any thing else in their defensive game plan.
Stauter was also known for his clutch shot-making ability. This season, he made key shots late in the two wins over Alta. Then there was the win in the substate finals two weeks ago against LeMars Gehlen.
Down by one point with less than two minutes left, a Gehlen player threw downcourt to what looked like a wide-open player who could go in for a layup and a three-point lead.
Instead, Stauter came out of nowhere to intercept the down-court pass. On the other end, he shot from in close, and his senior teammate, Austin Wells, made a key rebound on the miss. Wells got the ball back in the hands of Stauter, who made a two-point shot from inside the lane, was fouled and made the free throw.
That gave Newell-Fonda a two-point lead, one that they never relinquished in the 86-83 win.
"Matt had a lot of shots and games like that over the years," added Loos. "He always wanted the ball in critical situations. In the wins over Alta this season, both his shots late in the game gave us leads we never lost."
Stauter has other favorite moments in his career. As a junior playing at Pomeroy-Palmer, he hit a long three-point shot with under five seconds left to force overtime in a game the Mustangs won in the extra period by five points.
"I'll remember that shot for a long time, and my first dunk, which I got in a home game my junior year," Stauter said. "There will be so many memories of high school basketball."
Stauter, who ranks xxth on the Newell-Fonda scoring list, is just another one of the perhaps legendary players who have played for the Mustangs and their vaunted basketball tradition."
His older brother Bob was a bench player on the Mustangs' 1997 state championship team. And even to this day at the pickup games at the N-F gym or the swimming pool court, past members of state championship teams play with and against each other.
"There's always a lot of basketball stories that get tossed around," Stauter said.
In short, he said, winning breeds winning.
"When the guys on this year's team were all young, we remember watching the guys ahead of us win state championships," Stauter said. "We wanted to do the same thing, and winning, not putting up great stats, was always the most important thing.
"That, more than anything, helped us become a good team these past few years. We just wanted to be part of the Newell-Fonda basketball tradition."
Stauter did that and more. Now, he's looking forward to playing at the college level.
"I just enjoy the game," he said. "I love playing it and watching it and am looking forward to college ball."