STEWARTVILLE, MINN. — Evening basketball practice is still a few hours away, which gives Will Tschetter enough time and daylight to feed the cattle grazing outside his home.
He throws on rubber boots and sloshes through a mixture of snow, mud and water to fill and refill buckets of corn feed. He starts with the 2-year-olds first. Then he climbs over a railing into the pen that holds the 1-year-olds.
"I don't think you'll want to come in here," he says to a visitor, noting the mess at his feet.
A few days earlier, Tschetter helped wrangle all the cows on the farm, 35 or so, after two bulls arrived for breeding.
The next night he scored 35 points in a blowout win for the Stewartville boys' basketball team.
Many kids would have posted highlights of dunks and three-pointers on social media, except Tschetter (pronounced "cheddar") doesn't do social media. None of it. He tried Snapchat briefly but gave it up. Too much of a distraction, he says.
Tschetter is neither your average teenager nor your average high school athlete. He's committed to activities that give him balance and happiness, whether that be basketball, extracting maple syrup from a tree, taking care of pigs in the summer, playing trumpet in the marching band or fishing in the Root River off the banks of his family's 160-acre farm. (He beams with pride when sharing the story about the time he pulled a trout out of there.)
“He's humble, hard-working, high-character. Just everything you look for and who you want your kids to grow up and be.”
It is here, 12 miles south of Rochester in a town of 6,000, where you'll find the state's No. 2 basketball prospect, behind only Minnehaha Academy's Chet Holmgren, the nation's No. 1 recruit.
At 6-8 and 235 pounds, Tschetter led the state in scoring as a junior last season, averaging 34.4 points per game. He is so skilled as a power forward that he signed with Michigan as part of the No. 1 recruiting class in college basketball. He is averaging 33.2 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season.
Tschetter also started at quarterback for Stewartville and attracted interest from several Big Ten schools as a tight end, with a likely transition to offensive tackle at some point. No thanks, he said.
His bid to make straight A's throughout high school will come up just short because of an A-minus in Spanish his sophomore year. So he'll graduate with a 3.999 grade-point average instead.
"I was really bummed when I first saw it," he said. "I let it go last year. It's fine."
His basketball career hasn't followed the typical trajectory of a blue-chip prospect. He did not play on Stewartville's top travel teams in middle school, nor did he compete on shoe-sponsored AAU circuits with other elite prospects.
Mostly midmajor college programs showed interest in him until last spring when, in the middle of the pandemic shutdown, Michigan coaches contacted him. They requested all his junior season game footage, which began an unexpected courtship.
"I was like, 'No way this is actually happening,' " Tschetter said.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard might have had a similar thought when he called one day and Tschetter asked if he could call him back later because he was clearing rocks from a field. Chores first.
Tschetter committed to Michigan last summer after he and his mom cut short a family July 4th vacation to drive to Ann Arbor. The farm kid felt right at home on the big campus.
"Coach Howard said we want to win and have fun while we're doing it," Tschetter said. "That's what I want to do."
Shooting hoops, splitting wood
His parents know a little something about what's in store for the oldest of their three sons. His mom is Kasey Morlock, Minnesota's Miss Basketball winner at Stewartville High in 1993. She had offers from the Gophers and Nebraska but chose North Dakota State because her older sister had played in the same conference at Augustana.
Morlock led NDSU to three consecutive Division II championships as a three-time All-America, 1997 national player of the year and her program's all-time leading scorer. She was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.
Tschetter's dad, Garth, played wide receiver on the NDSU football team at that same time.
"I wasn't nearly as good as Kasey," he said, smiling.
Both were electrical engineering majors. Garth is a year younger. The girl he would marry was in his first college class.
Love at first sight?
"I remember that he walked in late," Kasey said. "I was like, who is this joker?"
"She was sitting in front," Garth noted.
They became a couple later in college, and they landed jobs at IBM in Rochester.
Morlock's dad had bought a farm in Stewartville to rent out when Kasey was in high school. Once Kasey resettled back home, she and Garth wanted more land and took over the century-old house.
They did extensive remodeling on the property, including on a "shed" that became a detached man cave with its large TV, foosball table, weightlifting area and mini-hoop bolted securely enough to the wall to withstand one of their son's two-handed dunks.
Morlock's parents have their own home on the property, just across the pasture. Her brother owns 80 acres down the road.
Grandpa tends to the crops. Garth, who still works as an engineer, handles a lot of the daily tasks with the cattle. Kasey oversees the birthing process. Their three boys help with gardening, maple-syruping, splitting wood, feeding the animals and baling hay.
"It's something that keeps me occupied," Tschetter said. "Instead of playing video games, I'm either playing basketball or I'm outside."
High feather, high-character
The family left the farm for two years when IBM gave Garth an assignment in Beijing. Will was a sixth-grader when they returned, and his athletic career began to take root.
He was tall but not a standout at that point. His mom coached his travel team in eighth grade and now coaches Stewartville's freshman boys' team.
Tschetter joined the Minnesota Heat AAU program the summer before his freshman year. His coach was Johnny Tauer, the national championship coach at University of St. Thomas.
Tauer encouraged Tschetter to start shooting from the outside, challenging him to break out of a comfort zone and match the profile of the modern "stretch four."
"He was like, 'Launch it, launch it,' " Tschetter said. "I was like, 'OK, here we go.' "
Off he went. His game blossomed through hours in the gym and on the large concrete court at home. He became not just a force inside but an accurate perimeter shooter, making 45% of his three-point attempts last season.
Tschetter stayed with that AAU team every summer rather than join a program that plays in the highest-profile national showcases. His reasoning was simple. He liked his teammates and enjoyed playing for Tauer so much that he kept soon-to-be Division I St. Thomas on his list of potential schools. All the parents got along and cheered for every kid's success.
"They took a chance on me, a small-town kid," Tschetter said.
Heat President Willie Vang and Tauer reminded Tschetter that college coaches will always find good players. Michigan did, and Tschetter felt an instant connection.
"You can do [recruiting] multiple ways," Morlock said.
The Tschetter family has a history of setting and keeping priorities. Tschetter missed the first day of the AAU state tournament one year because it interfered with his band performance.
“[Michigan coach Juwan] Howard said we want to win and have fun while we're doing it. That's what I want to do.”
Before playing college basketball became the path, Tschetter's mom tried to sell him on the idea of being in a college basketball pep band. Will has played trumpet since fourth grade, except freshman year when he switched to French horn. He didn't perform with the marching band at halftime of football games because he was in the locker room, but he participates in other competitions.
Stewartville High's band marches in a State Fair parade every year. Tschetter's parents have no trouble spotting him. The feather on top of his hat stands above the rest.
"It's super fun," he said of his band competitions.
Tschetter's parents describe him as "extremely extroverted." He loves to have fun, never too serious. He once spent an entire practice laughing hysterically after Tauer instructed his players on how to run a "naked screen." That memory still cracks him up to this day.
"He's humble, hard-working, high-character," Stewartville coach Adam Girtman said. "Just everything you look for and who you want your kids to grow up and be."