A little bit of rivalry isn’t always a bad thing.
Back in December, long before Mississippi State’s women’s basketball team made its run to the National Championship Game in Dallas, the Bulldogs were in Los Angeles for a non-conference tournament. The Women of Troy Classic, hosted by Southern Cal, provided an opportunity not just for MSU to continue racking up wins, but it was a chance for junior guard Blair Schaefer to get a peek at her future.
For some time now, Schaefer has dreamed of a career in broadcasting, and as it turns out, one of her mom’s friends works for The Insider, an L.A.-based TV show. During some down time, Schaefer and her mom went to get a tour of the studio, which happens to share a building with the ever-popular Entertainment Tonight. The hopeful Schaefer asked at the end of the tour if any of the E.T. hosts were there, but unfortunately, she was told, they were not. But then, on their way out of the building, E.T. host Kevin Frazier stepped out into the same hallway on his way out for the day and ran into the Schaefers.
Frazier, as fans of the show likely know, is the most knowledgeable sports fan on E.T., a former ESPN host and a former basketball player himself. After saying hi to the strangers in the hallway, he asked what brought them to town and discovered that not only was Schaefer a basketball player herself, but that she might be playing against his beloved USC that Sunday if they beat SMU first.
Schaefer remembers the joking trash talk that ensued.
“He said, ‘Y’all are gonna lose.’ I said no, we’re pretty good, we’re 14-0. I mean, we’re on a streak right now. I said, if we beat SMU, come watch us play. He said OK.”
And of course, MSU beat SMU soundly, taking down the Mustangs 91-42 and setting up a championship tilt against the Trojans. When tipoff came on Sunday, Frazier and his two sons were sitting courtside to watch. When the final buzzer sounded, the Bulldogs had won 76-72, and the gracious Frazier came over to talk to Schaefer, introduce his sons and even take pictures with the team.
However, watching a game wasn’t the only deal Schaefer and Frazier made that day outside the studio. While talking in the hallway, Schaefer told Frazier about her dream to work in broadcasting and her plan to get a broadcasting internship the following summer when she was off from school and basketball in May.
“When I told Kevin about it,” Schaefer recalled, “he was like oh, consider it done. I was like no, I’m serious. I’m not just saying that and you’re never going to see me again. I really want this. He was like no, I got you.”
So this May, once she finished her classes, Schaefer flew out to Los Angeles for three weeks of working on the set of Entertainment Tonight with Frazier as her guide. Over the course of her time there, she got a peek into every aspect of the production, from editors and producers and cameramen to hosts and writers and researchers. Some days she’d be in an editing bay as segments and interviews were spliced together, and others she’d be with the E.T. online team working events and social media.
But every day, she went to the stage with Frazier and watched her new friend work. The relationship that blossomed led to many discussions between the two as Schaefer was able to get a better idea of exactly what she wants to do one day and as Frazier gave her endless advice on how to make it happen.
“He’s awesome,” Schaefer said. “There are so few people that are so high up in the business that are so genuine. He would go out of his way and do things for me when I feel like I should be doing that for him.”
Schaefer is back in Starkville now, taking summer classes and working out in the gym as she prepares for her senior season of basketball. But while her focus has shifted back to her team and her education, she’s able to advance now with an idea of what she wants to be and what she can do in the meantime to make it happen.
“I need to get experience on camera,” she said, as her plan is to be on-camera talent. “Maybe do a women’s basketball segment at the local news station every weekend or something. Just an update on women’s basketball, because people love women’s basketball here.
“Everyone was saying to go get experience, go get another internship. Just experience, experience, experience. I learned that I really need to get myself out there.”
Lucky for Schaefer, she’s a point guard for one of the best basketball teams in America. The camera won’t have any trouble finding her.