HUDSON, Wis. -- If Charlie Neuenschwander the senior could give some advice to Charlie Neuenschwander the freshman. it would be a simple message.
“Be patient and work hard,” he’d tell himself.
Neuenschwander admitted he often felt “antsy” during his freshman year at Hudson High School. But his patience and hard work paid off when he cracked the starting lineup on the Raiders’ sectional runner-up basketball team as a junior before earning All-Big Rivers Conference Second Team honors his senior season.
Those same attributes that made Neuenschwander one of the best basketball players in the area also helped him make history in the classroom this year when he became just the second Hudson boys’ basketball player ever to earn Academic All-State honors from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association.
Since 1982 the WBCA has recognized 15 seniors from across the state each year as academic all-state honorees. Tim Law is the only other Hudson boys’ player to receive the honor in 2002 while Shayla Wallin earned a spot on the girls’ team in 2018.
“It’s pretty cool that I’m one of just a few from Hudson to get it,” Neuenschwander said.
On the basketball court, the 6-foot, 3-inch Neuenschwander played post for the Raiders, often going up against players four, five and six inches taller than he is. But he emerged as one of the best defenders in the league while averaging 14.5 ponts and nearly seven rebounds per game as a senior.
He said he takes that same determination and work ethic into the classroom.
“I try to view academics, or if there’s a certain subject I’m trying to learn, as a skill,” he said. “Like a sport that I’m trying to master. It’s the same mindset you have to have, of knowing that to succeed you have to stay locked in.”
Neuenschswander said Charlie the freshman wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. But as his high school career progressed he found himself becoming more and more interested in the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And while he tries to stay well-rounded -- he sings with the Hudson High School Chamber Choir and is a youth leader at Shepherd of Valley Church in Afton -- science is where he sees his future.
So he’ll be heading to the University of Southern California to study environmental engineering to, as he says, “leave the world a better place than I found it.”
“I want to use this next stage of my life to work towards meaningful good for the world, and I view climate change and environmental issues that we’re facing as some of the most important things to address,” he said. “I found that I wanted to have a bigger purpose for myself and I saw that working on environmental issues could be a really good way for me to apply my abilities and bring some change.”
He said he fell in love with USC on a pair of visits to the school and is excited that his twin sister, Maya, will also attend school there.
“It’s just a very beautiful campus and very beautiful location,” he said. “And it always ranks within the top 15-20 schools in the country for academics and total college experience. And when I went for a couple of visits it just seemed like I kind of found my people there. They just seemed like people I could relate to.”
He said his basketball experience also helped.
“I was talking to a couple of college professors when I was interviewing for some scholarships at USC, and they said they love getting basketball players to come to their school because they always have what they called that Mamba mentality; that tireless work ethic,” he said. “Because basketball players really know if you put in the hours then the success will come.”
Neuenschwander said the last few months have been tough on him and his fellow seniors. He also plays tennis at Hudson and felt the Raiders had a good chance of going to state this spring. And he said he’ll miss all of those “senior things” that he and his classmates were looking forward to, like their last prom and a traditional graduation. But he also says he learned something.
“One of the good things, if you can call it, from spending this much time away from school is that I really got to appreciate how much our teachers care for us,” he said. “I had multiple teachers call us as a group and me individually and tell us how much they miss us and care for us and really hope that we succeed in the future. I’ll remember all my teacher’s commitments to me and to my friends and family.”
He said he’ll never take for granted all the support he’s had at Hudson.
“I was alway taught to stay humble and know that you couldn’t have accomplished these things without teammates, my parents helping me out and driving me everywhere, and of course my coaches and teachers,” he said. “Without people putting me in the right situations I wouldn’t be able to have the success that I’ve had.”
And to next year’s freshman class he remains on message.
“Be patient and work hard,” he said. “I feel like a lot of times I’d get antsy waiting for my opportunity, whether it was to shine on the basketball floor or be given more freedom as I was getting older. But be patient and enjoy the ride and keep working, because good things will come.”