At 9 a.m. daily, The Gun goes up at Memorial Fieldhouse.
Emily Sheldon usually is the first to arrive at the University of Puget Sound’s historic gymnasium. She is prompt, organized and ready to put up a few hundred attempts on The Gun, the school’s basketball shooting machine.
Kohl Meyer doesn’t lag too far behind. After all, he jokingly claims to be Sheldon’s basketball shooting instructor.
The two share a laugh.
It is Northwest Conference tournament week, and both Loggers basketball teams are in the postseason.
The second-seeded women are at home Thursday night against Whitman. Sheldon comes in as the conference scoring champion (20.2 points per game), and this week she was voted the NWC player of the year.
The No. 4-seeded men will play on the road at conference champion Whitworth. Meyer, an all-NWC first-team point guard, boasts a statistical line no NCAA Division III player in the country can — 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game and 48 percent shooting accuracy from the floor.
They are the king and queen of basketball at UPS.
And they happen to share it all together — as a couple.
“It has been a great year basketball-wise,” Meyer said, “and relationship-wise.”
On a rare week off during the season, the two celebrated their one-year anniversary Dec. 28.
“Honestly I don’t think they have been a distraction to each other,” UPS men’s coach Justin Lunt said. “They have helped each other out.”
They share a lot together, from summer one-on-one workouts to Loggers game nights.
Because they play back-to-back doubleheaders, when the teams are home, Sheldon and Meyer have a pregame routine.
“We go to Jimmy John’s,” Sheldon said. “On Fridays, we go at 3:30 p.m., and on Saturdays (when games tip off earlier), we go at 1:30.”
Do they eat the same sandwich?
“Yep,” Sheldon said. “A No. 11 (turkey and ham) with no tomatoes.”
Because the women’s game is first, Sheldon drops Meyer off at his house for a pregame nap, or to play Xbox.
“Something that relaxes me,” Meyer said.
Meyer usually arrives at Memorial Fieldhouse shortly before tipoff of the women’s game and watches the first half before joining his teammates in the locker room for final instructions.
“I want to focus on my stuff,” he said. “But I can also hear from the locker room, ‘Emily Sheldon for 3!’ I hear it a lot, because she puts up so many points.”
By the time Sheldon emerges from her locker room after the game, the men’s game is about to tip off. She watches the entire game.
“Watching him has helped me a lot in my game,” Sheldon said. “The ‘Euro step’ is Kohl’s go-to move … and now when I do it, I think of him.”
Both have extensive backgrounds in other sports. Sheldon played soccer, volleyball and track and field at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon.
Meyer’s background is more multi-cultural: Born in Seattle, he moved with his family moved to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, so his father could sell condominium time shares.
The Meyers spent 14 years in Mexico, where Kohl learned to play soccer and basketball.
“Basketball is a lot different. They do not really have school teams because it isn’t the main sport — soccer is,” he said.
Meyer said basketball was organized similarly to Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), with players on city club teams trying to qualify for the state, regional and national championships.
Oddly, the games were played on outdoor concrete courts.
“You could never run that fast or jump that high, because there was no grip on the courts,” Meyer said.
Before his junior season, Meyer and his family relocated to San Diego, California, where he attended Point Loma High School.
Sheldon, now a senior at UPS, and Meyer, a junior, were leaders for Loggers squads that had a lot of new players.
The men returned three regulars this season: Meyer, point guard Matt Reid and small forward Keith Shattuck.
“Coming in, I didn’t know a lot of the new guys,” Meyer said. “There was definitely a learning period … but we’ve been able to compete with every team in our league, and (we’ve) gotten a lot better.”
The women graduated six key seniors from last season’s NCAA Division III tournament-bound team. Sheldon was not only expected to carry the scoring load this season — coach Loree Payne hoped it would be a heavy load.
“Last year in individual meetings, I asked Emily what she wanted out of her (senior) year. She said she wanted to win, and that she wanted to be player of the year,” Payne said.
“This season, she compiled five NWC player of the week honors. She was bringing it home for us. You could not dispute she was (the NWC player of the year).”
Northwest Conference tournament
No. 3 seed WHITMAN women (17-7, 10-6 NWC) at No. 2 seed PUGET SOUND (18-7, 13-3)
7 p.m. Thursday, Memorial Fieldhouse, Tacoma
Season series: UPS won both games — 68-60 on Jan. 22 in Walla Walla and 72-65 on Saturday in Tacoma.
Statistical leaders: For Whitman — G Casey Poe (11.8 ppg, 3.0 apg), F Hailey Ann Maeda (7.8 rpg). For UPS — F Emily Sheldon (20.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg), G Alexis Noren (3.8 apg).
The skinny: Sheldon led the Northwest Conference in scoring and became the third UPS player to be named conference most valuable player. One key to the Loggers’ surge has been Samone Jackson, a freshman point guard who was inserted into the starting lineup for good in mid-January. In the past 11 games, she has averaged 17.9 points, and UPS has gone 10-1. Expect the bigger Whitman guards, led by Poe, to utilize more full-court pressure to force mistakes —and possibly get easy transition buckets.
TNT pick: UPS, 70-64.
No. 3 seed PACIFIC LUTHERAN men (16-9, 9-7) at No. 2 seed WHITMAN (22-3, 14-2)
7 p.m., Sherwood Center, Walla Walla
Season series: The teams split, with PLU winning 79-74 on Jan. 22 in Walla Walla and the Missionaries winning 82-72 on Friday in Tacoma.
Statistical leaders: For PLU — G Brandon Lester (17.1 ppg), C Bryce Miller (8.6 rpg), G Erik Swartout (3.0 apg). For Whitman — G Tim Howell (19.1 ppg), F Austin Butler (5.6 rpg, 2.5 apg).
The skinny: If you study the box scores of both games, they are eerily similar. The difference? It was Howell, the NWC scoring champion who got loose for a game-high 29 points in ninth-ranked Whitman’s victory at PLU. Howell thrives in an up-tempo game and is tough to stop when he gets hot. The Lutes have to be sharp in transition defense, and their depth will be tested. Backup guard Kyle Sawtell (knee) is out for the playoffs, and starting forward Jared Christy (ankle) is questionable to play. If Christy cannot go, Shane Jacob likely would start.
TNT pick: Whitman, 86-81.
No. 4 seed PUGET SOUND men (13-12, 8-8) at No. 1 seed WHITWORTH (24-1, 15-1)
7 p.m., Whitworth Fieldhouse, Spokane
Season series: Whitworth won both games — 87-68 on Jan. 23 in Spokane and 67-65 on Friday in Tacoma.
Statistical leaders: For UPS — G Carlos Mancasola (13.6 ppg), G Kohl Meyer (7.0 rpg, 4.0 apg). For Whitworth — F George Valle (16.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Kenny Love (3.3 apg).
The skinny: So how daunting a task is this for the Loggers? The Pirates are ranked No. 3 in the country and have won their past 25 home games. Including playoffs, they have won 116 of their past 122 NWC games. And they have won 15 consecutive conference tournament titles. All five starters, led by Valle and Love, can shoot from the outside and score off the dribble. Yet, UPS can display the ultimate equalizer — 3-point shooting. The Loggers made 12 or more 3-pointers eight times this season.
TNT pick: Whitworth, 80-77.