GH native works as Pistons' head athletic trainer

Matt DeYoung • Dec 26, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Jim Scholler grew up a Detroit Pistons fan, cheering on Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and the rest of the Bad Boys back in the late 1980s.

These days, the 1994 Grand Haven High School graduate is doing all he can to help the current Pistons become a championship-caliber team.

Scholler was recently named the head athletic trainer for the Pistons — the same job he held the previous 10 years for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

“It’s our hometown team, the team I grew up watching, so this is kind of cool,” he said of the Pistons’ job. “It really hits home when you go into the practice facility and see the championship banners, the championship trophies. It’s a pretty storied franchise.”

Scholler — whose parents, Dick and Carol, still live in Grand Haven — played basketball growing up. At the University of Michigan, he knew he wanted to work with athletes, and assumed he’d end up working with football players.

He worked with the U-M basketball team for a year, then spent several years as a graduate assistant at the University of North Florida, working with their baseball team. After a brief stop at Notre Dame, where he worked with the lacrosse athletes and distance runners, he went back to North Florida as the head athletic trainer.

“I had thought about the NBA as a possibility,” Scholler said, and through some mutual friends, he was offered a position with the Grizzlies.

“A former student of mine got into the NBA, and when they needed somebody in Memphis, he knew I wanted to be in the NBA, so he reached out to me,” Scholler said.

Working with NBA athletes was quite a bit different than anything else he had tackled.

“I had been around college basketball, but the NBA is a much different animal,” he said. “The biggest difference is just the physicality of it. These guys are bigger, stronger, faster. My first year in Memphis, we had three guys over 7 feet tall. You learn that these guys do things that they shouldn’t be able to do, as big as they are.”

Scholler helps players who are recovering from injuries, and also helps athletes stay in shape to help prevent injuries. That includes everything from diet to exercise to lifestyle choices.

“That’s one of the challenges of every medical staff, every day, figuring out how to get the most out of these guys physically,” he said. “We’re trying to coach them in nutrition, in sleep habits, recovery, lifting weights, managing any type of injury, soreness. It’s a huge balancing act, especially with this schedule.”

The schedule is something Scholler is used to, but it remains a challenge. The Pistons play an 82-game season, which includes 41 games away from home. That means a lot of time away from home, his wife Jennifer, and their young son.

“That’s something that working in the NBA, and probably every professional sports league, the biggest challenge is trying to balance and have time for your family,” he said. “We live a life on the road. It’s something you never get used to. You just learn how to balance it. Thank goodness for Facetime.”

Being in Detroit has helped because Scholler has relatives that live in the Detroit area, a brother in Grand Rapids and his parents in Grand Haven.

“My brother, my mom and my dad just came down and celebrated Christmas over the weekend,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to do anything like that in a long time. I was able to spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s house.”

Working with the Pistons has also increased Scholler’s screen time for family and friends. He sits on the bench during games, and can often be seen milling around the coaches and players during timeouts.

“I’ve had a few people reach out to me and say they saw me on TV last night watching the Pistons games,” he said. “It’s been nice for my parents — they’re able to see every game now.”

The Pistons are currently 15-16 on the season, despite losing nine of their last 12 games. With superstars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond on the roster, Detroit has the potential to be a solid playoff team.

“We have a lot of new players, a completely new coaching staff, which brings a new offensive and defensive philosophy, and a new medical staff,” Scholler said. “Everybody’s trying to find their ways, find their roles. … It’s just a matter of finding your way, being consistent. We’ll get there.”

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