Hayden Baughman has undergone a remarkable transformation in many ways since arriving at McDonell.He’s become stronger. He’s become a more complete scorer. He’s gone from a follower to a leader. And he has turned the McDonell career scoring record book on his ear.
The one thing that hasn’t changed with Baughman is his demeanor — a driven, yet caring teammate that says he’ll remember the fun he had with his teammates just as fondly as the team’s biggest victories.
Baughman is the 2017-18 Chippewa County Boys Basketball Player of the Year after a senior season that had great statistical success and even better team triumphs as the Concordia-St. Paul University commit led the Macks to a Division 5 state runner-up finish while smashing some school records along the way.
“His character is off the charts. He’s a good kid, he works hard,” McDonell coach Archie Sherbinow said of Baughman. “He’s definitely earned everything that’s been given his way and I think as a player he’s come a long way. Not just scoring points. Even this season, doing the other things on the floor to make him better. Focusing on defense and rebounding. When he started doing that, we saw the improvement from the team.”
Baughman worked his way into the McDonell rotation quickly during his freshman season when the Macks advanced to the sectional finals where they fell to Washburn. He averaged around five points a game in his first season as he got used to the varsity game, something he admits took some time.
Getting up to speed to the game by his sophomore season, Baughman flashed big-time potential with a 26-and-23-point performance during the regular season for a McDonell team that advanced to state for the second time in five years. But he saved his most eye-opening performance for the big stage. Baughman scored 19 of his team’s 30 first-half points to keep the Macks in the hunt against Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran in the Division 5 state semifinals. He was 8 of 9 from the field in the first half — the rest of the team just 3 of 19 — while adding two rebounds and a blocked shot as the Macks trailed 31-30 heading into the locker room.
McDonell would roar to life in the second half, outscoring the Blazers 40-20 to grab a 70-51 win before knocking off Burlington Catholic Central one day later to capture the program’s first WIAA state championship.
“I remember the nerves and thinking ‘What’s this going to be like?’,” Baughman said of the game. “As soon as I settled in it was just like any game and that’s such a cool stage to play on. A lot of eyes on you. It’s just a cool experience and I’ll never forget that.”
“He was hard to handle on the offensive end,” McDonell coach Archie Sherbinow said of his performance. “He could get to the basket, he made jumpshots and he attacked the boards well too.”
For many people that was their first introduction to Baughman, someone who would play a key role in a McDonell team that won a combined 69 games during the team’s three consecutive seasons of advancing to state.
He averaged 11.2 points and six rebounds per game as a sophomore in earning second team All-Western Cloverbelt Conference and All-Chippewa County honors. More of a slasher than an all-around scorer at that point, Baughman wanted to change that.
So he started shooting.
He started with 500 shots every day, then changed his focus to 400 makes per day while working to become a more all-around player.
“The jumpshot was what I thought I was missing so I really put a lot of emphasis on that and a lot of work into that,” Baughman said.
That worked paid off during his junior season as Baughman averaged 15.5 points per game along with seven rebounds as the Macks won the Western Cloverbelt Conference for a second year in a row and made it back to the state tournament. Baughman was again recognized for his outstanding play, earning first team all-conference, all-county and all-state accolades.
Baughman entered this season as one of only two players on the team (Cory Hoglund was the other) to see significant varsity playing time the season before. For the first time since Baughman was a freshman, the Macks were not looked at as a favorite in the conference title race.
And after seasons of following in the footsteps of other leaders, it was a year for Baughman and the other seniors to take charge. It was a responsibility they were ready for.
“It was pretty easy. I love all my teammates and it was so easy to try to help them and pass down my knowledge of playing varsity basketball and that’s what I tried to do,” Baughman said. “Hopefully these guys next year can come back and do just as well if not better.”
McDonell had its share of ups and downs throughout the season, enduring a pair of lengthy losing stretches before the team turned it on just in time for the playoffs. It rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to stun Owen-Withee for a regional championship before controlling its sectional wins over Rib Lake and South Shore.
The team was making its third straight trip to state, but in a much different way. The only constant from those teams was the standout play of Baughman and it was on display in two different ways as the Macks took home the silver ball.
Baughman scored nine points in McDonell’s 56-46 win in the state semifinals over Deerfield, but contributed in other ways as he had six rebounds, six assists, five steals and four blocked shots. He put up 24 points in McDonell’s 91-67 state championship game defeat to Bangor, showing the ability to do it all in another trip to the Kohl Center.
“Both (performances) were equally important and were what we needed from him in those games,” Sherbinow said of Baughman at state.
Baughman capped his career by averaging 21 points, 6.8 rebounds and four assists per game in earning first team all-conference and all-state honors in his senior season.
Baughman concludes his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,476 points, eclipsing the mark freshly set by Alex Ohde (1,311) a season ago. Baughman, like Ohde, benefited from plenty of playoff games to help get to that mark, something he and his coach know wouldn’t be possible without the overall success of the team.
After making just over a dozen 3-pointers as a sophomore, Baughman’s prowess from distance showed as he led Chippewa County in 3-pointers this season (95). Baughman will play for the Division 5 North team in this June’s Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game before heading off to Concordia-St. Paul, ready to make an impact.
“If he continues to work the next four years as hard as these four years (at McDonell) I think he’ll have a nice career there,” Sherbinow said.
As he reflects on a tremendous career, Baughman wouldn’t change anything.
“It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed every second of it,” Baughman said. “Even the losses, just learning from there and playing with a bunch of great kids and it just made me a better person and I just loved every second of it.”