Do what you love and love what you do.
And that’s just what Baylen Bauer is doing.
After standing out on the soccer field and on the basketball court, the St. Patrick senior made the decision to stay on the hardwood at the next level, signing with Lindsey Wilson College to play basketball on Wednesday.
“It feels really good. It’s good to know where I’m going. It kind of took a long time for me to try to decide between soccer and basketball, but in the end I decided to play the thing I love. I’m happy about it and I’m ready to go,” said Bauer.
“A lot of people have said I’m better at soccer, but I just love basketball too much to leave it and when that was an opportunity I just took it,” added Bauer.
Bauer collected a team-leading 15 goals this fall and added four assists as the Saints finished 6-6-6. The year before, he helped St. Patrick to a 9-9 record. While he may not be continuing his career on the pitch, his coach the last two years, Father Michael Black, is excited for him to be doing what he loves at the next level.
“What I want from my kids as their priest and their coach and as their spiritual father is to do what’s going to make them happy. Ultimately, while you know soccer is God’s favorite sport, he’s playing the game that he loves and he’s passionate about, and that’s going to motivate him on those long days of two-a-days and long days of practice and all those workouts,” said Black. “You’ve got to love what you’re doing, and not that he didn’t love soccer, but he loves basketball. I’m happy for him.”
By signing instead for basketball, he became the third Saint this season to continue playing at the next level. Ben Swolsky singed with Mount St. Joseph University on March 22 and Brevin Jones signed with Cincinnati Christian University last Friday.
“It makes me super proud. It’s all them. They came in here and worked hard,” said St. Patrick boys’ basketball coach Aaron Rigdon. “The one thing I can say about Baylen is that I really challenged him this year. He had to take on different roles and I put a lot of pressure on him at the beginning of the year and he struggled at first, but he came along, he did what I asked of him and, like I said, I challenged him.
“I’m not Coach Cal [John Calipari]. I can’t make them millionaires, but if I can help these kids get to the next level and get a free education, then I did my part as a coaching staff, but the kids do the work,” added Rigdon.
Bauer averaged 10.8 points per game as a junior under coach John Kirkpatrick, firing over 44 percent from 3-point range – an area on the court where he really shines. He broke a school record, previously held by Rigdon, for 3-pointers in a game with nine during a 52-51 win over Rose Hill Christian.
His senior season didn’t start as smooth, but Rigdon, who took over for Kirkpatrick, believes it was because of the pressure he put onto Bauer to hit shots and accept different roles than before.
“He started the year and I thought he was just a 3-point threat, but by the end of the year he was taking charges, he was getting to the basket, he was doing a lot of the little things,” said Rigdon.
“He went through some growing pains, but he pulled through it and I hope I made him a better man for it. I believe it has,” added Rigdon. “He’s an awesome kid. He’s a small guy, but he’s got the heart of an elephant.”
Standing at just 5-foot-6, it would be easy to assume he could only shoot threes, but Bauer got going again throughout the season, managing to average double-digit scoring for the second straight year while taking 36 fewer shots from beyond the arc and shooting a lower percentage on those shots.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t heat up.
He broke his own St. Patrick record for 3-pointers in a game with 10 in a 104-48 victory over Silver Grove on February 8, and Bauer says the offense the Blue Raiders run could help create another hot stretch.
“They have a lot of sets and like to run it through the point guard, but whoever’s having their game, they’ll set up the whole time for them,” said Bauer. “There’s been some people that have had really big, breakout games there.”
Besides the offense, the senior decided on Lindsey Wilson in part because of the coaching staff. Head coach Paul Peck and assistant coach Chris Starks have each been there for 16 seasons. Bauer had four different coaches at St. Patrick since being placed on the varsity roster in seventh grade.
“It was a challenge because every year you had to come in and prove it over and over again why you’re here, that you want to play, that you still have the drive to play,” said Bauer. “When you’re the short one on the team, you kind of don’t look like you’re going to be good, but going through that taught me that my work ethic has to be so good and I have to be able to adjust to every position or every type of spot I’ll be in for each team.”
Now Bauer, seen as undersized and facing yet another new head coach, is ready for the challenge, and his high school coaches believe the work ethic and hunger he possesses will help him succeed at the next level.
“He’s going to have to adjust to the college game. I played a little college ball and it’s a lot more physical. He’s a small guy, but like I said, heart of an elephant. He’ll be fine,” said Rigdon. “It may take some adjustment, but he’s going to be fine.”