Scheierman debuts in home state for SDSU

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Baylor Scheierman emerged from the northwest tunnel of Pinnacle Bank Arena with the lights dimmed, his yellow and blue-trimmed jersey now untucked to a small community of friends and family there to share the moment with him.
The former Husky and current true freshman at South Dakota State had just finished his first road basketball game in his home state, a 90-73 loss to Nebraska. Despite that, Baylor was all smiles when greeted by former high school teammates just off the floor they’d played on eight months ago in the state tournament.
“It was a lot of fun,” Baylor said of playing in front of all his supporters, many of whom sported blue and yellow SDSU apparel. “There’s a lot of people here I haven’t seen in a long time. I’m looking forward to catching up with them.”
Baylor still hasn’t won a game at Pinnacle Bank Arena with either Aurora or South Dakota State, but in the end that didn’t matter to those standing in the tunnel. They were there to celebrate the start of what could be a special college basketball career.
“I had a lot of people text me ‘good luck’ and everything,” Baylor said. “It’s pretty special. The community of Aurora -- how well they’ve support me while I was in high school and now even when I’m not.”
Not yet one of the starting five with the Jackrabbits, Baylor entered the game during the first rotation at the first media timeout. He’s embraced his role off the bench and playing in a variety of positions.
“I need to score when I have my opportunities and rebound, making plays for my teammates,” Baylor said. “I’ve settled in pretty good.”
He played quite a bit of the first half but despite that, SDSU struggled against Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg’s fast-paced game.
Baylor was more of a catch and shoot player in the first half, taking a couple threes, unsuccessfully. He was 0-3 from the field in the first half.
“You don’t have a lot of time to get your shot off,” Baylor said of the college game. “You have to have your feet set to get it off.”
For Baylor, the biggest thing for him early was adjusting to the higher level of competition.
“It’s a lot more competitive and tougher to do things than in high school,” Baylor said. “I’m enjoying it.”
In high school, Baylor was the best player on the floor almost exclusively. That’s not quite the case anymore, but he likes the challenge.
“There’s a level of competitiveness you have to play with all the time,” he said. “Sometimes in high school you could take a possession or two off. You can’t do that here. Everyone you play is good.”
The game in Lincoln ended Baylor’s first extended road trip of the season, after playing in California earlier in the week. He did, though, talk some about an average day for him.
It starts with practice first thing in the morning, followed by some weights and class from late morning to mid-afternoon. Then it’s back to the gym to get more shots up before hitting the books.
As basketball becomes more of a positionless game, that just comes to suit someone like Baylor, who can play in several spots. Aurora fans saw him best at the point, and college basketball fans got their first taste of that from him in the second half against Nebraska.
Baylor got aggressive early in the second half, coming off a pick at the top of the key and going up with his patented driving fade in the paint, which didn’t fall.
Baylor’s first points of the night came at the 15:59 mark of the second half where at the top of the key guarded by Nebraska’s Dachon Burke Jr., he started left, goes behind the back and drives right, laying it in.
Often in the second half, Baylor had a size advantage over his defender, especially when it was arguably Nebraska’s best player, Cam Mack.
Starting from the right corner, Baylor dribbled to the paint and with that size advantage, backed Mack in for an easy bucket.
Later in the second half, Baylor pulled out a personal favorite. As he brought the ball up the floor after a Husker make and from the halfcourt logo, he rocketed a bounce pass through the lane where a teammate was cutting down the baseline for an easy two, something he’d done a time or two at Aurora.
A big grin came across his face afterward when that was brought up.
“That’s not changing,” Baylor said with a smile.
Baylor ended the night on a positive play as he pulled out the iso game, bringing it up the floor and backing in Thorir Thorbjarnarson with a jump stop hook shot that fell through.
In all, the SDSU freshman finished the night with six points, eight rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes played.
While Baylor’s 6’6” frame was pretty imposing before, add 25 pounds to that over the summer and he looked like a completely different player on the court, now tipping the scales over 200 pounds.
“My level of physicality has gotten a lot better,” Baylor pointed out. “I spent the summer in the weight room and gained 25 pounds. I’ve also gotten mentally stronger, too.”
With broader shoulders and a little more thickness all the way around, Baylor was pleased with his first summer in Brookings.
“I knew I would have to put on some weight and the coaches said something about 205 pounds, so I’ve gotten there,” he said.
Through five games this year, South Dakota State sports a 3-2 record with wins over UT Rio Grande Valley, Peru State and CSU Bakersfield and losses to USC and Nebraska.
The former Husky has played in every game, averaging nearly 24 minutes and eight points per game along with over six boards. He’s second on the team in three-pointers made while making 70 percent of his free throws.
His first college action came in an exhibition against Mount Marty before the 70-57 win over UT Rio Grande Valley.
Walking to the scorer’s table and coming into his first minutes as a college athlete was a moment he longed for and won’t soon forget.
“It was pretty surreal,” Baylor admitted. “Growing up, it was always by dream to play Division I basketball and to be out on that court, it was pretty special. It took me awhile to settle in, but once I did, I was good.”
Baylor noted that he feels right at home on the floor, and it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable. He’s just waiting for his shot to come back around.
“I feel pretty comfortable out there,” he said. “I have to shoot the ball a little better. I’ve been off to a slow start but other than that, I feel good.”
Any Aurora fan, even those who aren’t but saw him play in high school, can validate the point that his shot will certainly come around.
One thing is for sure -- Baylor Scheierman looks and proved an ability to play with Division I’s finest.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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