Motivation for a Star

          Ryan Baumgartner is the women’s basketball coach at Doane University.  He was named the head coach about Christmas time three years ago.  Things were in a mess.  A new coaching hire didn’t work out.  First the assistant coaches quit, and it was feared the players would be close behind.

          Ryan stepped into this hornet’s nest and won two games after Christmas.  I’m not sure how he did that.  The next year followed with five wins and improvement could be seen with the players on the court.

          Then Ryan’s first real recruiting class came to Doane.  That was this past season.  With three freshmen playing a lot of minutes, two of them as starters, the Tigers won 12 games this winter, including the last two.  This isn’t a story about the gradual improvement the team showed. This is the remarkable story of one of those freshmen.

          Her name is Mak Hatcliff.  At first, Mak thought her best chance to play athletics in college was in volleyball.  Afterall, she did shatter the Beatrice digs record.  However, by the time that record was set, Mak already knew she was headed to Doane University to play basketball. 

          Ryan knew he had a good player watching her in high school.  Most schools ran a box and one against her.  Stop Mak and you stop Beatrice.  Mak came to Doane to scrimmage with her future teammates this summer.  It was pretty obvious that Mak was a good recruit.  It was just that nobody knew how good.

          Mak’s first game her freshmen year was at Peru State College.  She had 32 points to lead the Tigers to a close victory.  It was the most points ever scored in a first game by a true freshmen.

          During Mak’s first 30 games as a Doane Tiger, no one could imagine what she would accomplish.  Hanah Barnard played at Doane and was from Beatrice, too.  She held the single season scoring record and single game record at Doane.  Not anymore.

          Mak scored an incredible 805 points this past season.  In the final game of the season, the super freshman dropped 42 points on Briar Cliff.  Briar Cliff was no cupcake.  They qualified for the national tournament this year.

          There are so many unbelievable statistics that Mak put up her first year at Doane.  She was the third leading scorer in the nation, averaging 24.2 points per game.  Mak was the first true freshman to lead the GPAC in scoring.  She also led the league in steals and was fourth in rebounding.  Mak only stands 5-7.

          The accomplishments are too many to put into one blog.  Mak averaged more points in the very difficult GPAC than she did during a pretty easy non-conference schedule.  Mak scored 21 points against Thomas More, the NAIA National Champion. 

          Six times she had double figures in scoring and rebounding in the same game.  She scored 25 or more points in almost half her games and had 30 or more an amazing eight times.

          So, what’s left to motivate Mak her final three years in college?  As it turns out, our own conference and the NAIA provided plenty of motivation.  Despite being named Player of the Week in the GPAC three times, the opposing coaches only voted her the sixth best player in the conference.

          During the national tournament, the NAIA All-American team is selected.  The team is picked by a committee of coaches, usually one from every NAIA conference.  That means the GPAC was represented in that meeting.

          There are 10 members of the first, second and third All American teams.  Then another 53 players gained honorable mention All-American.  The GPAC was represented by six players.  Mak, the third leading scorer nationally, the freshman who led the conference in two categories and was three times named the Player of the Week had to be one of those six.

          If that what you thought, you would be wrong.  Mak Hatcliff’s name was no where to be found on any All-American list, that included 83 players.  I don’t think Mak cared about the award as much as she did about the snub.  Talk pulling the Tiger’s tail.

          Mak didn’t need any motivation to go back to work this spring.  She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around.  Now she is even more inspired and determined. 

The coaches, especially the one from the GPAC, that didn’t believe in her skills, just lit a fire under a player that needed no fire.  I can’t wait to see what Mak has waiting for the conference next year.

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