Baylor Scheierman is 6-foot-6. He leads the Summit League in rebounds and assists. He shoots 51 percent from the floor and 48 percent on 3-pointers, averaging 14.8 points per game. Sometimes he brings the ball up the court for the Jackrabbits, sometimes he plays in the paint. On defense he’s been asked to guard centers, 3-point shooters, backcourt slashers and power forwards.
He does so much, in fact, it’s hard to tell what position he plays. Ask the Aurora, Neb., native himself, and Scheierman offers little help.
“I kind of just say I play a little bit of everything,” Scheierman said. “Because that’s honestly what I do. I guess if I had to pick one position I’d say point guard, but if someone asks me what I play, I say whatever I need to play.”
Maybe we should call him South Dakota State’s … quarterback?
After all, prior to joining the Jackrabbits’ basketball team, Scheierman was one of the most prolific passers in Nebraska high school football history. As a senior, he led Aurora to a Class C state title while setting all kinds of state records including 59 touchdown passes in a single season.
If you’re an SDSU basketball fan and didn’t know about Scheierman’s prep football career, watch closely as he brings the ball up the floor at the Jacks’ next game. The court vision, the ability to read a defense, to lead a teammate into space with a pass, spread the ball around to each of the team’s offensive weapons – he plays basketball like a quarterback. Fully in charge of the action, able to slow down the game the way elite quarterbacks are credited with doing, coming through in the clutch, like when he drilled a 25-footer at the buzzer to give the Jacks a win over Washington State in December.
And that’s just when the ball is in his hands. When it’s not, Scheierman is as good as anybody in the Summit League at going to get it. He was third in the nation in defensive rebounds last season and has been a force on the boards again this year. Scheierman has the kind of playmaking ability that makes coach Eric Henderson want the ball in his hands as much as possible, and more and more lately, that’s where it is, much to the chagrin of Summit League opponents.
“You see him score from the perimeter,” Henderson said. “You see him score at the basket, you see him post up, you see him be a point guard. You see him be a (power forward). You see it all on the stat sheet, and defensively he’ll guard anybody on the floor. It’s the versatility, the work ethic, the togetherness he brings to the table, and you just don’t see that on the stat sheet.”
It all adds up to make Scheierman’s overall output something truly special. He may not score as many points as Max Abmas, Mike Daum or Nate Wolters, but his all-around game puts him up there with them and others that can lay claim to being among the best players the Summit League has produced.
“In my opinion, he’s as good as anyone we’ve seen in the Summit League,” said Midco TV analyst Greg Stemen, a former NSIC coach of the year at Southwest Minnesota State. “That’s not to take anything away from guys like Mike Daum or John Konchar or Nate Wolters. But this is a guy who is playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers. He sees the game two and three steps ahead of everyone else on the floor. He’s in that elite category without question.”
A quick study on the court
While he would eventually become a multi-sport star, basketball was always Scheierman’s first love. His dad, Scott, played basketball at Hastings College, and Baylor took to the game quickly. While Scott is a big man, his son was slow to reach his full size.
A growth spurt finally came, though, and Scheierman began to blossom on the hardwood. Meanwhile, Aurora football coach Kyle Peterson saw the potential for the lefty to lead his offense from under center. Scheierman almost decided against going out for football just before his freshman season was to start, but Peterson encouraged him to give it a shot. Near the end of his sophomore year, Scheierman started seeing varsity action at quarterback, and the skills he uses today were already there.
“You see how he sees the court in basketball and that’s something you saw in seventh and eighth grade,” Peterson said. “He sees things before they happen, and some kids just have that innate sense. You knew that would carry over to the football field. It was just a matter of his body catching up, and once it did he was pretty special.”
Good as he was, though, basketball remained his first love. Scheierman was a promising pitcher in baseball but had to give that up to play summer basketball (he later took up golf and became a solid contributor on the Aurora varsity squad).
He averaged 16 points, six rebounds and six assists per game as a junior on the hardwood, and soon committed to play basketball for SDSU and then-coach T.J. Otzelberger, though Henderson, then an assistant, did much of the recruiting legwork. The Jacks envisioned Scheierman as the versatile point guard he is today, but what they didn’t know was that he was about to record one of the greatest football seasons in Nebraska prep history.
“We had four or five really good receivers and a quarterback in Baylor we knew could get them the ball,” Peterson said. “You want to play to the strengths of your team and we went from a traditional run/pass spread team to one that threw it 75-80 percent of the time, and his ability to distribute the ball was our biggest strength. We essentially asked him to play point guard for us. We called it basketball on grass and that’s really what it was.”
The Huskies would win the Class C championship, with Scheierman’s high-octane passing game leading the way. He threw for over 4,000 yards and a mind-boggling 59 touchdown passes, a state record. Not surprisingly, college football coaches began sniffing around to wonder just how committed the southpaw was to playing basketball.
While Scheierman says he never seriously considered breaking his commitment to the Jackrabbits, he at least listened. Peterson had known all along his quarterback was a basketball player first, so he never tried to sway him toward football, and admits that a 6-6, left-handed quarterback would need an offense specifically tailored to his style. Still, the Huskers invited Scheierman to a game for a visit.
“Coach Hendo found out about it and called me and was like, ‘You still on board?’,” Scheierman remembers. “I was like, 'Yeah, coach, I'm still on board. It’s pretty much just a free football game.'”
And that was that. Scheierman went out and had a senior basketball season nearly as spectacular as what he’d done on the gridiron, averaging 22.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, leading the Huskies to the state tournament.
Jacks guard Charlie Easley played against Scheierman once in high school, was his AAU teammate and began his college career with the Huskers before transferring to SDSU last year. He says Scheierman was the same kind of player then he is now.
“He always had a lot of areas to his game,” Easley said. “His passing is a huge part of it. He’s the best passer I’ve ever seen. He could always shoot, but he’s just gotten better at that. He just keeps improving.”
Becoming a Jackrabbit
Scheierman’s freshman season at South Dakota State was one of major transition for the Jacks. Otzelberger had left to coach UNLV (he’s now the head coach at Iowa State), replaced by Henderson. All-time scoring leader Mike Daum had graduated, and star guards David Jenkins, Tevin King and Skyler Flatten were gone, too.
Before the season got going, SDSU’s football team ran into quarterback issues. Taryn Christion had just graduated, J’Bore Gibbs battled multiple injuries and one of the backups, Matt Connors, quit the team. Kanin Nelson and Keaton Heide were thrust into duty, and while they ultimately performed well enough for the Jacks, Scheierman’s name was thrown around more than a few times as a potential option. How serious those talks were is up for debate, but it’s tempting to wonder what might have happened.
“I definitely thought about it,” Scheierman said of playing quarterback for SDSU. “A lot of the guys on the (basketball) team were like, 'Man, you should hit up the coaches.' I did kind of consider it. It would’ve been fun and I think I could’ve done it.”
Probably for the best that never happened, though. Instead of starting a rebuild, the Jacks shocked the Summit League by winning 22 games and the conference regular season title behind a new host of contributors. Scheierman was one of them. He played in all 32 games, starting three, averaging 6.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He shot .427 from the floor, .247 from outside and .667 at the line. It was an encouraging debut, but nothing to suggest the Jacks had a transcendent player on their hands.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence offensively,” he remembers.
Shortly after the season ended, COVID-19 arrived, and the country went into shutdown. Scheierman used the downtime to work on those pedestrian shooting percentages.
“He played a lot of minutes (as a freshman), but one thing he didn’t do well was shoot it from the perimeter,” Henderson said. “What he did was take that to heart and spend a tremendous amount of time working his tail off to become a better and more consistent shooter.”
The work gave Scheierman a boost of confidence, and when he came back for the 2020-21 season, he was a different player. Scheierman averaged 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting .498 from the floor, .438 from deep and .845 at the line. He ranked in the top 10 in the Summit League in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, 3-pointers made and all three shooting percentages.
At another level
He’s picked up where he left off this season. Scheierman narrowly missed a triple-double in Thursday’s win over St. Thomas, as he continues to play with an efficiency that’s been almost hard to believe. He recently had a stretch where he made 10 consecutive 3-pointers across three games. Scheierman’s assist-to-turnover ratio is atop the conference for the second year in a row, he leads the league in rebounding and assists and is second in steals, and the Jacks are, not surprisingly, 7-0 in Summit League play.
While Scheierman's numbers stand out, his skills directly correlate to the Jacks putting up incredible stats as a team, too. They average 87 points per game and shoot a preposterous .520 from the field and .449 from 3-point range.
“What he’s doing is incredible,” said teammate Alex Arians. “He’s a spectacular player who makes plays offensive and defensively. He’s a guy who can do it all – whatever we need that night, he’s willing and capable of doing it.”
“He’s a special player,” said St. Thomas coach Johnny Tauer, who got his first look at Scheierman on Thursday in SDSU’s comeback win over the Tommies, when the lefty had 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. “To be close to 50-50-80 (shooting percentages), a 2-to-1 assist-turnover ratio, nine rebounds a game, the assists – I mean, to me he’s one of the most well-rounded players in the country.”
And while Scheierman’s days of wearing a helmet and spikes are over, the skills he used to dominate football games may never leave him, and that would be good for his burgeoning career.
“There’s some leadership pieces that go into the quarterback role that also go into our point guard role,” Henderson said. “Just that playmaking ability, that decision-making you have to have as a quarterback – you can relate it to the basketball court. You have to make quick decisions and he’s had a lot of experience with that.”
Is an NBA opportunity in Scheierman’s future? Maybe. He hopes so. Konchar is emerging as a multi-faceted weapon for the Memphis Grizzlies, while former Coyote Matt Mooney got another shot in the league this year with the Knicks. If Scheierman continues to hone his all-around game and shoot with the efficiency he’s shown of late, there will be interest. But in the meantime, he’s aiming to make his debut in the NCAA tournament, and take the Jacks back there for the first time since Daum’s junior year, in 2018.
Whether the Jacks make it or not, they’ll follow their quarterback’s lead.
“Baylor’s a competitor,” Henderson said. “He really enjoyed football, but he’s a hooper. His idol is Pete Maravich, and the joy he has like Pistol Pete had is immeasurable. We put a lot of time in and we’re hard on our guys – we let them know when they’re making mistakes, but Baylor never loses that joy for the game. That’s great for everybody. For me, his teammates and the other coaches, because at the end of the day we’re playing a game. And you have to have fun.”
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Baylor Scheierman leads South Dakota State basketball's offense