Senior Paul Baxter Returns to Help Bearkat Basketball

This season the Sam Houston State Bearkat men’s basketball team has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference. The Bearkats return with every starter from last year’s team, which finished third in the conference, and made it to the conference tournament’s semifinal.

A key addition to the Bearkat roster this season is the return of senior point guard Paul Baxter from injury. Baxter didn’t see any action last season due to a stress fracture in his foot. He will look to lead the Bearkats to their first conference title since 2010.

Baxter, who hails from Bowie high school in Austin, knows what it is like to end title droughts. As a high school senior in 2012, Baxter earned the honors of district 15-5A MVP and led his school to their first district title since 2007. Baxter hopes that history will repeat itself in his final collegiate season.

Baxter had many options of where he wanted to play after high school, but he chose SHSU because of his relationship with the coaches.

“I chose Sam Houston because I had a great relationship with coach Hooten and coach Mudge,” Baxter said. “They were recruiting me hard, and I knew it was a great place to play land a great opportunity.”

Baxter has taken over the leadership responsibilities for this year’s team. As a fifth year senior, and a three-year starter, Baxter feels that it is his responsibility to be the floor general.

“I have been here for five years and I’m a verbal guy,” Baxter said. “Coach looks to me whenever things are not going well, but we have a whole team of leaders that lead in different ways.”

Head coach Jason Hooten praises Baxter for his on and off the court leadership ability.

“He [Baxter] is one of the best leaders I have ever coached,” Hooten said. “He is an everyday guy. He is a guy who comes in and works extremely hard, and is very vocal. He is a competitor and he wants to win.  The greatest thing about Paul is that he will do whatever it takes for this team, whatever role it takes.”

Baxter is a solid well-rounded player. He has no real holes in his game on the court. With that said, he believes it is not his on court abilities that will help the team the most this season; he believes that his intensity will be most beneficial to the team.

“I feel like at times last year we lacked a guy that would just go out on the floor and leave it all out there,” Baxter said. “I take pride in doing that, especially on defense. I take pride in going out there and being the guy who shuts a guy down.”

Hooten echoed praises of Baxter’s ability on the defense end of the spectrum.

“Paul can guard a big guy and he can guard a quick guy,” Hooten said. “The ability to guard the best player on the other team is what separates him.”

Baxter knows that even though he can score, the defensive end of the floor is what will help his team the most on their way to a conference championship. At the end of the day, Baxter does not care about his individual numbers, but rather his team success, and he thinks that this year’s team is the best he’s played on during his collegiate career at SHSU.

“This year’s team is deep,” Baxter said. “We have 15 guys who can really play, they can go somewhere else and start. We have transfers coming in who are veterans, and have been in division one programs for five years. They know what it takes and we have young guys who have grown up a lot.”

It’s conference championship or bust for the Bearkats this season and Baxter is confident he can lead the team to the promise land.

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