Girls Basketball: Maddie Baxa stands out as Oak Forest leader
By Tony Baranek email@example.com December 2, 2013 9:46PM
Tinley Park, 11/24/13--Maddie Baxa, Oak Forest, Girls basketball. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 4, 2014 6:21AM
Oak Forest’s Maddie Baxa never will get caught with her mind wandering at the start of a basketball game.
Her favorite part is the anticipation.
“Just walking up to the circle I get really nervous and excited,” she said.
Once the ball is in the air, though, she’s all intensity.
The 17-year-old Oak Forest native is in her third season on the Bengals varsity. A 5-foot-11 guard/forward, she is the top returning scorer from a Bengals team that was 16-12 in 2012-13. In five games this season, Baxa is averaging 13 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Baxa also is a soccer player, but basketball is in her blood.
“I love basketball,” she said. “I like both of them, but basketball is my favorite.
“My dad influenced me the most probably. He coached me since I was in fourth grade. He played college basketball and I’ve just really loved it, especially the last couple of years.”
Tom Baxa, a three-sport athlete at Oak Lawn, played college basketball at Roosevelt University.
A younger sister, Sabrina, followed in Maddie’s footsteps, gaining varsity status this season as a freshman.
“We are so close. She’s pretty much my best friend,” Baxa said. “We played basketball and soccer together. We support each other really well.”
Baxa was a team leader in basketball at Jack Hille Middle School, and it didn’t go without notice from then-Bengals coach Steve Schanz.
When Baxa came to an Oak Forest summer basketball camp before her freshman year, she immediately started moving up the roster ladder.
“I honestly had no idea coming in what was going to happen,” she said. “I was shocked when I came to camp and got moved up to the sophomores. And then they asked me to go to a Purdue camp with (the varsity).”
Baxa averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds during her freshman season on a Bengals varsity team that was 18-11 and captured a regional title.
“It was tough, but the girls that played my freshman year were so good,” Baxa said. “That was a great team to play with. Katie Swanson and Emily Naegele were huge leaders. They always knew what to say to us.”
It’s a role Baxa has assumed on a Bengals team that’s rebuilding under first-year coach Jim Matlon.
“Maddie is a tremendous leader on our team,” Matlon said. “Her presence on the floor gets our team going. Her court awareness is a real strength for us.”
Baxa helped lead Oak Forest to two consecutive victories over the weekend, with 11 points and five assists in a 26-24 decision over Queen of Peace and 18 points in a 41-38 victory over Gordon Tech.
“The first couple of weeks were tough, but I feel we’ve all adjusted very well,” Baxa said. “And our new coach, he’s a great guy. I think we’re going to do great this year.”