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East Lyme's Megan Bauman has been Babson's point guard since day one

Babson College women's basketball coach Judy Blinstrub knew she was recruiting a decent enough high school player.

Megan Bauman graduated in 2019 as East Lyme's all-time leading scorer with 1,352 points and earned Class L all-state honors. Deft passer — she achieved nearly 500 career assists at East Lyme, as well, or 5.2 per game. Smart kid — a member of the National Honor Society.

But how would she adjust to the game at the collegiate level? How could you ever know for sure?

"She sees the floor unbelievably, better than we thought she would," Blinstrub was saying this week of Bauman, in the midst of her sophomore season at Babson, located in Wellesley, Mass. "You never know how a point guard's going to turn up as a freshman. Maybe they can't compete at that level against players who are 21 or 22 years old."

Bauman, though, started her first career game on Nov. 16, 2019, against Union, a 76-66 Babson victory.

And she's been starting ever since, 29 games now.

Bauman was named the 2020 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Co-Rookie of the Year, Babson's first such honor since 2014. She led all NEWMAC rookies in points (14.1 per game) and assists (3.8) in conference play while ranking fourth overall in scoring and assists.

She ranked second in 3-point field goal percentage (.430) and free throw percentage (.914) in league games.

Babson finished 18-8 overall with its fifth consecutive NEWMAC regular-season title, with Bauman recording season highs of 25 points (vs. Wellesley), six assists (three different occasions) and going 12-for-12 from the free throw line in a victory over Connecticut College.

This season, Bauman is averaging 12.3 points and 6.0 assists over an unconventional six-game schedule thus far, altered due to COVID-19. She has a solid assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9.

Babson (6-0) is tentatively scheduled to host Conn College on Saturday and Sunday.

"Honestly, just watching film with my coach here and just learning every single game," Bauman said of making a successful transition to college. "The seniors last year helped us learn a lot of stuff we needed to know coming into the season. You don't really know your role on the team at first ... and you're a freshman in college trying to figure out a lot of other things.

"Obviously (it came from) working hard every day in practice, coming early shooting extra, staying late shooting extra, working with coaches watching practice film. There's always ways you can improve things that could have gone better but didn't."

***

It started before she arrived on campus.

Bauman graduated from East Lyme in 2019 after contributing to the Vikings' Class M lacrosse championship as a senior. It was the first time she had ever played the sport in high school, joining her twin sister, Erin. Not surprisingly, Megan dished out a pair of assists in the title game, a 10-6 win over St. Joseph.

Then, she went to work to become a better basketball player.

Her tutor, most often, was former Waterford High School and Coast Guard Academy great Sam Cheung, now the men's basketball coach at UConn Avery Point. Bauman started out when she was younger as a paid student under Cheung, whose background is in player development. The two now work together more as friends than master and mentor, although Bauman can draw confidence from the fact that Cheung, a fellow point guard, is always in her corner.

"I worked with Sam all summer after high school basketball was over. I was doing a bunch of stuff on my own, lifting, running on my own a lot, working on basketball skills," said Bauman, who is 5-foot-7. "I got into really good shape before I came to Babson. Even if we were playing pickup in the preseason (at Babson), I also would make sure I got running in on my own. I definitely dedicated myself to it.

"I was so eager to get to Babson. I wanted to do so well. My goal was to be a starter on the team coming in. I didn't know if that was going to happen. I did whatever I could to make that happen."

Even this winter during semester break, Bauman got in some repetitions with Cheung on the regulation-size half-court in Cheung's backyard.

"In the cold, sweatpants, my hat on," Cheung said with a laugh of the scenario. "It's a much better matchup these days (playing one-on-one against her). It's a great matchup. She really has come into her own."

Part of Bauman's makeup as a basketball player is the pure joy she derives from the game.

She grew up in the same East Lyme neighborhood as former Connecticut Sun and current Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault and his family, who still provide her memorabilia from one of Bauman's favorite players, Washington's Elena Delle Donne.

She, of course, is a fan of former UConn and current Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird and, on the men's side, roots for four-time NBA assists leader Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

"Basketball's always been really important to me," Bauman said. "Every day I go to practice, that's the best part of my day, not only just being around the team but just playing basketball."

Her passion for the game and her knowledge of it is apparent to Blinstrub.

"She loves the game and loves playing," said Blinstrub, in her 37th season. "She's always talking basketball. She'll sit with me and my assistant coach. She always asks good questions. She watches a lot of basketball. She digests it. I think that's really helped her a lot. She's very passionate. We enjoy her. We enjoy pushing her a lot, making her work at the game because we know she has so much talent.

"I respect her as a player."

***

Cheung said he always believed Bauman would be successful at the next level.

"I'm so happy that she's able to showcase her game more in the college game," Cheung said. "For me, personally, because I've seen her so much, her skills are very advanced. It was everything that I thought she could do. ... Frankly, I still think her best basketball days are ahead.

"It's so nice she can be the point guard she wants to be. She gives a little bit of everything and anything the team needs."

Last year, Blinstrub said Bauman was surrounded by a talented senior class, which helped ease her transition. This year there are two seniors but no juniors, meaning that when next year's eight-player freshman class arrives, Bauman will be counted on for leadership.

"This year it's been fun to play," said Blinstrub, who said that while Bauman has adjusted offensively, she's still catching up to the speed of the college game on defense. "It gives them the opportunity to even grow more. We'll have no seniors next year and eight recruits coming in. She's going to have to step up and be a true leader.

"It's good she's growing up quick."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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