If you’ve been to an Emporia High School boys’ basketball game this season where Aiden Skiles enters the game, chances are you’ve heard the roar of the crowd.
The story of how he got into the team is unique.
Skiles hadn’t played basketball since middle school. He tried out for the middle school team in seventh grade and was one of only two players who were cut. He then lost interest in sports until his sophomore year of high school, when he played outside of school with friends.
Coach Lee Baldwin, who teaches physical education at Emporia High School, said Skiles came to him the first week of school to be an office assistant this year. This impressed Baldwin on the kind of person Skiles is.
But it’s when Baldwin saw Skiles dunk a basketball in PE that he asked Skiles to join the team. Skiles felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“He told me that in his 10 years as head coach, I was the first one he tried to recruit who didn’t already play basketball,” Skiles said. “At that point, it would have been a missed opportunity if I didn’t play because hearing him say it was special to me.”
Skiles has had just a handful of games so far this season, having scored two points against Wichita Trinity in the Paul Terry Classic at White Auditorium on Dec. 10 and three against Topeka High on Feb. 10. time tells us what kind of kid Skiles is.
“When he comes into play, our entire student section and audience go crazy for him,” Baldwin said. “They don’t unless he’s a good guy and he gets everything right. I’m really happy for him and he deserves it.”
For Skiles, these are memories he’ll never forget.
“It’s a great feeling,” Skiles said. “When I scored my first field goal in the Wichita Trinity game, it’s something I’ll never forget because the whole gym went crazy.”
Skiles’ primary sport is baseball, having played the sport since he was five or six years old. He plays left field for the Spartans and hopes to pitch this spring. He did wrestling and track and field in eighth grade and was on the swim team last year. He swam in three different events during the championship meet and was in a relay that was close to a state consideration time.
But this year Skiles wanted to try something new and he’s glad he did.
“If I kept swimming, I would have gone back to the league this year and even gone to state,” Skiles said. “But I was given the chance to try something new and I’m glad I did because I’ve definitely noticed that this experience has made me a better person.”
Skiles noted that he only really knew one person on the team, Drew Hess, prior to this year. But he’s made a lot of new friends in the last few months.
“Adapting has been great,” Skiles said. “We are all family. The only boy I really knew before was Drew because we went to kindergarten and played baseball together growing up. I’ve known all the others but I’ve never really been friends with them. But being part of the team has allowed me to connect with them so much more and build friendships that I didn’t know existed.”
Baldwin said Skiles fit right in with a group that has mostly been playing together for a few years.
“The guys respect him a lot and he’s enjoyed being a part of it and making new friends,” Baldwin said. “He’s a hard worker and he asks a lot of questions. Guys like him are invaluable and I’m glad he’s here.”
Skiles said he plans to attend Pratt Community College and enroll in their Wildlife Outfitting & Operations program, hoping to become “a game warden or something.” He also hopes to play baseball there.
But for now, Skiles is hoping to make more memories on the basketball court with his favorite coach.
“I’ve told several people, including my parents,” Skiles said. “Of all the coaches I’ve had in any sport, starting in little league, he was by far the best coach I’ve ever played with. There’s just something about him and we connect really well.
As for Baldwin? He had high praise for Skiles.
“There is no one in our school that I respect more than Aiden,” Baldwin said. “He does everything right and he’s a phenomenal guy.”