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Mitchell's Caden Hinker searches for a scholarship in a summer filled with hoops

If Caden Hinker is seen around Mitchell without a basketball in his hands this summer, it will be a rare occurrence.

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Mitchell's Caden Hinker (20) shoots over the top of Aberdeen Central's A.J. Hase (23) during a game on Friday, Feb. 26 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

If Caden Hinker is seen around Mitchell without a basketball in his hands this summer, it will be a rare occurrence.

Whether it is the lonely echo of a basketball bouncing in an empty gymnasium, a camp with the Kernels or a showcase with dozens of college scouts, Hinker’s summer revolves around basketball.

And it will likely net him a college scholarship.

The 6-foot-6 standout heads into the summer before his final year at Mitchell High School looking to secure his future as a basketball player. Already armed with four Division II scholarship offers, Hinker is also speaking with five Division I coaches regularly and is hoping to add more to the list during a busy AAU summer circuit with the South Dakota Attack.

Last weekend Hinker was one of four South Dakota players invited to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Showcase and returned to Minnesota for an AAU tournament this weekend in St. Cloud, all with a three-day camp in Mitchell sandwiched between.

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He also has trips planned to Atlanta and Kansas City, with multiple local events with the Kernels and Attack, along with training through Sanford Basketball Academy and the Mitchell Recreation Center.

“This is something I love,” Hinker said. “There are some days my body will get a little tired and I’ll need to take a little recovery time, but there’s not very many days I wish this isn’t what I’m doing, because this is what I love.”

The final summer before his senior year would have been a significant recruiting period for Hinker regardless, but COVID-19 has made the process murkier. The NCAA extended recruiting dead periods after in-person visits were difficult during the school year and the NCAA also granted an extra year of eligibility for players , which has impacted how schools shape their rosters and incoming recruiting classes.

Ideally, Hinker would like to commit to a school prior to the start of basketball season in order to alleviate stress, much like former Mitchell teammate Zane Alm was able to do last season. He is in no rush to make a decision, however, as he searches for the right school and coach.

Still undecided on his academic pursuits in college, Hinker has not closed any options geographically and is willing to relocate if the right opportunity comes along. Currently, his biggest desire from a school is an open and honest line of communication. He is more apt to lean toward a school that is honest about their plans for him on the court than what the plan actually is.

“If the offer comes in for the goal that he wants, I think he’ll take it,” said Todd Neuendorf, former Mitchell basketball coach. “He’s not going to ever settle and he’s not going to ever jump at the first one. He wants to have all his options on the table. That’s what competitive kids do — they want to see how far they can go.”

Maintaining the right mindset

Hinker is no stranger to pushing his limits and using the summer to reinvent himself as a basketball player. Each of the past three summers, Hinker has emerged with a new skill and became a noticeably better player .

Hinker’s scoring averaged dipped slightly from 17.1 points per game as a sophomore to 16.8 this season, but he also had more rebounds (233) and assists (121) last season than the rest of his varsity career combined.

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When colleges call the Mitchell coaches to inquire about Hinker, they are already aware of his scoring exploits and instead are more curious about his intangibles. Unfortunately in college showcases where players are attempting to garner the attention of coaches, intangibles often go on the backburner when players are tossed into game situations.

“Sometimes AAU can be a crapshoot,” Mitchell interim coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt said. “Sometimes it’s whoever gets the rebound and brings it up, shoots it. That’s just the reality of it. When he’s with the Attack it’s better because they move the ball. But if you go to a showcase, you’re playing with guys you don’t know. You don’t even know their names, so it’s hard to even call for the ball.”

As the miles begin to accumulate faster than the shots he takes daily — his goal is to reach 20,000 makes by the end of the summer and is averaging between 300-700 per day depending on time — the pressure also has the potential to build for Hinker.

All of Hinker’s efforts throughout his high school career have been geared toward earning a scholarship and he has been careful not to place an overbearing amount of pressure on himself to make it happen. On the court, Hinker expects every shot to fall through the hoop and admittedly gets frustrated on an off night, but he has found a more level-headed viewpoint in regards to recruiting.

“I just try to not think about who’s watching or thinking about where I need to go,” Hinker said. “I’m just here to play basketball and that’s what I’m doing. I just try to go in and play my game and whatever happens, happens.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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