Records are made to be broken. We’ve seen a few fall already in Gibson County, and while Jackie Young’s scoring record will probably stand for quite some time, maybe ever, Wood Memorial’s Paxon Bartley has been smashing record books in his own way.
Last Friday in the Trojans loss to North Daviess, Bartley scored 35 points to become Wood Memorial’s all-time scoring leader, surpassing Bill Bingham’s 1,365.
Following a 20-point outing against Princeton in the Toyota Classic Championship, Bartley sits at 1,481. This puts him well within reach of his grandfather, Larry Harris who scored 1,594 and holds the East Gibson Schools record. After he smashes that, he will likely become the boys’ all-time scoring leader in Gibson County, which is currently 1,601 held by Princeton grad Rontray Chavis.
“I never go into any game feeling any pressure. I just go into the game with the mindset that I got to do what I got to do to help my team win, and that’s what I try to do,” Bartley said.
Bartley is a star. He’s a prolific scorer. But you would never no that by talking to him. He’s humble, cut from a different cloth. His biggest motivations are team-oriented goals, and he confirmed this after he was asked about the individual records, and responded by bringing up his biggest goal for the season.
“I don’t know if this is really a record, but the one thing I want to do is win a regional. Our boys basketball program has never done that,” Bartley said.
His coach, Dustin George, who’s in his first season, echoed these statements. He thinks of everybody, Bartley has been the least excited about these record-breaking performances.
“You know I’d say honestly he’s probably the least excited of anybody. He doesn’t personally like to talk about it too much. He’s just kind of, when it happens it happens,” George said.
George isn’t from Oakland City, but a big driving force in him uprooting himself and coming to take the Trojans head-coaching job was Bartley. He knew Wood Memorial had lost a lot of scoring and experience, but was returning a player who is often the most talented guy on the floor.
“It’s one of those things that first year coaches dream of having. That was a big piece of my own decision to come here. Taking off where I don’t know anybody, understanding early on the pieces they did have. That played a major factor in just overall excitement and enthusiasm to begin,” George said.
Bartley has been surrounded with success his whole life. His dad, Johnnie Bartley, is currently the head girls’ basketball coach at Wood Memorial. He guided the Lady Trojans to a state championship in 2017, and was a former high jumper at Indiana University himself. Bartley’s sisters also played on the team.
While Bartley and his father are close, they discuss basketball only every once in a while. After games it gets talked about, but other than that, he’s a father to Paxon before a coach.
“After games and stuff we’ll discuss it. Other than that, its just dad. He is a coach, he does help me, but at the same time he’s my dad, and we can kind of get away from it a little bit,” Paxon said.
“It’s pretty cool, as a dad you know, I’ve had his sisters play in the state championship game is special. To do some things individually is pretty cool,” Johnnie said. “He’s a very unselfish kid, so to do some things that gives him some personal accolades is nice, because he deserves it.”
Currently, Bartley is trying to lead a group of players that are younger to new heights. The Trojans started the season rough, winning just one of their first seven games.
Since, the Trojans had a fantastic weekend at the Toyota Classic, which ultimately ended up in a runner-up finish after a loss to Princeton. They beat Evansville Christian and North Posey in pool play.
For Bartley, a guy that is business-like in his approach, he has learned how to lead. He tries to keep things even-keeled, while still trying to help some of his younger teammates reach their potential. Both he and George believe Wood Memorial has turned the corner.
“I try to be positive but also make sure I get my point across. I’ve never been the type of guy to get in my teammates face and yell at them. At the same time, I try to be leader and tell them what I see. It’s always better to hear from someone else,” Bartley said.
Given the fact that Bartley goes to a Class A school, plays in an area that isn’t dominated by big media presence, it’s taken a while for him to get the attention he’s gotten now, halfway through his senior year. He wants people in the community and beyond to recognize Wood Memorial is a fantastic school, beyond just one singular athlete.
“I’m trying to be a role model, ya know. Trying to show people that Wood Memorial is a really good school. We have more than just one great athlete. We have lots of great athletes, with really good schooling. Just trying to get our name out there, it’s great.”