Prep boys basketball: For Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald, passing ‘is at his core’

The Bluejackets’ guard became the ninth boys player in Minnesota history to collect more than 1,000 assists in his career.

Ayden McDonald (44) of Hibbing dribbles the ball against Nicholas Swanson (13) during a Dec. 21 game at Esko. McDonald became the ninth player in Minnesota history to eclipse 1,00 career assists during a game against Badger/Greenbush-Middle River. Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune
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About 7 minutes into Hibbing’s game against Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, Carson Brown inbounded the ball to Ayden McDonald.

McDonald sealed off the man guarding the inbound pass and Brown cut to the corner.

“Carson did a good job running off me,” Ayden said. “I set a screen on the guy and I kind of gave (Brown) a shovel pass and then he hit a nice three from the corner.”

The pass was Ayden’s second assist of the game, giving him 1,000 for his career with the Bluejackets. What’s more, Ayden scored 50 points in Hibbing’s 94-56 win over BGMR Tuesday at the North Star State Hardwood Showcase in Hibbing.

Ayden is just the ninth boys player in Minnesota history to reach 1,000 assists since tracking began. He joins Mark Heiman of Ely and Bjorn Broman of Lakeview Christian Academy as the only players from Northern Minnesota to eclipse 1,000 assists.


He came within two of the mark at Hibbing’s Dec. 21 win at Esko, but getting the record at home was special, Ayden said.

Related: Prep boys basketball: Hibbing’s ‘hard work’ pays off in win over Esko

Related: Prep boys basketball: Hibbing's McDonald named All-Area Player of the Year

“It was definitely nice to be able to do it at home in front of all the people that have supported us and supported me over the years,” he said. “Just having them in attendance and being able to do it at home in front of them was great with the great teammates that were out on the floor with me today.”

As the year began, there was some talk Ayden would have to change his game after last season. The Bluejackets made a run to their first state tournament since 1989, but after losing six players from that team, many thought Ayden would have to change his game to score more and distribute less.

While he has scored at a high clip, averaging nearly 29 points a game so far this season, Ayden has also continued to average more than 11 assists per game in 2021 and the Bluejackets (7-1) are still one of the best teams in the area.

“I think everybody just assumed he was going to have to completely redefine his game,” Joel said. “But being a passer is what Ayden is at his core. As much as I think a lot of the discussion was he is going to have to be different this year — and there’s no question he has been, to an extent — but at the same time, he’s distributing the ball really nicely and he’s also getting the the basket really nicely in some big scoring games for us.”

Ayden is already rewriting the Hibbing record books. He is the Bluejackets’ all-time leader not only in assists, but also in scoring, steals and free throw percentage.


Basketball records run in the family, though. His grandfather, legendary Chisholm coach Bob McDonald, is the all-time wins leader in Minnesota with 1,012. He guided the Bluestreaks to three state championships and 11 section titles in his nearly 50 years as coach.

Joel is the ninth leading scorer in Minnesota history with 3,292 career points and was a key player on Chisholm’s 1991 state championship team.

Ayden said he’s seen his dad, uncles and cousins play, but the he most remembers watching his sister, Abbey McDonald, play most of all. Abbey, a 2019 graduate of Hibbing, is the Bluejackets all-time leading girls scorer as well, with 2,576 career points.

“I’ve seen film of my dad and I got to watch some of my cousins, but Abbey was kind of who I got to watch most growing up,” Ayden said. “Just having that family aspect though — you want to be like them. You want to be able to score like them, pass like them, but you want to be like them as people, too.”

Hibbing (6-1) will play Duluth Denfeld in the tournament semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Hibbing.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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