Long before Will Batchelder was a standout freshman for Holy Cross, he was a basketball-crazed up-and-comer in Newburyport who often woke up his family members by dribbling in the kitchen.
Batchelder’s father, Bill, was a football and baseball player at the University of New Hampshire and a draft pick of the Oakland Athletics. His mother, Cat, left Georgetown University as the lacrosse program’s second all-time leading scorer.
They never pressured him to focus on any particular sport, instead letting him map out his own future. Cat and Bill sensed that basketball was Will’s true passion at a young age. They didn’t know whether he would play in college, but they knew he would do everything in his power to earn the opportunity.
Batchelder is currently living out his dream. The 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound guard has started all 27 games in Year 1 for the Crusaders. He’s averaging 12.6 points and 1.9 assists while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range in 32.4 minutes per game.
Molded by accomplished and supportive parents, he is wise beyond his years and is following in their footsteps.
“There was never any pressure to live up to their level,” Batchelder said. “I always looked at it as how fortunate I was growing up, and still am, to have two role models who made it that far and have those experiences that they can share with me.”
Batchelder always seemed to have a ball in his hand growing up, whether it was a basketball, baseball, football, or lacrosse ball. Bill coached him in basketball, baseball, and football, and Batchelder frequently tagged along to his father’s league and pickup games.
When they took their annual trip to Springfield to watch the Hoophall Classic, Batchelder was glued to the action. He remembered players’ names, faces, and hometowns and studied their tendencies.
His parents recall how he found dribbling workouts on YouTube around age 10 and practiced relentlessly in the basement. He sharpened his shot every day in the yard, and yes, sometimes woke up the neighbors, too.
In middle school, Batchelder started working with a coach at 5:30 a.m. at the YMCA in Lawrence. If he shot poorly one night, and he needed an assist, his father would accompany him to the gym early the next morning to regain his mojo.
“I try not to use the word ‘work’ when it comes to basketball with Will,” Bill said, “because he just loves to play.”
Batchelder carved out a key role at St. John’s Prep as a freshman. Playing against opponents three-plus years older forced him to grow up quickly.
The skills and savviness were there, and the mental toughness came the more he played. Batchelder still leans on the experience he gained that year as he embarks on a similar journey at Holy Cross.
He transferred to Governor’s Academy in Byfield and repeated his sophomore season. Batchelder experienced more “growing moments” amid a grueling 30-plus-game schedule, yet he found plenty of success.
Batchelder ultimately scored 1,642 points in high school and blossomed into a first-team league selection. He played AAU ball for the Middlesex Magic and coach Mike Crotty, and becoming a Division 1 athlete evolved from a dream to reality.
“It was always just put your head down and work as hard as you can every day,” Batchelder said. “You’ll continue to realize things about yourself and reach new limits.”
He visited Holy Cross several times in high school, and coach Brett Nelson considers himself fortunate that Batchelder chose that path. Nelson believes the relationship they built, and still have, was instrumental in his decision.
While Batchelder’s natural talent is obvious, Nelson highlighted the foundation and poise he built at a young age as a major driver in facilitating his current role.
“He has a tenacious work ethic,” Nelson said. “His demeanor, he’s pretty even-keeled. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low, which allows him to be able to move to the next play. That’s very unique in today’s day and age.”
In addition to the time-management adjustments every student-athlete has to make while transitioning to college, Batchelder had to deal with an extra hurdle following an elbow to the nose: a face mask. The mask often became sweaty, fogged up, and altered his vision. He despised it at first, but he learned to adjust.
His teammates joked that he should wear it for the rest of his career. The Richard Hamilton comparisons were inevitable, though Batchelder has always loved shooters who play with edge, so he didn’t mind.
When he finally took the mask off, he poured in a career-high 28 points and set a program record with eight 3-pointers against Lafayette last Monday. Batchelder, a sharpshooter who does a lot more than shoot, added 18 in a win over American Saturday.
He’s already garnered Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors multiple times and is quickly becoming one of the more dynamic players in the league.
“He’s earned everything that he’s gotten,” Nelson said. “It’s not an accident.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.