HASKELL -- A boy’s childhood is made up of mainly wants. At the age of 5 it is “I WANT to be just like daddy.” At 12 it’s “I WANT to be a high schooler.” Then at 17 it’s “I WANT to move out on my own.” But for some, the wants turn into DREAMS around 10. Like dreaming of being the best athlete ever, or slam dunking the basketball with two hands.
For two Harmony Grove seniors, those childhood dreams have become a reality. Best friends from an early age, Hayden Burchfield and Mitch Scoggins have followed each other around as if they were joined at the hip. From “can Mitch come out to play?” to “hey Hayden, want to go shoot some hoops at the old gym?” the two have been inseparable.
Now, one 17 and the other 18, the best friends off the court have become like brothers on the court. And it all started at an early age.
“I was in about sixth grade when I started playing basketball,” Burchfield said.
For Scoggins, the ball started to bounce a little earlier.
“I have been playing since I could walk,” Scoggins said. “I played on an organized team in first grade and I have played on one ever since.”
Scoggins’ dad, James has been a big motivator in making the seniors into the players they are today.
James is a graduate from Bryant and was a walk-on player at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
As juniors, the two put up good numbers as members of the Harmony Grove senior boys team. Burchfield finished the year with a 10.1 scoring average, while Scoggins tallied 11.3 per game.
Scoggins was an all Bryant boy, growing up as a Hornet before transferring to Harmony Grove to play with his friend last season. Burchfield moved to Benton from Haskell as a sophomore before returning to The Grove last season.
“Basketball is a way of life,” Burchfield said. “It is why I live life, really. It is my why. It has helped me through school and life. It has kept me out of trouble.”
Scoggins feels the same way about the game.
“Eat. Sleep. Breath,” Scoggins said. “I have always been that way. I never think twice for it to not be that way.”
High school teammates only last so long. But for both Burchfield and Scoggins, another one of those dreams recently came true.
“I have always wanted to play with Mitch at the next level,” Burchfield said.
“It has never been about playing for a big college or at this school or that school, for Hayden,” Head Cardinals Coach Dexter Hendrix said. “It has always been ‘I want to play with Mitch’ for him.”
After receiving college offers from Harding University and Tennessee-Martin, Burchfield verbally agreed to commit to Harding beginning next season; with Mitch out of the picture. For a moment it looked as if the dream of one day playing with his friend at the next level was dashed just like that.
But it’s funny the difference a couple months make. After being recruited by the University of Central Arkansas and UALR before ultimately agreeing with Harding, Burchfield got the news he never thought would come.
Arkansas Tech offered both Burchfield and Scoggins a scholarship to become Wonder Boys next fall. After touring the Russellville campus and talking with both Hendrix and Tech’s head coach Doug Karleskint, the lifelong friends made up their minds. They were going to play on a college team in the same town, in the same uniform and for the same coach, just like they had always dreamed.
“Tech offered me before anything and Harding had been recruiting me, too,” Scoggins said. “Hayden committed way back when and then we went on our visit to Tech and it was great. We talked to the coaches and they told Hayden how much they would love to have him and he changed his mind and I am happy he did.”
Harding offered Burchfield his scholarship at the beginning of this past summer, months before Tech stepped in and offered Scoggins in August.
Scoggins and Burchfield joked about how they used to always say that they were going to one day be a package deal for some team.
“We always joked around about it and now that it is coming true, it is truly a blessing,” Burchfield said. “Harding is a great school, but I feel like it would be better at Tech, with Mitch.”
The two have played organized ball alongside each other since seventh grade and currently suit up in the same uniform for the Arkansas Wings, an AAU summer traveling team coached by James.
“We played from Orlando to Atlanta to Dallas this summer,” Scoggins said. “We are one of the elite organizations in the whole country. There are probably 35 to 40 teams in the whole country that are that elite.”
The team is sponsored by Nike.
Despite looking ahead at next fall, there is still a season to be played on the hard court at Harmony Grove. And this year’s team is settling for nothing less than a 3A State Title. Coming off of a Regional Tournament bid in 2012, the 2013-14 Cardinals are primed and ready to make a run, even without some key pieces from last season.
Bryce Sossaman left at the end of the school year in the spring after hitting over 60 3-pointers for the Cardinals. But Scoggins being the great teammate he is, wastes no time giving props to the most improved player on this season’s squad.
“Chuck McCormick is a kid that last year didn’t play any minutes and didn’t see the floor and now has worked his butt off,” Scoggins said. “The kid is about to have a coming out party. He is the best shooter on our team.”
Scoggins said that he and the rest of the team expect nothing less than to go out and win everything they set out to play.
“If we lose a game we are going to be down on ourselves,” Scoggins said. “It is win, win, win, win, win. That is all we care about this season.”
“Coach has preached that all offseason,” Burchfield added. “We are not going to be the average team that we were last year. It has got to be a state title, especially for how hard we work.
Another key to this year’s team is the chemistry the players have with one another.
“It is a family,” Burchfield said. “We eat lunch together and we are always hanging out after school, I never hangout with anybody but my teammates.”
With all of the hype about playing at the next level, the two seniors are focused on nothing but winning and leaving it all out on the court this season. For Harmony Grove, that time starts Tuesday. The Cardinals will tip off against Poyen in preseason action at home beginning at 8 p.m.
The duo will sign their intent to play for the Wonder Boys at the new high school gym at 3 p.m.