When athletes retire from the game they love, many often struggle to find somewhere else to refocus their energy and passion.
Don't include former Pacers forward Maceo Baston on that list. Now retired, he's spending more time with family and redirecting his competitive edge to something totally different: Cupcakes.
"I just decided to shut it down, concentrate on my son and phase two," Baston told Pacers.com in a recent conversation.
Three Michigan grads—Maceo, wife Yolanda, and her business partner Michelle Brown, opened Taste Love Cupcakes in Royal Oak, Michigan about 18 months ago.
Then, just five months after opening, they received an invitation from the Food Network to compete on Cupcake Wars in an episode that aired last April. The publicity was tremendous for such a young company and sales more than tripled following their appearance. Best of all, they took home the top prize of $10,000.
Baston, however, is the guy behind the scenes, making sure to take care of the bottom-line. "I'm not a baker," Baston made clear. "I do a lot of the tasting!"
To be prepared for life after basketball, Baston took part in the NBA Player Development Entrepreneurism Program. From there, the idea for Taste Love Cupcakes was further developed and everything started to come together.
Taste Love Cupcakes started from scratch in the Baston household and immediately became a hit in the community. There were already a few cupcakes establishments in the area, but Baston says Taste Love bakes a different kind of cupcake—gourmet, with all natural ingredients. They are now shipping nationwide and have hopes to expand soon, as they are determined to "take it to the next level." Possibilities include Texas, where Baston has family and in Carmel, where he once had a house while with the Pacers.
"I'm not much of a cook or a baker but I enjoy it. It's therapeutic. And it gives me a competitive edge. I want my cupcakes, my pancakes or whatever I'm cooking to taste better than my wife's or my son's when we have a cook-off. I'm competitive in everything."
Son & Basketball
In addition to the cupcake business, Baston, 36, works with the development of young players, like his son, Maceo Jr. He's a 6-foot-5 junior at the prestigious Detroit Country Day School and has a chance to play at the Division I level.
"He plays point guard and shooting guard and is a different type of player," said Maceo. "He's the player I wanted to be."
Throughout his career, he never really had anyone, other than coaches, to work with on his skills. That's why Baston enjoys helping young players craft their game at a young age.
"I didn't have a big entourage or a big team. Once I would get my evaluation every year, I had to figure out how to improve my own skills. I improved my jump shot and my perimeter skills on my own, so I felt like I was self-made in a lot of ways. I definitely love to give back and teach younger kids."
Maceo's first love was football, where he lined up under center as quarterback or outside as wide receiver. Unlike his son, he was late to pick up basketball. He began playing basketball in the 7th grade, mainly because he was 6-foot-3. His first year was a challenge, as he tried to get a feel and learn the nuances of the game. Baston confessed that he only scored one point in his first season, but he continued to grow mentally and physically (to 6'6") and went on to average 18 points a game in 8th grade. Quite the leap in one year's time.
After high school, Baston went on to play at the University of Michigan from 1994-98 where he averaged 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds for his career. In 1998, he was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bulls, though he never played for them.
Later, Baston played two stints with the Pacers, first in 2006-07, and later from 2007-08 as part of the deal that shipped Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for Roy Hibbert, T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic. O'Neal's numbers were fading, the Pacers were in need of a new point guard and they drafted their new center for years to come. That season would be Baston's fourth and final season in the NBA.
"I knew Indiana was trying to rebuild and try to get over the hump with Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson on their last run. I just tried to come in and be a piece and add my championship experience with those veteran guys.
"It was tough going to three different teams, with three different coaches in three different years. That was really tough to do and I kind of was lost in the shuffle."
For his NBA career—105 games over four seasons—Baston averaged 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds.
"It was a good experience for me through it all. I learned a lot from those guys. I would love to stay affiliated with the Pacers in any way I could if they needed me around for anything."
Life after professional basketball came quickly for Baston. Now, between coaching and managing a cupcake business, he's busy and happy to have somewhere to apply the passion, energy, and dedication he had for basketball.
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