Photo courtesy of Rutgers University Athletics.
By David Cordova
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have had plenty of disappointing seasons for more than 25 years, but something good that has come out of the rough times have been some good wins and also some standout players.
In the present day, things are somewhat the same. But under head coach Steve Piekell, things are changing for the better. One reason for the surge is the efficient play of Geordano “Geo” Baker.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard walks on the court with a quiet nature, but is deadly with his shooting and always look to dominate the competition with his jumper and his ability to get to the basket.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Oh, man, all my people back home. My mom was actually here today (Nov. 23), so I just want to come out here and actually play hard for her, even if I’m not making shots, I think that I’ve shown I can play hard.”
Home for Baker is Derry, New Hampshire, a small town of over 22,000 people. When asked about his being from his hometown, he replied, “You know, it’s actually a quiet place, it gets real cold, which is one of the reasons I stay in the gym. But a lot of people love basketball in New Hampshire, I think that’s something that people don’t really understand and when I was growing up, I played every single day. There was times when we wouldn’t really eat, like we’d just be playing basketball the whole time.”
In his high school days at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, Baker was one of the most formidable guards in the NEPSAC, as he averaged 18 points, six assists and five rebounds as a junior. As a senior, he was a first-team NEPSAC Class AA All-New England selection.
On the prep school experience and how it helped him, he replied, “Yeah, it helped me a lot, there was a lot of Division I guys in all the NEPSAC schools, guys going everywhere all over the country, so I think that really prepared me. And also, academically, being at a boarding school, I think I learned how to manage my time well for college.”
During his high school years, Baker was an under-the-radar recruit and played for the DC Blue Devils AAU program, a New Hampshire-based program, not to be confused with the program in Washington, D.C. with the same name. Because they didn’t play on any major AAU circuit, they held their own at tournaments put together by Hoop Group and Zero Gravity, where he had an opportunity to shine and capitalized on that opportunity with his great play.
“Yeah, that was my AAU team back home,” said Baker of the program, “You know, we weren’t really sponsored or anything like that, so I think the good thing about my team is that we kind of made our own name for ourselves and built ourselves up. They do a really good job over there.”
In July 2016, Baker made his commitment to Rutgers. When asked why he chose the Scarlet Knights, he replied, “Everything. When I first visited the campus, I fell in love right away. I love the coaching staff, I love the people around me, it just felt like the perfect fit.”
As a freshman last season, he started in 29 games and averaged 10.8 points per game and formed one of the best backcourts with then-junior Corey Sanders, who is currently playing professionally for Mega Basket Georgia is the Georgia A League overseas. For his efforts, he was named the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Rookie of the Year.
When asked about his first season in the Big Ten Conference and at Rutgers overall, Baker replied, “I thought I did good, I had an up-and-down season, you know, I think that I kind of hit the freshman wall, I let it get to me a little bit, but overall I did a good job.”
This season, Baker has been on a roll for the Scarlet Knights, averaging 13.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Although the team is 12-14 overall and 5-10 in conference play in the Big Ten, Baker has been one of the program’s bright spots with his outstanding play.
When asked if he felt he had to step up in the absence of the departed Sanders, he replied, “Yeah, I think, first of all, I’m a point guard on the team, so I definitely to be a coach on the floor, I need to be a leader. But you know, without Corey here, I think we have a different dynamic here on our team. We play a lot more team basketball this year, I think we have more weapons this year.”
Although the program is under .500, their fortunes can change with four more games left in the regular season before the start of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, Illinois on March 13th.
When asked how far he believes Rutgers can go, Baker replied, “As far as we can go, you know, we’re taking it one game at a time. I think we’ve been doing a good job, but our ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament, that’s all we think about.”
The last time the Scarlet Knights were in the NCAA Tournament was in 1991, when they played eighth-seeded Arizona State close, but lost, 79-76. Although it seems like a long shot to make the Big Dance right now, the chance to make that dream a reality in the future is always there.
As for Baker, he intends to take everything one game at a time. He is driven to win and definitely plans to achieve everything he’s set out to do. But first and foremost, it’s time to finish this season strong, which he and Rutgers plan to do in the best way they can: By making a strong statement during the rest of this season.
Highlights of Geo Baker: