Men's Basketball: Potomac State's Baker on the rise
Reggie Baker is making the most of his opportunity at Potomac State College. Both on the basketball court and in the classroom. Photo Courtesy Raymond Burner
By DAN HOEHNE for the NEWS SUN, Sebring, Fla. firstname.lastname@example.org
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
For Avon Park, Fla.native Reggie Baker, the plan to achieving his goals is a simple one - hard work.
Which was something he knew and was willing to put in as he made the transition from basketball with the Red Devils to taking the court with the Catamounts of Potomac State College in West Virginia.
"I knew I had to start all over again," Baker said in an interview Friday. "I looked at it like I did in middle school and starting my high school career. I was going to work hard and, as a freshman, was going to try to take someone's spot.
"I have a cousin, Teddy Allen, playing football in college and he told me what to expect and what I should be doing to get prepared," he continued. "So over last summer I lifted weights to get stronger and bigger, ran miles and got in the gym every day to work on my game."
But even with the self-driven rigors he put himself through, Baker was in for a bit of a surprise which catches many a freshman college athlete off guard - that even upping the level of what they are used to on the high school level isn't quite enough.
"I thought I was in tip-top shape, but once we started practicing, I realized I wasn't," he said. "And everything seemed so unreal. I was just in high school and now I'm playing college ball. I got a little overwhelmed."
But Baker had his sights set and went about working through his plan, which was just to work hard, listen and learn.
And as the practice season moved toward the season schedule, Baker saw himself learning more and more, improving every day and earning a starting spot at shooting guard for their opening game.
"I was about to play my first college game," he said. "I was nervous and didn't know how I would play."
Whether those nerves were calmed, or if they drove him, Baker had quite a debut against the College of Southern Maryland.
He shot 13-21 from the field, 2-5 on threes, 4-5 at the free throw line, had seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in addition to his 32 points.
Quite a stat line for a college freshman in his first college game.
Such eye-popping stat lines wouldn't be the norm, of course, but it proved to Baker that he belonged and that his plan was on the right path.
"After that, I just went out, gave it my all every game and tried my best to help my team win," he said.
And his plan of hard work wasn't limited to the court, for Baker knew that the bigger part of this opportunity he had earned was the chance for a college education.
"I also took care of business in the classroom," he said about working toward his major in Sports Management. "I ended my first semester with a 3.8 grade-point average and my second semester with a 3.4. I knew I had to work at least as hard in the classroom as I did on the court and I was proud of myself."
As well he should be, as he added an impressive 18.6 points per game on the season to back up the impressive numbers in the classroom.
"The goal most of all is to get that college degree," he said. "Once I have that, I know it's something I can always fall back on. Plan A is to play professionally, whether I can one day make it to the NBA, or play overseas. But I know I have to have that back-up plan."
As far as the overall transition for the Florida native starting college in Keyser, WV, some aspects were smooth, but Baker had some things to get used to.
"The school is really nice, the people are really friendly and easy to get along with and the teachers are great and really care about your education," he said. "But coming from Florida to West Virginia was a big jump.
"I'm used to hot weather and was a little worried about how cold it might get," he continued. "When it snowed, well that was the first my first time. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and after a while, I got used to it."
And so the adjustments were made, work was put in and the benefits were seen as Baker sticks to the plan toward achieving his goals.
"I had so many people tell me I couldn't make it to college, that I wouldn't last a semester, wouldn't get any playing time or make it far," he said. "I use all that as motivation to work even harder."
Added benefits were also seen as Baker's strong season and stellar grades have opened up some more doors and given him more options.
"I've received offers from three Division II schools and two Division I schools," he said. "I have one more year here to work on getting more offers and move on to bigger and better things."
A goal without a plan is just a wish - Reggie Baker has a plan, and it's working.