NEWPORT NEWS — For Jordan Baker, it still seems like yesterday that he was a freshman at Hampton High School. Now, he is starting over at Old Dominion, both as a student and as a basketball player.
"Everything is flying past me," Baker said. "I'm so blessed to have all these opportunities."
One after another. In his three seasons on the Crabbers' varsity, Baker won accolades (first-team All-Peninsula District as a senior), championships (Group AAA as a junior) and a college scholarship. And Monday night at the Freeman Center, he took his final high school bow in the VHSCA All-Star basketball game.
Baker scored nine points and had three steals in the East's 84-72 win. Grafton's Elijah Moore finished with 10, eight of which came on dunks.
"It's a pretty cool feeling going out in the state all-star game in front of my peers and family," Baker said before tip-off. "It's one last time."
At Hampton, Baker was Scottie Pippen to Anthony Barber's Michael Jordan. The result was a 49-12 record over the last two years and the program's first state title in 15 years.
Though he was the Crabbers' most consistent 3-point shooter, he averaged only 9.4 points a game for his career. But when the Crabbers absolutely had to have a basket, it was often Baker who provided it. A classic example: The Eastern Region quarterfinals, when his 94-foot dash to the goal beat Landstown at the buzzer.
Baker also was regarded as the district's best defensive stopper. That's what attracted former Old Dominion Blaine Taylor, who extended Baker his first offer. Baker committed last July and signed in November.
But on Feb. 5, in the midst of ODU's worst season since being elevated to Division I in 1976, Taylor was fired. Baker, along with the program's two other incoming freshmen, was stunned. But in meeting with new coach Jeff Jones and his staff — which included holdover John Richardson, one of his primary recruiters — Baker felt comfortable with his choice.
He also made a good first impression on Jones.
"You could tell he had put some thought into his questions for me, although one question was whether I'd let him wear a headband," Jones said with a laugh. "But he was a polite, nice young man, which was consistent with everything I had heard from John."
On the court, Jones likes Baker's strong build and tough style of play.
"He's more of a slasher right now than finesse," he said. "He's probably a better shooter than I thought, but he doesn't have the confidence in his jump shot yet. The biggest thing is, he's accustomed to winning and he competes. Those are two qualities you can get a lot of mileage out of."
One of Baker's East teammates, Kellam's Ramone Snowden, was in the same boat as Baker after Taylor was fired. But any concerns were eased after meeting Jones.
"He's a cool guy, a cool coach," said Snowden, who scored 14 points Monday night. "He seems straight forward with everything and he's pretty much going to work us to death to get us better. I can see that right now."
EAST 84, WEST 72
EAST: Jones 24, Wilson 4, Culbreath 2, Smith 6, Williams 2, Baker 9, Drew 5, Snowden 14, Moore 10, Stith 8. Totals: 31 17-26 84.
WEST: Banks 20, Fitzgerald 2, Gravely 7, Ervin 1, Wilson 7, Owens 12, Vernon 14, Overstreet 9. Totals: 24 15-28 72.
3-point goals: East 5 (Jones 2, Baker 2, Snowden), West 9 (Banks 3, Gravely 2, Wilson, Owens 2, Vernon).
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