by Danny Hazan | @DeeHaze24
He’s as confident on the basketball court as he is off it.
“I can play high-major,” Justin Baker said matter-of-factly. “I feel like I can go out there and be a true point guard and run my team. The biggest goal is to play in the pros, just like everybody else. I just have to put in the work for it.”
But standing at just 5-9 and weighing 150 pounds soaking wet, the point guard from Indianapolis’ Cathedral High School knows he has to work extra hard.
He’s been getting college interest since eighth grade and has the likes of Indiana, Purdue, Virginia, IUPUI and Loyola-Chicago starting to show more but still doesn’t have any offers. Playing in front of college coaches at the NY2LA Next Level Invitational, Baker did his best to prove he’s a high-major talent.
His ability was most evident in his quarterfinal performance with the SYF Players against the Milwaukee Rebels. Baker dropped 32 points while burying 5 three-pointers. With jet-like quickness and blurring speed, Baker was also able to get in the lane at will utilizing devastating crossovers and in-and-outs to free himself for layups.
He also hit 10 straight free throws in the second half, and helped ice the Rebels on the way to a 76-70 victory.
“Going out there as a smaller guard than everybody else in my age level, I have to go out there with the mentality that nobody can stop me,” Baker said. “I always have the mentality that we’re going to win and I’m the best one on the court.
“We actually lost to that team (in pool play), and that’s why we came out like we did. It just feels good to have the team on my back and have them look up to me, and then running plays and getting my teammates points.”
The guard continued his torrid pace in the semis by scoring 20 points and hitting a cold-blooded three-pointer with 17 seconds left to tie the game 65-65 against the Southwest Minnesota Stars. But intriguing 2015 prospect 6-5 Michael Lee from Dawson-Boyd High School drilled a three as time expired to end SYF’s tournament.
Baker will be back in Milwaukee for the Summer Jam on Wednesday. If a pool play loss inspired his 32-point performance, it should be interesting to see how he comes out following a tourney-ending loss at the buzzer.