Heading into the 2020-21 season, it appeared that Duquesne freshman Chad Baker was not going to play a huge role for the Dukes.
When he committed to Duquesne, he did not have a profile on either Rivals or 247 Sports. Baker was rated as a 2-star prospect by Verbal Commits, and out of high school was originally committed to Mississippi Valley State, who is currently 0-13 and ranked dead last out of all 347 teams in the NCAA’s NET rankings. At the time, it was safe to say that not many people saw Baker becoming a household name on the college level.
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Then, he made a decision that would change the course of his career for the better.
Baker decided to not attend MVSU, but instead to go the prep-year route to play for SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, the same school that produced at-the-time national recruits LaMelo Ball, Rocket Watts, and Isaiah Jackson. After helping SPIRE to a 23-4 record, Baker committed to play for head coach Keith Dambrot at Duquesne.
In his first two games at the collegiate level, the 6-foot-7 forward played just 18 minutes combined. In the next few games, Baker saw his minutes shoot up due to Maceo Austin stepping away from the team for a short period and both Sincere Carry and Lamar Norman Jr. leaving the Duquesne program entirely. Ever since the two left the program, Dambrot has made it clear that he sees potential in Baker, giving him an average of 29.3 minutes per game since that happened.
While seeing his minutes rise tremendously, Baker still struggled shooting the ball. In his first five games of the season, he failed to make more than two field goals in any of those matchups. However, things changed when the Dukes took on Rhode Island at home.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) January 20, 2021
In that game, Baker shot the lights out, going 6 of 7 from the field and a perfect 5 for 5 from downtown. He finished with 19 points in 34 minutes, both career highs at the time. However, things seemed to quickly turn back around after that game. After his breakout performance against Rhode Island, Baker did what most freshmen do, and followed it up with a cold shooting night. He went 1 for 9 from the field and 0 for 6 on 3-point field goals in the next game against St. Bonaventure.
Even after his struggles against the Bonnies, Baker was announced as the A-10 Freshman of the Week. During that period, he averaged 11.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in those two games against Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure.
After receiving that honor, Baker prepared to rebound from his shooting slump against St. Bonaventure and prove that he could handle the minutes and produce at a high level in Duquesne’s next game against Fordham. Not only did he end up shooting better, but he had a career day in the Dukes win in the Bronx.
Baker scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 7 of 11 from beyond the arc. With those seven threes, he became just the third freshman in Duquesne Basketball history with seven or more threes in a game. While he still has a lot to improve on, Baker is certainly trending upward through eight games played for the Dukes. After the win against Fordham, Dambrot spoke on Baker’s potential and how limitless it really is.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) January 28, 2021
“He’s just scratching the surface right now,” Dambrot said about Baker. “He should be the best defender, best passer, best ball handler, best shooter and as crazy as it sounds, he’s underachieving. I have high expectations for talented people. When he finally decides to put everything he has into it, you’ll see something better than this. He has good instincts and he’s confident as hell.”
In just twelve days since the first matchup against St. Bonaventure, Baker raised his average from 5.4 points per game to 9.1, and is looking to improve yet again in the Dukes’ next game against St. Joseph’s at home. That game will tip off on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN+.