Joey Baker was always tabbed as a kid who was going to be a top tier recruit in 2019. Everyone knew it, but allowing him to grow and learn in a controlled environment was important to Trinity Christian coach Heath Vandevender. See, Trinity Christian didn’t have to rush Baker as a freshman. They had another superstar on their hands. That superstar was Dennis Smith Jr. However, Dennis Smith Jr’s knee injury threw all of those plans out the window.
“The original plan was for Junior (Dennis Smith) to play with this freshman group,” said Vandevender at the time. “But unfortunately he got hurt and we’re in a situation where Joey is stepping up and taking the challenge. We need our seniors to be seniors. We have seven freshmen on our roster. Joey shouldn’t have to be the guy as a freshman, but it’s the situation we’re in sometimes and he’s handling it well.”
That was 2015. Today, Baker is a junior (class of 2019) and regarded as a top 20 prospect. He has shot up to 6’7 and has become a workaholic, something he learned by watching Smith Jr.
“Just seeing how he handled his situation was big for me,” Baker said. “The biggest thing I picked up from him was his laser focus. When he’s locked into things, it’s really intense. People always talk about guys who never take plays off or go hard in practice, but I lived that in practice every day. I knew that if he was doing that I definitely needed to be doing that. That helped me so much.” (via USAToday article)
That work ethic has turned the heads of some of the most elite college coaches. Baker has offers from Texas, Kansas, OK State, St. Johns, UCLA, Louisville, NC State and many more. In fact, a few weeks ago Baker listed NC State as one of the few programs who are prioritizing him.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) July 20, 2017
That comes on the heels of an unofficial visit that Baker took back in late June.
4-star 2019 SF Joey Baker just let me know he'll be visiting NC State tomorrow.
— Dan McDonald (@DMcDonaldRivals) June 27, 2017
Where will he land? Well, it’s still early in the process for Baker, but NC State is competing with the big dogs on this one. We believe they’ll be on his trimmed down lists, but will they be able to beat out UNC and Duke when they come calling? We’ll be tracking Baker very closely as we believe the staff is working very hard on this kid.