Caleb Baker plans on playing football next fall.
The secondary might be a good fit for this ball hawk.
Even on the basketball court, the Crosby-Ironton junior has a knack for the “pick six.”
His defense is a part of his game that often goes unnoticed.
This particular play is becoming a staple of Baker’s. While defending a point guard at the top of the key, Baker waits until his opponent attempts to drive on him. With quick hands, Baker picks the ball away from the player and heads the other way for an uncontested layup — or in football terminology a pick six.
“You don’t want the other kid to beat you,” said Baker. “You don’t want to be the guy who gave up the points. You have to work hard on defense.
“I keep my eye on the ball and wait for him to cross the ball over. That’s when I go for the pick six,” said Baker.
During C-I’s 67-52 Subsection 8-2A playoff victory over Crookston, Baker filled the stat sheet with defensive and offensive numbers. The two-year starter tallied seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals with no turnovers. He scored a game-high 26 points to advance C-I into the subsection final.
“He’s got good savvy,” said Rangers head coach Dave Galovich. “He has good court awareness and he does a great job of the point on our press. With Caleb you’re going to get a great effort. He gets his hands on a lot of balls. He leads us in steals with 84. He leads us in scoring with 14.6 points a game. He also leads us in assists (3.2) and steals (3.2).”
Baker nailed three 3-pointers in the first half of the Crookston game, which allowed C-I to claim a 41-19 halftime lead. He scored 16 points in that opening half.
“I just knew to get it done I needed to play my hardest,” said Baker. “It is section time and that’s the best time of year. That’s what you’ve been working for. I wanted the win so bad, not only for me, but for our fans and our two seniors.”
Baker earned All-Mid-State Conference and Brainerd Dispatch All-Area honors as a sophomore by averaging 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals a game.
He was named to this year’s all-conference team and played the way his coach expected.
“Caleb had to lead us in a variety of ways and he did that,” Galovich said. “He led us in scoring, but not only scoring, but distributing the basketball and leading us in assists. Defensively, he leads us, too. He fills the stat sheet every night. When someone does that you’re getting a good effort night in and night out. He’s done that for us the last two years.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Nevin Greer, Pequot Lakes, scored 26 points against Park Rapids and 21 against Bagley.
Logan Lange, Pequot Lakes, finished with 20 points against Park Rapids.
Matt Doss, Pillager, scored 24 points against Bertha-Hewitt.
Beau Howard, Pine River-Backus, finished with 23 points against Isle.
Nathan Holm, Pine River-Backus, scored 23 points against Isle.
Evan VanErp, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 32 points against Hawley.
EJ Ziegler, Pillager, scored 21 points against Browerville.
Jess Kasper, Pierz, finished with 20 points against Melrose.
Preston Weber, Pierz, scored 21 points against Melrose.
Caleb Janson, Pierz, finished with 22 points against Melrose.
Hockey: Joey Hanowski, Little Falls, won the Class A Herb Brooks Award and was named to the Class 1A All-Tournament Team.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.