Evan Wessel, like many Ron Baker fans, checked the New York Knicks schedule. The Knicks play at Oklahoma City on Feb. 15.
There’s reason to hope that night will represent something close to a homecoming for Baker, although there’s no guarantee he still be on the Knicks roster in four months. Friday, however, is a day to think about Baker’s journey from Scott City to Wichita State walk-on to an NBA roster.
“I texted him and congratulated him,” said Wessel, his teammate and roomate at WSU. “The journey starts here. He’s got a lot of work to do to keep his dreams alive.”
Baker played well throughout the preseason for the Knicks, impressing onlookers with his smarts, unselfish play and shooting. On Friday morning, the Knicks made cuts to get to the roster limit of 15. Baker survived. An injury to guard Chasson Randle perhaps helped. Randle is out with a fractured orbital bone and was among Friday’s cuts. He played well in the Knicks summer league and was seen as a candidate to make the roster.
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The Knicks open the season at Cleveland — for the Cavaliers championship ring ceremony — on Tuesday (6:30 p.m., TNT).
As expected, former Shocker Cleanthony Early is not on the Knicks roster and will play for the organization’s NBA Development League team in Westchester (N.Y.).
Baker averaged 7.0 points, 2.4 assists and 2.0 rebounds in five preseason games. He made 46.2 percent of his shots and 5 of 9 three-pointers.
Toronto is waiting on its final cuts until after Friday’s preseason game at Washington. Former Shocker Fred VanVleet is a strong candidate for a roster spot, although he has competition from Brady Heslip and Drew Crawford.
The Raptors open the season against Detroit on Wednesday.
Should Baker and VanVleet play in a regular-season NBA game, they will continue a recent surge in WSU’s NBA connection. No athlete who finished his career as a Shocker played in the NBA between Antoine Carr’s final game with the Grizzlies in 2000 and Toure Murry (Knicks) and Gal Mekel (Mavericks) in 2013.
In the Knicks of Time
If Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet make NBA rosters next week, they will be the 13th and 14th players to end their careers at Wichita State and appear in an NBA game. Baker would be the sixth Shocker to be a Knick.
As a Knick