Ron Baker is headed to Russia.
The former Wichita State All-American and Scott City native reached a one-year agreement on Thursday to play for CSKA Moscow, which won the EuroLeague championship this past season and is dominant in Russia’s VTB United League. Financial details were unavailable early Thursday.
Baker, 26, played the past three seasons in the NBA, splitting time between the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards. Baker played in 96 games, starting 14 with averages of 3.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
EuroHoops.net reported that Baker decided to sign with CSKA Moscow over accepting a two-way contract with the Brooklyn Nets that would have given him a path back to the NBA, but would have likely resulted him playing mostly with the Nets’ G-League affiliate in Long Island.
“I am excited for this new opportunity CSKA Basketball has given me,” Baker said in a statement. “I’m very thankful. After speaking with head coach Dimitris (Itoudis) and team captain Kyle Hines, I see myself fitting in with what CSKA is about. Their day-to-day culture and achievements on the court were what I was looking for in a franchise during this summer free agency. I am extremely grateful and most of all ready to compete for the fans of CSKA.”
The move to international play does not spell the end of Baker’s career in the NBA. In fact, it could rejuvenate it.
Baker is headed to one of the most successful international programs to play a prominent role in their quest for more championships. If he plays well in his one season with CSKA Moscow, it could very well springboard Baker back into the NBA for the 2020-21 season.
Rather than fight for playing time on a G-League team full of players auditioning for the parent NBA team, Baker is now cemented as one of CSKA Moscow’s centerpieces. He’ll likely return to more of a playmaker role like he played at Wichita State, where he guided the Shockers to three Missouri Valley Conference championships, two trips to the Sweet 16 and the 2013 Final Four.
Despite his stellar four-year career at WSU, Baker went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. He quickly made a name for himself as an undrafted free agent with the Knicks, winning over their fans with his heart, hustle and determination to win every loose ball.
That earned Baker a two-year, $9 million contract with the Knicks, although injuries and a coaching change affected Baker’s playing time. He was eventually cut by the Knicks last December, then picked up by the Wizards for three weeks before being waived again.
Baker did not play for a team the rest of the season and decided to undergo surgery to repair a torn right labrum in February. He is now fully healed from the injury.
CSKA Moscow begins its season in October.