Ron Baker is still finding ways to lead his team to championships more than three years after graduating from Wichita State.
The shaggy hair is gone, replaced by a clean cut, and now he’s wearing No. 84, but the results are the same for Baker: the former Shocker All-American scored a team-high 11 points off the bench, helping CSKA Moscow to a 65-63 victory over Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Sunday that clinched the 2019 Gloria Cup, a preseason tournament in Antalya, Turkey.
Baker signed with the Russian club in August and proved to be the difference in the Gloria Cup finals, a rematch between the two sides that played for the EuroLeague championship in May that CSKA Moscow won.
Baker drilled three three-pointers and made 4 of 7 shots. He added four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes. He did most of his damage in the second and third quarters when CSKA Moscow extended its lead to 54-38, and then played crunch-time minutes as CSKA Moscow tried to stave off the late rally by Anadolu Efes.
It was exactly the type of performance Baker, 26, needs more of to punch a ticket back to the NBA, where he played the last three seasons, mostly for the New York Knicks but also during a brief stint with the Washington Wizards. Baker’s numbers weren’t gaudy (96 career games with averages of 3.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists), but coaches loved his energy on the court and his reputation as a great teammate in the locker room.
His biggest problem why he struggled to find a spot for this upcoming NBA season? Baker is just a 26.5% career NBA three-point shooter on 132 attempts.
Baker can help erase those doubts with more performances like the one from Sunday. He scored his first three off the dribble, topped with a James Harden-esque step-back well beyond the three-point line for a swish. He also looked dangerous as a spot-up shooter, draining a pair of triples off catches to help extend the CSKA Moscow lead in the third period.
It was the fourth preseason game Baker has played in for CSKA Moscow and arguably his best so far. Baker has started once and come off the bench the other games, but is still playing more than 21 minutes per game — near the team high. He is averaging 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 turnovers so far.
CSKA Moscow begins its league play in Russia’s VTB United League on September 28, then EuroLeague play on October 4.