What chance does Wichita State junior Ron Baker have of being chosen as a first-team All-American this season?
Well, probably not as good as a month or so ago.
The 6-foot-4 Baker is having a terrific junior season, averaging 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from the three-throw line.
But Baker hasn’t been shooting well for a while now. After starting the season 21 of 39 from the three-point line in his first seven games (53.8 percent), Baker has made only 19 of 64 three pointers (29.7 percent) in 10 games since. His overall field-goal percentage was at 54.9 percent after those first seven games; it’s 40.6 percent since.
And while Baker is a fantastic all-around player, he’s not at his best unless he’s shooting at or near his best.
Undoubtedly, opposing teams are paying far more attention to Baker than any other Shocker. It has become more difficult for Baker to find open shots. He, perhaps more than any other Shocker, misses the way ex-teammate Cleanthony Early drew defenders to him and created open spaces for other Wichita State players.
Baker is having to play more minutes than ever and has been called on to play the point-guard position a lot. Both factors probably weigh into his shooting numbers of late.
Deservedly, Baker is on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list. The Shockers would be nowhere near 15-2 without him. But Baker will have to kick it into gear to become Wichita State’s first Associated Press first-team All-American since forward Xavier McDaniel in 1984-85. Former Shocker Dave Stallworth was a first-team All-American in 1963-64. That he’s included in the conversation, and on the Wooden list, is a supreme honor.
Picking a midseason All-America team this season isn’t easy. There are a lot of good players, but not many who stand out among the rest. If Baker gets on another hot streak, he’s definitely not out of the running.
For now, though, my mid-season All-America team looks like this:
Justin Anderson, 6-6, jr., Virginia – Anderson has improved tremendously as a shooter and averages 14.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the undefeated Cavaliers.
Jahlil Okafor, 6-11, fr., Duke – The Blue Devils have run into some trouble of late, but Okafor looks like he’s still on track to be the first overall pick in the NBA draft in the summer. He’s averaging 18.9 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting almost 67 percent from the field.
Frank Kaminsky, 7-0, sr., Wisconsin – Kaminsky is a lock for the 16-2 Badgers, averaging 17.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Delon Wright, 6-5, sr., Utah – Wright’s numbers (15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists) are solid across the board. And he’s solid across the board. There’s nothing, outside of perhaps perimeter shooting, that he doesn’t do well. He’s the best player I’ve seen in person this season.
Montrezl Harrell, 6-8, jr., Louisville – Harrell has had his ups and downs, but the Cardinals are 15-2 and he’s averaging 15.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.