Feature photo courtesy of Scott Allenby.
Not many high school basketball players get the opportunity to play for a Big Ten school. But New Hampshire native Geo Baker is not like many high school basketball players.
Baker, whom The Left Bench spoke to in September of 2015, is now in his senior year at Proctor Academy, a private school in Andover, New Hampshire. It’s where he’s headed next year that really raises eyebrows: The Big Ten’s Rutgers University.
The guard signed his national letter of intent to play for the Scarlet Knights on November 9 and said he knew he wanted to play at the school since August.
“I really wanted to play a high level of basketball, and the Big Ten is probably as high as you can go,” Baker said.
He said the Rutgers coaching staff was a major factor in his decision to choose the school, and especially liked that many of the coaches used to play guard, like him.
“They really made me feel welcome when I went to visit,” he said. “They could help me take my game to the next level.”
Baker, who is interested in business off the court, said he is a little nervous about balancing athletics and academics, but said head coach Steve Pikiell and the Rutgers coaching staff made it a point to emphasize the importance of school.
“They really care about getting academics done,” Baker said. “Coach Pikiell…is always telling me how he wants me to get my degree and to get my master’s. He’s always talking about the opportunities that basketball gives to you in terms of school. I really like that about him.”
TJ Thompson, Baker’s trainer since middle school, thinks there are some basketball-related aspects of college that Baker will have to adapt to, as well.
“As any freshman coming into the college game, [he’s] going to have to get used to the physicality of it and the speed,” Thompson said. “Early on, that’s going to be a transition for him.”
But Thompson believes Baker is up to the challenge.
“He’s going to be fine,” Thompson said. “He’s going to be willing to step up to that challenge, and he’s going to prepare himself physically and mentally.”
Even though he’s still got about a year to go, Baker has already begun that preparation with the hope that he’ll be able to not only play, but also make an immediate impact for the Scarlet Knights.
“I think I definitely have a shot to go in right away,” Baker said. “You’re never 100 percent sure, you’re always battling for a position, [but] it’s a really good opportunity for me.”
The Scarlet Knights — whom Baker labeled as a “rebuilding” team — finished 7-25 last season, but Thompson thinks they’re the perfect bunch for a talent like Baker.
“A lot of people have been down on Rutgers basketball lately, but Geo’s the perfect prime candidate for them,” Thompson said. “He’s used to going to rebuilding situations and turning them into winners.”
Such a turnaround is evidenced by Baker’s contributions to his high school team at Proctor.
The season before Baker transferred to the school, Proctor finished 7-14, according to the Proctor Academy website. The next season, Baker’s junior year and first campaign at Proctor, the team went 17-13. This season, Baker said, should be even better.
“Basically everyone’s returning,” he said. “It’s going to be a great year this year.”
Once he’s onto Rutgers, though, Baker might have a bigger task to accomplish. The level of within-conference competition the Scarlet Knights will face will be high, but Baker said he’s excited to square off against the other Big Ten schools and to face the hype and atmosphere that come with them.
“The crowds are going to be amazing,” he said. “Schools like Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland, [those are] some of the greatest crowds in the country. That experience playing against people like that…it’s going to help me if I ever try to take it to the next level.”
With one more season left at Proctor, Baker hopes to fill a larger leadership role and serve as a role model for younger players hoping to score a similar college deal. Currently, he may have his sights set on New Hampshire, but on the horizon, about a year away, is New Jersey.
Edited by Abigail Bentz.