By BRETT MARSHALL
Ron Baker, the talented, multi-sport athlete at Scott City High School, had said all along that he hoped he would have a chance to play Division I basketball.
Basketball was always his first choice, giving up opportunities to play both football and baseball, the two other sports in which he excels.
On Sunday, Baker made the verbal commitment to play basketball at Wichita State University for head coach Gregg Marshall.
Baker, in a telephone interview with The Telegram on Monday, said that he won't sign a letter-of-intent until November, making the scholarship offer from WSU for the 2012-13 season. This coming fall, Baker will be a walk-on, red-shirt freshman at Wichita State.
"It feels good to make the decision and I'm going to be playing for a program that is really on the rise," Baker said. "I'll be able to practice with the team, do everything, except suit up and play on Saturday nights. I hope my time will come after that."
Baker said the red-shirt option was always on his radar when discussing playing D1 ball.
"It will give me a whole year to get into the weight room, get comfortable with the program and see where I fit in," Baker said. "Plus, it's only four hours from home and that was a big appeal to stay close to my family. Not being able to play next season is not a huge thing. I don't have a single problem with it."
He had visited Arkansas-Little Rock and South Dakota State; the latter being located in Brookings in the east central portion of the state. Both had offered him a scholarship for the upcoming year.
"Both places had upsides to them," Baker said. "But in the end, they would be 12-14 hours away and I just didn't think I wanted to be that far away."
Baker was the leader of the SCHS basketball team that marched its way to the Class 3A state basketball championship last month in Hutchinson. It was Baker who made the game-winning basket with 2.6 seconds remaining that produced a 55-53 victory over Minneapolis to complete a 25-1 season.
Baker, a two-time Telegram All-Area basketball selection, was also tabbed as the 2010 Telegram Football Player of the Year. In two seasons as the Beavers' quarterback, his team went 22-2. Baker was also a standout at defensive back and was the team's punter. He was also a member of The Telegram's 2010 All-Area baseball team as a pitcher/shortstop.
During his senior basketball season, Baker displayed a wide-range of skills, averaging 20.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.6 steals, two blocked shots and three assists per game. Those statistics came despite playing in just three quarters or less on many nights when the Beavers were steamrolling their opponents.
He shot 40 percent from 3-point range, and made just under 80 percent of his free throws; making him the go-to player when the Beavers needed a big play. He finished his prep career with 1,320 points.
Baker said that Wichita State made its initial contact with him the week before the Class 3A state tournament; the first week of March.
"I think they had been eying me during the season, but were waiting to see how things progressed," Baker said of the Shockers' late recruiting effort. "Coach Marshall put the offer out there for 2012 because he didn't have any scholarships left for this year. It's a very intense program, and I know I'll be pushed and that's what I was looking for."
The Shockers are coming off their recent championship in the National Invitation Tournament where they beat Alabama in the title game at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Missouri Valley Conference school set a school record with 29 wins against just eight losses.
"Seeing them play in and win the NIT was pretty sweet," Baker said. "They proved people wrong (after missing the NCAA Tournament) and I think it's exciting to be going to a school with that type of program."
During his recruiting, Baker had been offered numerous junior college scholarships, citing Coffeyville as his most likely choice had he gone that route.
He was also offered a scholarship at NCAA Division II Fort Hays State University where former Scott City players Tim Peintner and Corbin Kuntzsch recently starred.
Baker said he was never recruited by Kansas State University, and had brief contact from the University of Kansas, which had asked him to come to Lawrence, and play with current and former Jayhawks last Friday.
He declined that invitation, and made the trip to Wichita, which he said, "finalized in my mind that it was the right place for me to be."
On its current roster, the Shockers have two graduating senior guards and three seniors-to-be at the position.
Shortly after completing his senior season, Baker said he, "wanted to see what's out there and try to make the best decision I can."
After Sunday, Baker is confident he did just that.