Scott City Beavers
Scott City's Ron Baker still close to small-town roots
Ron Baker has certainly made the splash on to the college basketball scene since leaving his high school legendary heroics behind following his game-winning shot in 2011 to give the Scott City Beavers the first of their three consecutive Class 3A state championships.
Baker, the 6-3, 215-pound do-everything guard for Wichita State, has made the most of the golden opportunity he was provided three seasons ago by the Shockers' coaching staff.
Out of scholarships for the 2011-12 season, coach Gregg Marshall and his staff told Baker that if we would come to school as a walk-on, then a scholarship would be waiting for him the following season.
With only a sniffing of recruits at the Division I level, none really from Kansas or Kansas State, Baker took the Shockers up on their proposal.
And boy have the Shockers reaped huge dividends and Baker has made the most of his opportunity.
At the just recently-completed Class 4A-Division II state tournament at Hartman Arena, which is located a few miles north of WSU's Koch Arena, Baker came to watch his old high school team play in the state tournament.
It didn't hurt that his younger brother, junior forward Sloan, was a starter on this edition of the Beavers.
As one could expect with a player who is getting national recognition, it was hard for Baker to have a moment of peace. However, when one is amongst the hometown folks, it's really not so much of a bother. Baker was more than gracious in giving his time to have a few photos taken with people, and perhaps even lent his name to a few autographs.
At halftime of Thursday's quarterfinal game against Pratt, Baker made his way down to press row at courtside to do a radio interview with Scott City play-by-play announcer Adam Kadavy. In short, Baker talked about the Shockers' amazing season (34-0 and now a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press regular-season poll).
After he concluded his radio interview, Baker sat next to me for several minutes, watching the early moments of the third quarter of an eventual 71-52 Scott City victory.
We talked about how much things had changed for him since he made that dramatic winning basket with two seconds left to beat Minneapolis, 55-53, at the Hutchinson Sports Arena to give the Beavers one of the school's five state championships. He was vintage Baker that night, and having had the opportunity to watch him grow up through his four years of high school, I would have laid odds that he would take that success onto the next stage.
And he hasn't disappointed.
Just recently, he earned first team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors and was named to the first team District 16 Basketball Writers Association of America team.
He's been on the cover of Sports Illustrated with his fellow Shocker starters. No telling what is next for western Kansas' golden boy.
I've told other sports writers and broadcasters that Baker could have been just as successful had he chosen football or baseball. He was just that good. He was The Telegram's Player of the Year in football in 2010 and Player of the Year in basketball in 2011. He also twice made the All-Area spring sports team for his baseball prowess.
I'm not surprised that he's succeeded at the Division I level in basketball. What I am surprised at, though, is that he flew under the recruiting radar his senior season primarily because he played in western Kansas.
When asked if he missed a little of the privacy that he once enjoyed, Baker simply smiled and said, "yeah, but this has been fun. Kinda crazy, but fun."
That's what it must be like for a small town athlete to make good on the big stage.
Even with a busy practice regimen and the upcoming NCAA Tournament, Baker found time to make a return trip to Hartman Arena on Saturday night to watch the Beavers vie for the state title against Eudora. Unfortunately, there were no last-second winning shots for the Beavers in their loss to Eudora.
But the memory of Baker's shot is still clear three years later.
Now let's see if the Shockers can do what nobody else has done since 1976, and that is to complete the season with a perfect record. Don't bet against Baker and his team.
They've already proven the oddsmakers wrong.
Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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