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Baker provides consistency and leadership for Rutgers

 – Photo by Curstine Guevarra

This past Sunday afternoon, the Rutgers men’s basketball team's co-captain, junior guard Geo Baker, achieved a career milestone. After putting up 16 points in a loss against Wisconsin, Baker surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his collegiate career. The Scarlet Knights' (18-10, 9-8) guard averages 10.7 points per game (PPG) this year and 11.3 PPG over the span of his career. Baker is the 44th player in Rutgers history to reach the 1,000 point milestone. 

Sophomore guard Caleb McConnell described Baker’s abilities after the comeback win on Feb. 9 against Northwestern. After scoring 25 points to will the team back from an 18-point deficit, McConnell made a comedic comment about him carrying the team.

“I think his back hurt because he was carrying the team tonight, that’s why. He was on fire, that’s why his back hurt for sure.” McConnell said. 

With a packed resume already, Baker adds this to his many achievements in his three years with the Knights. He has also achieved honorable mentions for the All-Big Ten and Third Team All-Met selections in 2018-19. Off the court, he was a 2018-19 Big Ten All-Academic honoree. In his freshman season, he was awarded the 2017-18 Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Rookie of the Year honor. 

Baker started 29 of 33 games his freshman year, averaging 10.8 PPG and 2.2 rebounds per game. He had 20 double-digit scoring games, including 11 in 17 games against Big Ten opponents. His biggest game that season came against Bryant, when he exploded for 29 points while making 7 three-pointers. This outburst was the most points scored by a Rutgers freshman since 2000. 

As a sophomore, he started at point guard for all 31 games. He led the Knights in assists (126) and steals (51), while averaging 12.2 PPG. He also reached the 20-point mark in a game three times during that season. He would finish the regular season second in the Big Ten in steals (1.6 per game) and fifth in assists (4.1 per game). 

He is helping Rutgers this year to its first winning season since 2005-06. His performance in the aforementioned home game against the Wildcats (17-10, 10-6) can arguably be considered his best of the year. After being down as many as 18, Baker scored 23 points after halftime and helped the team complete an overtime comeback after hitting countless clutch shots. He also hit a game-winning, buzzer-beater three-pointer against Nebraska on Jan. 25.

After the overtime thriller against Northwestern, head coach Steve Pikiell did not hold back when talking about Baker's clutch performance. 

"It was huge. He's a good player. I have a ton of confidence in him. People get caught up all the time — shots don't go in sometimes.” Pikiell said. “I never worry (about that), I worry about his defense. We watch film all week on playing better defense, he did do that. Everyone else worries about shots going in. I never do with him … ”

Baker was one of Pikiell’s first recruits. He has always had high praise for his star point guard. Pikiell also spoke about Baker after his game-winning shot against the Cornhuskers (7-20, 2-14).  

"It's easy for me at the end of games.” Pikiell said. “Feel real comfortable obviously with Geo. He made two shots tonight — two huge ones. Big rebound, (graduate student forward) Akwasi (Yeboah) made some big shots before that. Everyone kinda made some huge plays for us. It takes a whole team in order to win, but Geo certainly down the stretch was huge."

After leading the Knights to their first winning season in 14 years and their first AP Poll ranking in more than 40 years, the duo of Baker and Pikiell are looking forward to competing in the Big Ten, and possibly in March Madness next month. 

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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