Ben Baker is the ultimate team player. From dishing the ball to his teammates to doing the dirty work on defence, Baker will do anything to help his team win.
In his fifth and final year of eligibility, Baker took home the Canada West Defensive Player of the Year award. It’s his second time earning the honour and he is quick to credit his teammates on his success.
“It’s certainly a nice honour, especially winning it twice. A lot of hard work went into it and a lot of teamwork. I think it’s just a reflection of our team’s discipline and work ethic.”
Baker was born and raised in Saskatoon and has been playing basketball since he was young. His parents registered him in community basketball and, as they say, the rest is history.
“We had a court in the backyard when I was growing up. I just played [basketball] a lot when I was younger and really liked it.”
Baker continued to play high school ball at Aden Bowman Collegiate where he won the city championship in Grade 11 and was named team MVP in his senior season. That made him a coveted prospect for many schools, but the decision was an easy one for Baker.
“I’m from Saskatoon and I grew up watching the Huskies play, so [those were] two major points for me. I knew some of the guys on the team and I played on the Junior Huskies all through high school so it was an easy choice.”
His five years have flown by and anyone who has seen Baker play will surely miss him as a Huskie. His hustle at both ends of the floor, especially on defence, makes him one of the most complete players in the country. Not only can he score and pass, but he is usually given the role of shutting down the opposition’s best player, something that Baker enjoys.
“I enjoy competing, I look forward to who I’m guarding every week and that’s just something I’ve always looked forward to — the challenge of stopping someone.”
Baker has earned the reputation as one of the best defenders in the league, which isn’t surprising when looking at his talent at rebounding the ball. Averaging 10.2 rebounds a contest last season, the 6’3” player was the first guard ever to lead the CanWest conference in rebounding.
“Competitiveness, hard work and making sure I outwork the guy I’m guarding every night,” Baker said of how he managed to become the best defender in the conference.
Baker’s final games in the green and white will come this weekend as his squad is headed to the CIS championships, following a second place finish at the CanWest Final Four. The Dogs drew a tough quarter-final matchup, but Baker is ready to go.
“I just want to play. It’s a lot of buildup and anticipation. It’s something we’ve worked towards all year and I’m just excited to play.”
As his time with the Huskies winds down, Baker reflected on what he would miss most, as well as his favourite memories as a member of the basketball team.
“I’ll just remember all the teammates I had and spending so much time with them,” he said. “I’m going to miss the routine. Always seeing your teammates and that family tradition you have with all the guys.”
Baker took that family bond to the next level, as he currently lives with three of his teammates, which actually caused his former pre-game ritual to go out the window.
“I had to switch it up. My first few years I lived at home and I would always have pre-game meals made for me. Now we always have to scrounge together some food before the game. Matt [Forbes] is a big pasta guy so he usually makes that and we all just eat it.”
As he finishes up his basketball career, he is also finishing up his kinesiology degree. Baker currently has no plans after post-secondary, but might consider a career in coaching.
“Maybe if the opportunity presents itself. Right now I’m worried about taking care of business this last week,” he said.
Photo: Caitlin Taylor