There were high expectations for Jeffersonville’s Darryl Baker before his senior season began.
After Saturday’s 38-point performance, in which included two go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds of in the Red Devils’ 65-64 road upset of Class 3A No. 2 Evansville Bosse, expectations may be even higher.
The Red Devils are the defending sectional champions. After losing several key players to graduation and Dionte Allen’s decision to concentrate on football and not return to the hardwood, Baker’s role has expanded for his senior season.
“He’s going to have to carry us sometimes,” Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said. “But he’s an unselfish player. He won’t force things. Thirty-eight points is what we needed [Saturday] night.”
Baker is being sought by several Division I college for next season. Butler, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Xavier have shown interest in Baker and ESPN Recruiting Nation reports that Missouri and Ohio have offered Baker a scholarship.
“He’s going to have a lot of options,” Gilbert said. “He’s going to have to go somewhere where he feels comfortable and that plays to his strength.”
On Wednesday, Baker spoke with News and Tribune sports editor Greg Mengelt about Saturday’s performance, the 2012-13 season and the recruiting process.
QUESTION: First game of the season, 38 points. Did you go out to accomplish something like that?
BAKER: “No. Really, I just wanted to get the first win of the season. It’s tough to have an L the first game of the season. It’s tough to recover from that. I just wanted to win, so we did what we had to do and got the win.”
Q: Any extra motivation for you knowing that was an All-American [Jaquan Lyle] on the other side and that there were probably several college recruits there to watch him?
BAKER: “That just made it even better. Everyone was there to watch him. We went in there as the underdog. They thought they were going to beat us, but we got the W.”
Q: Do you feel like with so many guys gone from last year’s team that you’re going to have to take a little more of the burden upon yourself?
BAKER: “Yes, sir. We lost a lot of offense, a lot of scoring, a lot of rebound, a lot of other things. Coach told me I’m going to have to take on that role until everyone on the team learns their roles. Then we’ll be all together and we’ll be fine.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Dionte and him not coming out for basketball?
BAKER: “It hurts us. He was a low-post presence. We’re going to have to switch up our offensive style and our defensive style to help us get some wins without a real low-post guy.”
Q: Did you talk with him about it?
BAKER: “Me and Dionte talked. We’ve been knowing each other since grade school. We’re close. It was his decision, what was best for him. I’m proud that he made a decision that’s best for him.”
Q: What kind of goals do you have? What can you accomplish this year as a team?
BAKER: “There are a lot of things we want to accomplish, but first we have to rebuild our team because we lost a lot of players. Everybody’s out of position, so we have to find out how everyone’s going to play in their new positions with the loss of Dionte.”
Q: Can you defend your sectional championship with all of the losses?
BAKER: “We have a chance. We’re just as talented as we were last year. If we play hard and play defense, I believe we can go sectional championship and even farther.”
Q: You open Hoosier Hills Conference play against Seymour on Friday. Is defending your conference championship something that’s on your mind?
BAKER: “We just take it game-by-game. We’re not too worried about the long run.”
Q: Let’s talk a little about the recruiting process. Is that’s something you’re enjoying? Or is it something that’s dragging on you?
BAKER: “I enjoy it, but it’s a little stressful. I can only do what I can do about it. I have my mom and my coaches to help me, so it’s not so bad.”
Q: How often do you hear from coaches?
BAKER: “I hear from them here and there. It depends on the week. Some weeks, I get a lot of calls and a lot of mail. Other than that, it’s whenever they’re free to call me.”
Q: What schools have you been hearing from lately?
BAKER: “I have a lot of junior colleges looking at me now.”
Q: If you could play at any school in the country, your choice. Where would you play?
BAKER: “Florida. I’m a big Florida fan. I admire Billy Donovan. So I’d go to Florida if I had to pick.”
— Interview conducted by News and Tribune sports editor Greg Mengelt