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March 22, 2013

Jeff's Darryl Baker earns Player of the Year honor

Senior averaged 23.4 points and led the Red Devils to sectional, regional crowns

JEFFERSONVILLE — For the first three seasons of his high school career, Darryl Baker did not get a chance to show his full potential on the court.

That all changed during the 2012-13 season.

The Jeffersonville High School senior guard averaged 23.4 points per game, hit several clutch shots and wrote his name a lot in the Red Devil record books.

All that hard work enabled Baker to earn this season’s News and Tribune Boys’ Area Player of the Year honor.

“Darryl had as good of a senior year as anybody has ever had at Jeff High,” Red Devils’ coach Chad Gilbert said. “He was a pleasure to coach and fun to be around. He certainly will be missed by the team and his coaches.”

During Jeff’s 24-4 campaign, Baker broke the school’s single-season scoring record with 655 points. He surpassed another Red Devil great to secure that mark in Paris Bryant, who tallied 647 points in the 1987-88 season.

Baker’s season point total helped him become the 16th Jeff player to join the program’s 1,000-point club. Baker ended his high school career with 1,189 points, ranking sixth all-time in Red Devil history.

Baker scored 30 or more points six times during the 2012-13 campaign. He scored a career-high 38 points twice during the season. The first time was at Evansville Bosse on Dec. 1 in Jeff’s season-opening win, 65-64. The second instance happened on Feb. 16 at Castle, 85-65.

What Red Devil fans will probably remember the most about Baker was the numerous big shots he connected on this season.

Two of those clutch buckets came in the final 30 seconds of Jeff‘s triumph over Bosse. The first shot was a baseline jumper to put Jeff up 63-62. After standout JaQuan Lyle made a bucket with 10.3 seconds left in regulation to put the Bulldogs up 64-63, Baker answered with a runner in the lane with 2.2 ticks remaining for the eventual game-winning basket.

Another thrilling shot by Baker occurred in Jeff’s 59-56 win on Jan. 12 at archrival Providence.

Following a 3-pointer by Providence senior George Knott that tied the contest at 56 with less than 10 seconds left, Baker quickly drove the ball to the top of the key, pulled up and knocked down a game-winning 3 at the buzzer.

Baker ended up with 31 points against the Pioneers, leaving Providence coach Lou Lefevre frustrated following the contest.

“Baker is about as good of a high school player as I’ve ever seen,” Lefevre said in a News and Tribune article on the contest. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t stop him. Somebody or some team in this country can stop him better than we tried to stop him. That’s not OK that he scores every time. You have to do a little more. You have to be more aware. Maybe we have to have a better game plan - I don’t know.

“In my mind, it’s not OK to just play well. We couldn’t stop him - we have to stop him.”

One of the key factors to Baker’s great season was he was available for the entire preseason practice period.

As a freshman, Baker suffered a season-ending knee injury during preseason practice. As a junior, he started the school year at Southport High School in Indianapolis. But in the middle of the first semester, Baker decided to transfer back to Jeff and missed all of preseason practice.

This year, though, Baker had no preseason distractions, which enabled him to focus entirely on basketball.

“If things went according to plan, Darryl would be the all-time leading scorer at Jeff,” Gilbert said. “He pushed himself to play at a high level.”

Along with being the Red Devils’ top scorer and rebounder, Baker was their primary leader. His leadership helped Jeff repeat as outright Hoosier Hills Conference champions and Class 4A Seymour Sectional champions and win its first Class 4A Seymour Regional title since 2010.

“It was his time to lead this team,” Gilbert said. “He made his teammates better.”

Baker has already received several honors for his stellar senior season. He made the all-HHC team for the third time in his career and earned a spot on the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association/Subway Senior All-State team.

Gilbert confirmed this week that Baker will participate in the Hoosier Basketball Magazine Top 60 Senior Boys’ Workout on Sunday, April 7 at Marian University in Indianapolis. On Sunday, April 14, Baker will play in the magazine’s North/South Indiana All-Star Classic at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute.

Baker is a contender to be selected to the Indiana All-Star team and The Associated Press All-State team.

Baker has not made an official announcement where he plans on playing in college.

However, Kyle Neddenriep, the Indiana high school sports beat writer for the Indianapolis Star, reported on his Twitter account on Friday that Baker has made a verbal commitment to play at NCAA Division I Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Neddenriep also reported that Baker will sit out a season to improve his academic standing.

“This is just the end of a chapter. There is more basketball ahead for him,” Gilbert said.

Former Jeff star Sherron Wilkerson, who led the Red Devils to the 1993 state championship, is an assistant coach at Lamar under head coach Pat Knight, the son of former Indiana University head coach Bob Knight.

Baker could not be reached for comment for this story.

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