Joey Baker lucky to leave Durham on a high note
A complete Duke basketball story is yet to be written for a Blue Devil guard.
It has never been certain whether or not Duke basketball captain Joey Baker will return to Durham for his final year of eligibility.
Baker was the forgotten man in the busy recruiting class that included Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones and continued to be forgotten as the Blue Devils continued their recruiting dominance.
However, when the senior captain took the stage this weekend at Duke’s basketball banquet, he was mysteriously on crutches.
The program announced the next day that Baker had undergone surgery to repair a left hip injury and would immediately begin rehabilitation for the 2022-23 season as a member of the Duke program.
Surely Baker could have left Durham after the bad hands he suffered during his four seasons.
After upgrading to join The Brotherhood a year earlier, it seemed almost certain Baker would do a redshirt and start his playing career in 2019-20, but Mike Krzyzewski had other plans.
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The Hall of Famer pulled Baker’s redshirt and inserted it into a Feb. 23 game against Syracuse as Duke suffered a number of late-season injuries. It was the first of four games Baker would play as a rookie, playing 18 minutes in total.
The move was confusing at the time and more head-scratching thinking about it.
Duke’s basketball guard has had well-documented on-court struggles
Joey Baker then struggled to break the consistent rotation as second, junior and senior despite being named captain entering the 2021-22 season.
Duke did not honor Joey Baker in the final home game of his senior season, also known as “Coach K Night”, because he still had one year of eligibility left and the program does not recognize those who are transferred graduates or those who can still play at the collegiate level the following season.
It felt like the icing on the cake in a lost career for Joey Baker at Duke, but credit goes to the guard for not wanting to leave the program that way.
Baker still has one year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is likely to be the first captain in the Duke program under head coach Jon Scheyer.
He now has the chance to change the narrative around his time at Duke and leave the fan-favorite program he entered.
Despite returning, it won’t be easy to earn minutes next season with the potential return of Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels as well as the addition of newcomers Dariq Whitehead, Mark Mitchell and Jaden Schutt.
The 3-point shot and his defensive abilities will determine how much playing time Joey Baker receives next season, but having his leadership on and off the court for the freshman head coach will be invaluable to the success of the program. .