When a Rutgers athlete steps up, On the Banks has to cover it. And since what Geo Baker has been doing with his platform over the past few weeks has been amazing, both Aaron Breitman and Dave White wanted to write it about it. Here are some thoughts on one of the most important and influential Rutgers athletes in school history.
When most people think of Geo Baker, clutch shot maker is usually the thought that comes to mind. Rightfully so, as Baker has made many big shots in his career at Rutgers so far, including helping to clinch five Big Ten victories this season. His innate ability to consistently deliver when his team needs him most is admirable and also unbelievable at times. However, his impact has been much greater, even before he spoke out last week about the death of George Floyd and systemic racism in this country.
The positive force that Geo Baker is on the court for the men’s basketball team is equally true for the entire Rutgers community off it as well. At the start of the global pandemic COVID-19 in March and the season abruptly having ended, Baker didn’t stop bringing joy to the fan base. He created the #StepBackChallenge on social media that energized fans, especially children. Baker has always made a point to connect with all Rutgers fans, but does a great job being the hero these kids look at him as.
When I think of Geo Baker, the word that comes to mind is a unifier. He has unified his teammates, the fan base, and many college basketball media and fans in making them believers in Rutgers. He is now attempting to unify as many Americans as possible to drive positive change in this country.
He came to Rutgers from New England with a chip on his shoulder due to a perceived lack of respect as a player and a belief in a coach that wanted to turn a perennial losing team around. He has silenced all his critics, but most importantly he did it with class and a smile.
That’s what he is doing now when it comes to speaking his mind and asserting himself as a leader off the court for his generation. He is willingly engaging people who disagree or might not understand his point of view as a Black American in order to help educate on why change in this country is so important. With his coach fully supporting him and his teammates following suit by being outspoken, Baker is reaching people in a much more impactful way than he ever has on the court.
He isn’t just the most important Rutgers basketball player in years, but also has a chance to be as positive an influence on the world long after he leaves the banks as any student the university has ever produced. He is humble yet confident, selfless but knows when to seize the moment, and gracious but direct in his beliefs and opinions.
Rutgers university is fortunate to have a man like Geo Baker on campus. Having already cemented his place as the lead face on the Mount Rushmore of the Steve Pikiell era, watching him make a positive difference in the world long after he stops playing basketball will truly cement him as a Rutgers legend.
When things get bad, Rutgers fans can always look to Geo Baker.
Last week, Steve Politi wrote an article that really got me thinking. In it, he called Geo Baker the most visible athlete at Rutgers since Ray Rice. And, I really believe it’s true. As Aaron stated above, Geo is stepping up, speaking out and even bringing joy to Rutgers fans during this time in history. And the more I think about it, I can’t really remember any other Rutgers player doing that.
Sure, a lot of this has to do with the advent of social media, but what Geo is doing with his Twitter, Instagram and TikTok is incredible, because of how he unites us. Not only do we want to see him make a stepback jumper in the final seconds, we also want to see him doing good in the world.
From day 1, Baker has been one of the most coldblooded basketball players on the court. Everyone remembers how he stepped up against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament during his first season on the banks. But being coldblooded on the court is different than off it. Off the court, Geo has consistently showed empathy, heart and caring.
Everyone at Rutgers knows who Geo is. He doesn’t hide from the big moments and this time in history is one of the biggest.
As usual, I’m comfortable with the ball in Geo Baker’s hands.