Rutgers men’s basketball was included in JUCO guard Josh Baker’s list of the final three schools he is considering for next season. Baker made the announcement on Monday via Twitter with Houston and Loyola of Chicago being the other programs included.
The 6’2” guard was offered by Rutgers last summer and plays for JUCO powerhouse Hutchinson, the same school that former Scarlet Knight Deshawn Freeman played for. He has missed some time this past season due to injury, but recovered and is averaging 15.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 25.4 minutes over 13 games. Last season, Baker played 32 games and averaged 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 32.3 minutes per game.
Baker is arguably the best shooter at the JUCO level right now and he has been incredibly consistent over the past two seasons. He is shooting 48.5% from three-point range this season on 32 of 66 attempts and shot 48.7% last season after making 75 of 154 attempts. Baker is also an excellent free throw shooter and has made 131 of 153 attempts for 85.6% over the past two seasons. He is also a career 49.9% shooter from the field overall.
Aside from prioritizing a big man this offseason, Rutgers is also in need of shooting help. They shot just 31.2% from three-point range and 63.6% from the free throw line last season. Those shooting percentages ranked 287th and 331st nationally. Baker would certainly help the Scarlet Knights in both areas, but there is always the question of how JUCO players adjust to the high major level.
He is listed as 6’2” and 169 pounds on the Hutchinson CC roster, so Baker would need to work hard in strength and conditioning to be physically ready for the grind of the Big Ten. Baker can play the point guard spot but only has a 1.2 assist to turnover ratio in his career at the JUCO level. How he would perform on the defensive end is a question as well. However, his offensive upside as a shooter makes him an intriguing prospect and he has the potential to be a key rotation player for Rutgers next season.
In recent seasons, the Scarlet Knights have had success in adding useful players from the JUCO level. Deshawn Freeman was a multi-year starter that was second in scoring and led the team in rebounding, while Shaq Carter was a key rotation player, as was big man Candido Sa. All three players were highly sought after JUCO prospects. Guard Souf Mensah was the only one not to work out after playing sparingly in just one season before leaving the program.
Hutchinson begins play next week in the NJCAA Tournament, which is JUCO’s version of the big dance. It seems likely that Baker will announce his decision soon after his sophomore season is over. He will have two years of eligibility at the Division I level and will be available to play immediately next season.