The Michigan men’s basketball team has two available scholarships it can fill ahead of the 2022-23 season, and one possible addition was reportedly in Ann Arbor on Tuesday.
Joey Bakera graduate transfer from Duke, would fit a need that Wolverines associate coach Phil Martelli highlighted earlier in the offseason:
“If you can shoot it, and you’re out there, you can expect that we’ll be knocking on your door,” Martelli told The Michigan Insider. The need for shooters is crucial as Michigan rebuilds around Hunter Dickinson.
Baker, a former top-50 recruit, can indeed shoot. The 6-foot-6 wing has made 37.9% of his 3-point attempts across four seasons with the Blue Devils. Throughout his college career, he has attempted more triples than shots inside the arc and free throws combined.
His best performance came last year, when he drained 40.5% of his attempts from deep.
“Joey [Baker] saved us in the first half,” Mike Krzyzewski said after a mid-February win over Florida State in which Baker scored 12 points on four 3-pointers. That game represented the 11th in his career with three or more made triples.
Baker has started just four of his 88 career games — and none in 2021-22, when he averaged 11.9 minutes — but was a valuable asset to the Blue Devils as both a team captain and as a player who could come off the bench and drain a clutch 3-pointer. Limitations as a ball handler and attacking off the dribble have limited his minutes despite his shooting prowess.
“It has been an absolute pleasure having Joey and his family in our program over the last four years,” Krzyzewski said of Baker. “He’s been a joy to coach and a great leader for our young men. …Any program will be lucky to have him.”
Michigan could be that program. The team could certainly use a 6-foot-6 wing who can shoot, especially given the lack of returning experience at the ‘2’ and ‘3.’ That said, Juwan Howard and Co. can’t guarantee a starting role or extended minutes — especially given Baker will spend the summer recovering from hip surgery — and that can make it a tough sell.
That hip ailment — about which few details were made available — almost certainly limited Baker in the closing stretch of the 2021-22 season. The Blue Devils believed he would recover in time for his fifth year.
One aspect where there would be no concern is Baker’s academic fit at Michigan. (“That’s a big consideration,” Martelli said, when the staff looks at the transfer portal.) Baker was on track to be his high school salutatorian before reclassifying, and he graduated with a degree in political science from Duke.
In his own words…
On what he focused on ahead of the 2021-22 season (via Duke Athletics):
I’ve really just been trying to work on my defense. I want to be able to guard different positions. Offensively, I’ve been focused on making the right play without turning the ball over, being able to play off guys like Paolo and Wendell, just helping however I can. Another thing has been just being more vocal, trying to have a leadership voice in the locker room, on the court, and really showing the younger guys how things work here and what it takes to be a good team.