Area Male Athlete: Baker leaving his mark on C-I program
Caleb Baker joined a select group.
He’ll likely join an even more elite group at the end of his senior season.
Baker, a three-year starting guard for the Crosby-Ironton Rangers, became the ninth boy in school history to reach 1,000 career points when he sank two free throws in an 85-39 victory over Duluth Marshall Jan. 19.
He probably could have gotten the mark a game earlier at Detroit Lakes. With the game in hand, Baker sat the last minutes of the game and reached the mark in front of the home crowd.
“It was really nice to do it at home because I had a lot of family and friends that were able to make the game,” said Baker. “We made it a big celebration so it was better.”
Baker tallied 23 points, six assists and five steals in C-I’s 60-53 loss to Esko Jan. 15. In that Detroit Lakes game, an 80-59 victory Jan. 17, Baker led the Rangers with 20 points.
He finished with 16 points against Duluth Marshall.
“I think he’s maybe a little more focused than he has been in the past,” said Ranger head coach Dave Galovich. “Being a senior he’s stepped up in the sense of being a leader. He’s always had a good work ethic and that work ethic is contagious on our younger players.”
As a sophomore, Baker led the Rangers with 387 points and earned All-Mid-State Conference honors. He averaged 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals a game, while shooting 47 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point.
Those numbers helped him earn Brainerd Dispatch All-Area honors, too.
Last season, Baker led the Rangers with 394 points. He averaged 14.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point. He earned all-conference and all-area honors again. Baker is leading the team in scoring again, but he knows he doesn’t have to.
“It’s really nice knowing I can dish the ball and someone is going to make the shots,” said Baker. “Anyone can go off on any giving night. We have good floor balance.
“This role kind of grew on me this year. I played with the guys this summer and realized then I didn’t need to score every single time. I can throw it down into Daniel (Hudrlik) and we have Will (Goodwin), Garrett (Van Horn), Riley (Jacobs) and Brady (Tesdahl) coming off the bench and they can all shoot the ball. It’s nice.”
This season Baker is averaging 15.5 points, 5.3 assists, 2.4 rebounds to go with 33 steals. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, 30 percent from the 3-point and 67 percent from the line.
“I think he has really done a good job of letting the game come to him,” said Galovich. “We’ve played some of our best basketball when we’ve had four and sometimes five guys in double figures. I think he recognizes that. He still leads us in scoring and he leads us in assists. He does have a big impact on the game. The thing with him, it’s on both ends of the floor. He also leads us in steals.”
That elite group Baker may join at the end of this season, it may be a party of one. Galovich wasn’t sure, but he believes Baker will be the first Ranger to lead a team in scoring three times.
“He’s just paid his dues over the years,” said Galovich. “He put in his time and he’s reaping the benefits of all that time and effort and hard work. He might have led us all three years in assists and steals, too. Maybe the only other person to do that was Bryce (Tesdahl). If there are more it’s not even a handful. It would be a select few that have accomplished what he has done.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Nathan Ehnstrom, Aitkin, finished with 21 points against Barnum and 24 against Ogilvie.
EJ Ziegler, Pillager, finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds against Staples-Motley.
Spencer Lubbers, Little Falls, finished with 21 points and five rebounds against St. Cloud Cathedral.
Josh Gilb, Verndale, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Sebeka.
Beau Howard, Pine River-Backus, finished with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists against Nevis.
Daniel Newton, Lake Region, finished with 23 points against Mankato.
Brian Huber, Staples-Motley, finished with 24 points against Park Rapids.
Collin Eckman, Little Falls, finished with 21 points against Mora.
Hockey: Ben Moe, Northern Lakes, scored two goals against Achiever Academy.