Rutgers men’s basketball guard Geo Baker will go through his second and final Senior Day when the Scarlet Knights face Penn State on Sunday at noon at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
Friday, Baker and the other seniors met with the media to talk about their journey. First up is the Derry, N.H. native and program-changer Baker.
How would you summarize your five years here at Rutgers?
“It’s been special. I always think about coach Pikiell’s vision even before I committed and everything has come true. Nobody believed it. Mid-major coaches were texting me about why would I go to Rutgers. George Washington had beat the crap out of Rutgers not too far back and they were saying this is what we did to Rutgers. But me and all the guys believed. To see it all come true, it’s special.”
Is there something to be said about staying the course when in this world people leave all the time?
“Yeah, I think it shows our character. We’ve all the opportunity or someone in our ear saying we can accomplish this or that or be better somewhere else, but we wanted to be here. We felt like Rutgers had our back, and that helped us create this.”
Is it cool to know that you are leaving something behind here and that people genuinely appreciate that?
“I wanted to leave a legacy. It’s cool to know we are leaving it better than what it was when we came in. I had that same mentality in high school too. Not many D-1 guys come out of New Hampshire, and my friends and I up there kind of started the same type of thing.”
You’ve played 82 games at Jersey Mike’s Area and Sunday will be your last one. Does any game stick out to you in particular?
“Honestly, the Northwestern game a couple years ago for me. I was playing horribly leading up to and coming off the bench. We were down a bunch in the game and in the second half I was in a type of zone and couldn’t miss. That got me going for the rest of the season too and then we won against Maryland Purdue. The performance I had stands out.”
Have you talked to any of the former greats here like Phil Sellers or anybody like that?
“I’ve talked to Eddie Jordan here and there. I’ve never talked to Phil Sellers. Eddie Jordan has reached out. One time recently I achieved some type of milestones (1,550-plus points, 450-plus assists, 350-plus rebounds, and 150-plus steals) where it was only me and him and he said ‘Welcome to the club’. That was cool. That’s crazy. I mean I had no idea.”
Geo, what’s next for you? Do you want to play basketball for as long as you can and then what?
“I’m just enjoying my time at Rutgers right now. I have no idea what’s going to come in the future. Of course I’ll try and play basketball for as long as I can, but the good thing with NIL is I’ve been able to make connections with people at the next level.”
What’s it like having the NIL around because you worked so hard to get that?
“It’s so cool for all athletes. It’s been great to see different deals. You see the individuality of everybody. Before you only saw them as a basketball player. Now maybe you see them as an artist or whatever else they like or are into.”
Can you imagine what NIL is going to become10 years down the line?
“I’m just happy about it. I know plenty of guys who came before me would have made so much money and they could have used it in good ways. There are situations where they could have used the money for their family or themselves. It’s life-changing for a lot of people.”
Speaking of changes, you’ve gone to all the other Big Ten arenas and see their fans and now you come back to JMA where it is now a home court advantage, how much pride do you take in that?
“I love it. I think the fans take pride in it too. Their energy helps us so much. When we go to other places it’s so loud and to know when we come home it’ll be loud here, it’s special.”
Have you thought about what it’s going to be like walking out on Senior Day, and then how do you put the emotions aside because you still have an important game to play?
“I’m going to try and get emotional after the game. I think everybody will be locked in. We all know how important the game is. Everybody really wants to win. I can save the emotions for afte the game?”
Who is coming for you?
“My mom, my aunt, and my cousin will be walking with me, but I have some other people coming as well.”
How many times has your mom seen you play?
“Many times. As a kid too she’d bring me to tournaments and not buy me anything else.”
I know it bothered you that she couldn’t come last season.
“Yeah, she’s very safe with COVID. Even at Senior Night last year she was iffy. That’s one of the reasons why I came back. It’s special to me to have her and people in the stands.”
Paul Mulcahy figures to take over your spot and your role next season. What do you expect form him next season?
“Paul’s a special basketball player. He watches film and works harder than anybody else. He wants to win. Paul’s going to be more than fine and he will lead this team to many wins next year for sure.”
In the preseason coach Pikiell talked about how this is his best team ever and then you guys lost a bunch of games and didn’t play well in November and December. Is it satisfying knowing that you’re in a position to prove that to be correct?
“I don’t know if I’m satisfied. I feel like we have to do it first. We stood by it though when he said it. This preseason, I think it was the hardest the team had worked. Guys were in the gym and focused. We had a mission in our minds and that’s still in our minds. We still have some things to prove, but we still stand by that to this day.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.