"Right now I have a better idea than I've ever had," he says. "I'm confident about playing with anyone in the country. I'm going to work for it. I want it because I feel it's very close."
We talk about other parts of the future. He is a junior deacon in his father's church and sings in the choir. He would not mind being a singer and a minister and a basketball player like Terry Cummings of the San Antonio Spurs.
We talk about the overpowering presence of the University of Connecticut in his state. He says people will ask him if he has actually met Scott Burrell or Donyell Marshall or any of the other UConn kids, as if that were an important basketball fact. We talk about obscurity.
"Just let me say this," Baker says at the end. "Thank you for taking the time to come here and talk with me. It means a lot."
"Really. Thank you again."
I make some calls a few days later. I talk with Calhoun, the UConn coach. I talk with Marty Blake, the NBA superscout. I read some quotes from the Boston Celtics' Kevin McHale, who played against Baker at a camp during the summer. McHale thinks Baker can play in the NBA. I talk with Bakers lather, the minister and mechanic. He says his son's point guard shooting range is returning now that he's a big man. I talk with Walter Luckett, a family friend. Luckett, a Connecticut high school whiz who went to Ohio University and was on the cover of the SI college basketball preview issue 20 years ago, left school early for the pros. He was a second-round pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1975 but injured a knee and never played much. He says he encouraged Baker to stay in school.
How good is this kid? Everyone says he is very good.
"I was looking up our report on him just the other day, the report when he was in high school," Calhoun says. "We had him rated as three plus, which is a low major-college rating. He was 6'5", 6'6", but you couldn't project those extra four or five inches into him. Now? I'd like to see him very much in our lineup. He has quick feet, and he's an intuitively bright kid. You can say he loses things by playing where he's playing, but it's not all bad."
"He's not a sleeper," Blake says. "Don't call him a sleeper. He's a household name as far as the NBA is concerned. We've known about him for four years. I saw him when he had the shoulders of a nine-year-old. Now he's filling out. He can run the court, he can shoot the basketball, he should be an NBA player."