Joey Baker was the only senior honored on Senior Day, but this may not be his last season in a Michigan Wolverines uniform after all.
On the broadcast of last night’s game, we learned Baker wants to apply for a waiver to retroactively get a redshirt for his freshman season, which would give him another year of eligibility. When asked about that after last night’s NIT win over Toledo, Baker confirmed if he does get another year of eligibility, he’ll be back in Ann Arbor.
“We’ll see what happens,” Baker said. “If I got it, I’m back here.”
Starting in place of Jett Howard, who was out with an ankle injury, Baker had his best game in a Michigan uniform. He made 5-of-7 threes, 8-of-11 total shots for 21 points, which was two points away from a new collegiate career-high.
Maize n Brew asked him if he was feeling it with his shot last night, and he commended his teammates for getting him the ball in ideal moments.
“I was just getting open shots,” Baker said. “I think (Hunter Dickinson) hit me for one, the last one I hit was wide open. Dug found me for a great look in the second half, too, so I was just getting good looks. My teammates set me up.”
The Wolverines didn’t hit their goal of making the NCAA Tournament this season, but they still wanted to compete in the NIT. They came out on fire in the second half, making their first three three-pointers and going on a 13-4 run that helped them earn a 10-point victory.
“We didn’t want to lose four in a row,” Baker said. “That’s not us, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season but we stuck together. Ultimately didn’t reach our goals across the board this season, but as a unit we decided we’re going to fight and we’re going to play to win, and that’s what we did, especially in the second half.”
When asked about Baker possibly coming back next season, head coach Juwan Howard folded his hands, as one would in prayer. He said Baker would qualify academically, being he spent the bulk of his college career at Duke. Howard clearly wants to see Baker to return for a few reasons.
“We would love to have him back, not just because of the shooting but just overall the person,” Howard said. “He fits in the locker room, the guys enjoy playing with him, he’s also opening up and becoming a better leader. He’s been in big games now, he understands that guys trust him. We need his leadership and it would be nice to have him back next season.”
Baker has definitely been thinking about his basketball mortality — he clearly wants to keep playing the sport he loves. If he keeps playing like he did against Toledo, fans would likely welcome him back with open arms.
“I think you’re weird if you’re not (thinking) in the back of your head that this could be the last time putting on a jersey in college,” Baker said. “That was on my mind heavy the past few days. I want to go out and win as many games as possible. It’s still high-level competition, and we have an opportunity to get a championship. We’d be silly not to try and get it.”