Duke Basketball: Time to hush chatter about a Joey Baker transfer

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Taking a closer look at Joey Baker’s situation reveals that any talk about his potential to transfer out of the Duke basketball program seems to be a waste of words.

Admittedly, it’s somewhat understandable why so many Duke basketball fans — notably those on Twitter — continue to openly worry a transfer may be imminent for Joey Baker:

The soon-to-be sophomore reclassified to arrive at Duke last season, sat on the bench for months thinking he was a redshirt, discovered his redshirt was on fire late in the season, played only 18 minutes across four appearances, and now faces being on a team with 11 players who seem worthy of significant minutes.

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However, if the 6-foot-7, 200-pound native of Fayetteville, N.C., was afraid of competition or having to spend a year or two sitting on the bench before becoming a member of the regular rotation, then it’s likely 1) He would have chosen to play for a program other than one that habitually hauls in No. 1 recruiting classes, and 2) He would have been smart enough not to reclassify to join the highest-rated recruiting class in the history of the sport.

Baker is definitely smart. He was on pace to become his Trinity Christian School’s salutatorian prior to his reclassification.

Also, the four-star small forward — who ranked No. 33 on the 247Sports Composite for the 2018 class following his reclassification — fulfilled a dream by signing with Duke.

Although he claims to have grown up as a Kansas fan, he fell in love with the idea of joining #TheBrotherhood after visiting as a sophomore in high school and hearing the Cameron Crazies chant his name when he attended a game against Clemson.

Now, one shouldn’t be surprised next season if Baker regularly hears the same chant — particularly following his splashes from downtown.

Now that 2019 sweet-shooter Boogie Ellis has decommitted, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has limited options next season for marksmen who can help right the ship when it comes to the program’s recent woes from beyond the arc (last season, the Blue Devils knocked down only 30.8 percent of 3-point attempts, by far the worst clip of any team in program history).

Along with five-star 2019 signee Matthew Hurt and soon-to-be junior Alex O’Connell, Baker figures to be part of the 3-point solution.

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Combining his stats from his four regular-season appearances with those from the three-game Canada Tour last August plus the Blue-White Scrimmage and two exhibition games last October, Baker is 8-for-16 from three while donning a Duke jersey.

That’s 50 percent. And that’ll work.

But his talents aren’t limited to his 3-point stroke. Baker, by using his more-than-adequate athleticism and length to his advantage, is also an adept slasher and finisher around the rim.

At least he was in high school:

While he’s not a top candidate to start next season — five-star 2019 signee Wendell Moore seems destined to start at his position — he will certainly at least have a shot to compete for either a starting spot or the role as the team’s sixth man.

Even if he doesn’t see much court time next season, though, he certainly doesn’t seem like the type of player who would sulk and become a detriment to the team’s chemistry.

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He’d surely be bright enough to realize his lack of playing time would be nothing more than a sign from the coaching staff that he needs to continue to improve upon his weaknesses.

Baker needs to bulk up a bit this summer, work on his defense, and learn to play without quickly racking up fouls (he committed five across his 18 minutes of action last season).

That being said, his potential in a Duke jersey — some parts of his game spark memories of former Duke great Mike Dunleavy — depends on the amount of work he is willing to put in and his not giving up on being a Blue Devil just because so many fans believe reasons for doing so would be justified.

Baker is a Blue Devil.

Simple as that.

Unless he declares otherwise — don’t count on that — speculating he will transfer comes across as slander, suggesting he’s not up for a challenge.

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Prediction from Ball Durham: Baker will be a shooting and slashing star before his time in Durham is over (which won’t come until after he earns a Duke degree).