Duke basketball: Joey Baker has chance to leave Durham on positive note

Duke basketball guard Joey Baker and head coach Jon Scheyer (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball guard Joey Baker and head coach Jon Scheyer (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

A complete Duke basketball story is not written yet for one Blue Devil guard. 

It was never certain whether or not Duke basketball captain Joey Baker would return to Durham for his final year of eligibility.

Baker was the forgotten man in the loaded recruiting class that featured Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones and has continued to be forgotten as the Blue Devils have continued their recruiting domination.

However, when the senior captain took the stage this weekend at the Duke basketball banquet, he was mysteriously on crutches.

The program announced the next day that Baker underwent surgery to repair a left hip injury and will begin rehab immediately for the 2022-23 season as a member of the Duke program.

Baker surely could have bolted from Durham after the bad hands he has been dealt in his four seasons.

After reclassifying to join The Brotherhood a year early, it seemed all but certain that Baker would redshirt and begin his playing career in 2019-20, but Mike Krzyzewski had other plans.

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The Hall of Famer pulled Baker’s redshirt and inserted him into a February 23 game against Syracuse as Duke was going through a number of injuries late in the season. It was the first of just four games Baker would play as a freshman, playing 18 total minutes.

The move was confusing at the time and more head-scratching looking back on it.

Duke basketball guard had on-court struggles well documented

Joey Baker then had a hard time cracking the consistent rotation as a sophomore, junior, and senior despite being named as a captain entering the 2021-22 season.

Duke did not honor Joey Baker in the final home game of his senior season, also known as ‘Coach K Night’, because he still had a year of eligibility remaining and the program does not recognize those who are graduate transfers or those who can still play at the collegiate level the following season.

It felt like the icing on the cake in a lost career for Joey Baker at Duke, but credit to the guard for not wanting to leave the program in that fashion.

Baker still has a year of eligibility left granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is likely he will be the first captain of the Duke program under head coach Jon Scheyer.

Now he has the chance to change the narrative around his time at Duke and leave the program as the fan-favorite he entered as.

Despite his return, it will not be easy to earn minutes next season with a potential backcourt of Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels returning as well as the addition of incoming freshmen Dariq Whitehead, Mark Mitchell, and Jaden Schutt.

The 3-point shooting stroke and his defensive capabilities are what will determine how much playing time Joey Baker receives next season, but having his leadership on and off the court for the first-year head coach will be invaluable to the success of the program.

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