Harvard’s 2016 recruiting class ranked No. 10 in the nation, a historic accomplishment for the Ivy League University. The Crimson was ahead of every single 2016 Final Four team and six of the eight Elite Eight teams—trailing only Kansas and Virginia. David Freed profiles each of the seven members of the class before they step on the floor for the season opener against Stanford, covering their recruiting process, playing style, and potential fit on this year’s team. In this one, he covers power forward Robert Baker Jr..
Robert Baker Jr. was the recruit that took the recruiting class from good to great, signing in mid-August to give the Crimson an important boost after the earlier signings of four-star recruits Chris Lewis and Seth Towns. Baker noted in an interview with Scout.com that he was influenced by the other two four-stars that had been signed and previewed the signing of Patrick School guard Bryce Aiken by noting that “the coaches said they may bring in another really good point guard.”
As a senior, Baker absolutely destroyed his competition to the tune of 21.6 points and 13 rebounds a game. He does this in a variety of ways. He gets to the free throw line nearly nine times a game and sinks the charity attempts at a 67 percent clip—a mediocre number that would have been sorely valued on this year’s Crimson squad. He doesn’t have great range from three but he is more than willing to shoot, having made a third of his attempts his senior year while taking more than three shots a game.
Inside is where he excels, collecting more than three offensive rebounds a game and making 50 percent of his shots in the paint. In this video, we can see Baker showing a variety of moves near the rim (including a nice face-up game) and some rim protection on the other side of the court. He had just as many blocks as fouls his senior year, something that bodes very well for his ability to contribute on the defensive end early in his Harvard career.
Baker has perhaps the highest upside of anyone in the class, but along with that comes a steeper learning curve. While he can do a bit of everything, he does not have a lot of polish to his game and comes in at the Crimson’s most crowded position. Like fellow freshman Chris Lewis, he will be competing with junior Chris Egi and sophomore Weisner Perez for the starting spot at the four.
Unfortunately for Baker, Lewis has more of the traditional game that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker favors. Amaker preaches an “inside-out” style of basketball that seems better suited to Lewis’ bruising style than Baker’s “stretch four” approach. If the Woodstock, Ga. Native can add strength and get into the post, he will have a strong case for minutes on the interior, but that may be a year down the road.
–Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.