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Calvin Baker played his first game for Virginia when the Cavaliers opened their 2007-08 season with a 90-72 victory over Vermont at John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 11. The 6-2 guard from Newport News, Va., scored 11 points, had one rebound and one steal in 14 minutes off the bench. Baker practiced with the Cavaliers last season, but did not play in games after transferring from William & Mary before the beginning of the 2006-07 academic year. As a freshman at William & Mary in 2005-06 he led the team in scoring (11.6 ppg.), assists (3.6 apg.), and minutes played (31.4 mpg.), and also averaged 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. He was named to the Colonial Athletic Association’s 2006 All-Rookie Team. Baker has three years of eligibility remaining, including this season.

Question: What went into your decision to transfer from William & Mary to Virginia?

Baker: “Growing up as a kid you always want to play at the highest level possible. There was nothing wrong at William & Mary, I just wanted to get to a higher level. Growing up in Virginia I saw a lot of Virginia basketball. I felt this was the place where I wanted to play.”

Question: How did it feel to finally play in a regular season game for Virginia against Vermont after not being able to play in games last season?

Baker: “It felt really good, especially after sitting out for a year. Players always love games regardless if you’ve sat out a year or you’re coming straight from high school. Sitting out a year makes you a little hungrier to get into a game. Being able to suit up for the first time and play in front of the Virginia fans felt real good.”

Question: How difficult was it last year when you could practice with the team, but couldn’t play in games?

Baker: “It was very difficult, especially becoming so close with the team. When you practice every day with the team it feels like a family. Then when they go into a game and if they lose or it’s a tight game, you always want to help out as much as you can, but I was on the sideline in a suit and tie. In practice, it did feel good to contribute to the team.”

Question: Do you feel you improved your game playing against Sean and J.R. every day in practice?

Baker: “Definitely. Going up against both of them last year and also being able to sit on the sidelines during games and watch them play definitely helped my game. I think sitting out I got a little faster and a little smarter. They are both good scorers and know how to score, and I think I took a little from both of their games.”

Question: “What were your thoughts as you prepared to enter the game against Vermont?

Baker: “I had been preparing for this for a long time, so when Coach Leitao called my name I just jumped up and was ready for my opportunity. It felt good to be one of the first guards off the bench. I knew what I had to do and I knew the reason I was in the game. I just wanted to perform the way Coach knows I can and the way I know I can.”

Question: What did you work on during the summer to prepare for this season?

Baker: “I worked on my strength and my ball handling. I also worked on my footwork and getting quicker by doing a lot of jumping rope. I concentrated on getting my legs stronger all around and just becoming a better athlete. To guard the point guards in the ACC you’ve got to be in top condition so I worked on my conditioning.”

Comment: Obviously that’s an area where Shaun Brown was able to help.

Baker: “Shaun helped me out a lot. He pushes me every day in the weight room. He says he sees a lot in me and really pushes me hard, and I feed off of that. He really helped me out with my foot speed and of course the weight training program which helped me put on eight to 10 pounds.”

Question: Coach Leitao emphasizes defense, so was that a renewed focus for you when you got to Virginia?

Baker: “Coach Leitao demands defense and if you want to get on the floor that’s what you’ve got to do. There’s nothing really that you can do to prepare, it’s a mentality Coach instills that you’ve got to play defense. If you want to play, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Question: Do you feel the year’s experience you had at William & Mary has been beneficial for you?

Baker: “Oh yes, I think that year at William & Mary helped me mature a lot. I learned to become a better point guard. Coming out of high school I was more of a combo guard, but when I got to William & Mary I was strictly a point guard. The year at William & Mary really helped me out a lot.”

Question: How do you feel you can help this Virginia team?

Baker: “I feel like I’m just a basketball player. I don’t want to be characterized as a shooter or a scorer or a defender, I feel I’m a basketball player. Anything that the team needs, that’s what I want to do. Everybody just wants to win and I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

Question: How did the transition to UVa go away from basketball?

Baker: “The transition has gone well. Academically there are a lot of resources and Angela Crock (Academic Affairs) really helps us out a lot. It’s a friendly community. Everybody knows who you are and speaks to you. I hang out with my teammates a lot off the court and that helps us become more of a family when we get on the court.”

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