Q&A with Calvin Baker
Calvin Baker is one of Virginia’s tri-captains this season and a key member of the Cavaliers’ backcourt. Baker, a guard from Newport News, Va., is in his third year at Virginia after transferring from William & Mary. After not playing in games his first season after transferring, Baker averaged 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season when he played in all 33 of the Cavaliers’ games, starting eight. This season he is averaging 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game. Baker has made 83.9 percent (26-31) of his free throw attempts, while playing in all 17 games, starting 12. He is expected to continue to play a significant role when Virginia plays three games in seven days against Boston College (Feb. 4) at home, at North Carolina (Feb. 7) and at Florida State (Feb. 10).
Question: You are a team captain this season. How do you view those responsibilities?
Baker: It’s a big responsibility. The coaches normally take a lot of blame if the team is losing or if something’s not going well with the team, but I feel like a lot of that falls on the captains shoulders too. We have a young team and I know I have to be a vocal leader. At this point I need to let everybody know that the season’s not over, that we’ve still got a long way to go and it’s still possible for us to turn things around. It’s a big responsibility to be a captain, but I’m glad I’m in this position.
Question: This is your third year in the program after transferring from William & Mary. What are your thoughts about being a captain after transferring into the program?
Baker: My high school coach always told me that I was a natural leader and he would get mad at me when I didn’t lead. When I got here, I learned from J.R. (Reynolds) and Sean (Singletary) and saw how they took control of the team. After they left, I knew someone was going to have to step up. Being one of the older guys, I took on that position.
Question: Do you look forward to that responsibility?
Baker: Definitely, I’m vocal and I really like this position. Being a point guard, I think you have to be a leader and it feels good.
Question: Do you think the other players on the team respond to your leadership?
Baker: They come back at me. I don’t want to be the type of leader who doesn’t listen. I think they respect me because I can teach them things and they can teach me things. They listen to me a lot and I listen to them a lot, it’s a good atmosphere.
Question: The team is going through a difficult stretch. How do you as a captain and as a member of the team go about trying to get things turned around?
Baker: We have to know that we’ve played against some good teams in the ACC and we need to know that the next game coming up is a big game. Anyone can win on any given night and we have to know that we’re a good team. We’ve got to have the mentality that we’re a good team and know that when we go on the court we have to play with the same confidence we practice with. I think if we play with the same type of confidence we practice with, we can turn the season around.
Question: As was mentioned earlier, this is your third year in the program. Do you feel more settled now?
Baker: My first year was tough for me, especially sitting out games. I didn’t really know anyone coming to a new program and having new coaches and teammates. Now I’m older, I’ve gotten to know all the players and I have good relationships with the coaches. I also know a lot of people at the University and I’m used to Charlottesville. I do feel a lot more settled.
Question: You played in the backcourt with Sean Singletary. What’s different this year without him?
Baker: I think the way teams prepare for us. With Sean, a lot of the other team’s preparation was on stopping him. That freed up other players because the opponent was trying to focus on not letting Sean beat them. This year, I feel opponents are focusing on us more as a team and there are not as many openings. Players have to be a lot more aggressive. They can’t wait for Sean to make a play. You have to be the one making a play now.
Question: How have you personally adjusted to Sean being gone from the backcourt?
Baker: I think I’ve adjusted o.k. There are still some things I need to work on. Playing off the ball, playing with Sammy (Zeglinski) because they are two different types of players, but I think I’m adjusting pretty well.
Question: You’ve been playing with an injury to your left foot. How is the foot at this point in the season?
Baker: The stress injury is not getting any worse. I have a little bit of pain in my tendon, but we treat it every day and it’s getting better.
Question: How much do you think the injury has impacted your season?
Baker: It got me off to a real slow start because I had to sit out a couple of weeks before the start of the season when the team first started practicing. So when I got back I was a little bit out of rhythm and it was still a little sore. As I continued to get treatment the pain started to go away and now I feel like I’m almost back to 100 percent.
Question: Do you know how you suffered the injury?
Baker: It’s a stress injury that happened over time. I felt it during an individual workout with Coach Courtney. I couldn’t really jump off of it and I didn’t know what it was, so I went to talk to Ethan (head athletic trainer Ethan Saliba). It was x-rayed and you really couldn’t see anything, but with the MRI you could really see it.
Question: Did you play other sports growing up?
Baker: I played baseball and football growing up.
Question: How did you get started playing basketball?
Baker: My first sport was football. I started playing basketball because of my cousin A.J. We were at a family reunion and we were outside throwing the football around. He asked me to try out for his football team. So I did and after football season he said try out for the basketball team. I tried out and I really liked it, so I just continued to play.
Question: How old were you when you started to play”
Baker: I was probably eight years old when I first started playing basketball. Then I tried out for the AAU team and I made the “B” team. I was just happy to make the team. The next year they put me on the “A” team and I’ve been playing ever since. I liked football more than basketball at first, but then I started to get better at basketball and I decided to stick with basketball.
Question: What is your favorite place on Grounds other than John Paul Jones Arena?
Baker: Probably Newcomb Hall where everybody eats lunch. You can talk to a lot of people while you eat lunch before you go to your next class. Members of the team go there to relax, talk and meet a lot of other students.