McDonogh's Baker dims bright lights Tough duty: Multi-talented Julie Baker excels in shutting down opposing basketball teams' top scorers.

January 21, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

When McDonogh senior Julie Baker takes a peek at the morning box score, chances are she isn't looking to see how many points she scored the night before.

Instead, she's checking to see how many points the other team's top offensive threat finished with. More times than not, that figure is well below average and Baker, who transferred from North Carroll after her sophomore year, can enjoy a job well done.

It's defense first for the 5-foot-8 small forward who, game after game, is attached to the opposing team's top scorer. It's a role she thrives on, takes pride in and excels at.

"Defense is something I've always liked," she said. "I never was much into offense and scoring points. It takes dedication and a lot of drills that aren't very fun."

Not that Baker hasn't scored her share. The Eagles co-captain is averaging nine points a game and four rebounds, but coach Seth Kushkin said her value to the team comes when the other team has the ball.

"When we play well defensively, we're a very good basketball team and she's our leader on that end," Kushkin said. "She's a very good athlete with quick hands and feet. She learned how to play good smart defense without reaching in or jumping over people's backs. She's containing people instead of looking immediately for steals."

Baker has improved with experience, just like her McDonogh team. After going 9-10 last season, the Eagles are off to an 8-5 start.

"This year, we're a lot more together and playing as a team," Baker said. "We're not only practicing and playing games, but hanging out together and it makes it a lot easier once we get on the basketball court."

Last season, Baker said she had a tendency to grow impatient, looking for the quick steal and often getting called for fouls.

"I'm concentrating more on moving my feet instead of just my hands, and being more patient," Baker said.

Added Kushkin: "This year, she hasn't been in foul trouble in any games so far. It shows she's grown up a little and has a better understanding of her role."

Defense has become a game of its own for Baker. It starts before every game with the scouting report. Once the opposing team's top scorer is identified, the next task is finding her tendencies.

"We take a look whether she's left-handed or right-handed, where she likes to go with the ball and how we want to guard her," said Baker.

Baker is also a standout in track and field, but she transferred to McDonogh primarily to play soccer in one of the nation's top programs.

"The first practice I was blown away by everything," Baker said. "I was amazed at all the talent and couldn't believe it was all on one team."

She learned to fit in nicely, earning All-Metro status the past two years as a midfielder. She plans to continue playing soccer next fall at Virginia Tech.

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