Steve Baker Enjoying Careers On and Off the Court
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Following a successful two-year career with the Green Bay men’s basketball team, Steve Baker headed overseas last fall and was able to realize a dream of playing professional basketball. Baker, who played for the Phoenix from 2010-12, averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his first season with Sampaense in Portugal.
The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 7.3 points and shot 42.9 percent from long range for the Phoenix as a senior in 2011-12. In his first season as a pro, Baker shot 86 percent from the free-throw line and posted seven 20-point games, including a 28-point, 10-rebound effort in a victory on Jan. 19.
“It has been a dream of mine to play basketball since day one. I wanted to shoot for the big stage (NBA), and I’m still young so maybe if something drastic happens and I get blessed with some magical powers I will make it,” Baker said laughing. “I always stuck my mind to playing professionally, and I just tried to take it step-by-step and not skip any steps.”
A native of St. Paul, Minn. who attended Southeastern Community College before coming to Green Bay, Baker is definitely appreciative of the opportunities that basketball has afforded him.
“I was in the mountains in Portugal and it was beautiful,” said Baker. “I got to see Spain and Italy on my breaks. I got to see a few places, and it was a sight to see. Basketball can take you great places. You get paid to play basketball and you get to see the world in the process.”
While Baker speaks highly of his first season as a professional basketball player, the thing that he really gets excited about is his job as an assistant teen director at the Green Bay Boys and Girls Club. Working with area teenagers, Baker tries to help them get on the right path in life, but he personally may get more out of his work than even they do.
“It feels great the way everybody loves you and cares about you,” said Baker. “When you walk through the door and everybody rushes you to say hi, it makes you feel better about yourself and feel a bond with the kids. It is like another family for me because I do not have any blood relatives in Green Bay. I have the basketball family with the Phoenix and then I have my family at the Boys and Girls Club. As soon as I walked through that door (at the Boys and Girls Club) after being overseas, I got rushed by 100 kids who were happy to see me, and that is why I love my job.”
Baker, who graduated from UW-Green Bay in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in human development, aims to share a lot of lessons with the kids that he works with to help them to be successful in sports, in school and in other aspects of their lives.
“I can give them something that I never had as a kid, a professional and former college athlete (as a mentor),” said Baker. “I wish somebody would have been there when I was a kid telling me what to do, telling me to go to class and do my homework. I had role models, but I didn’t have the ones that played at a high level and did what I wanted to do. If I would have had that growing up, it would have been great.
“I know these kids appreciate it and feed off it. I try to teach them to be straightforward, to never give up, to never quit and never use the word can’t. I tell them all the time that taking shortcuts is only going to take them to one place, and that is a place you don’t want to go. When they come in, I am on them to do their homework. I work with a lot of athletes, but I can tell them that no matter how good you are you will not get to college without the grades.”
Some of the things he teaches are the same things that he was taught by his college coach at Green Bay, Brian Wardle. He even now has some insight into what Wardle and some of his other mentors were thinking when they would get frustrated with Baker.
“I tell them to do the little things, because the little things are what will lead to great things in the future,” said Baker. “I learned that late in life from Coach Wardle, when he drilled into me the importance of doing the little things. Now that I work with kids, I understand his frustration when I used to get in trouble. I tell them to learn from their mistakes and that I am telling them because I made those mistakes. I see myself in a lot of these kids, and I know now when these kids aggravate me sometimes that I was doing that to somebody else. It helps me to tell them to cut it out early, because now I see what my mom or my coach were talking about, and I wish I hadn’t have done certain things.”
With a job as a mentor to kids in Green Bay and another job as a professional basketball player, Baker says he loves the way his life is going now. Baker knows his time playing for Coach Wardle and as a student-athlete at Green Bay has helped him immensely.
“It helped me a lot,” Baker said. “I had my ups and downs and Coach Wardle and we bumped heads sometimes, but I have a lot of respect for him. He helped me a lot because he is a man and that is what I wanted to be and I’m growing into being a man. Coach Wardle had a lot of characteristics that I took and tried to soak up. I was a sponge on and off the court because a lot of the things I learned on the court applied off the court. I learned to be respectful and I learned to do the little things from Coach Wardle, and I did those things overseas and I had a good year. My time here taught me a lot, and when I went overseas I was prepared and I was ready.”
Baker will be ready for whatever opportunity comes his way next as he looks to continue his professional career, but in the meantime he will be working hard to give back to kids in the Green Bay area through his work at the Boys and Girls Club. In the process, Baker may be getting just as much back from them.
“My goal is to go back and get a different opportunity to see a different part of the world,” said Baker. "I do not want to go to the same country because I have now been to Portugal. I have a great job here that I love, so if it doesn’t work out and I stay here and work with kids, it is something that I love getting up every day to do.”
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