When small forward Caleb Houstan decided to remain in the NBA draft earlier this month, Michigan basketball found itself in need of a perimeter shooter with guards Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones already departed.
Two and a half weeks later, coach Juwan Howard landed his new 3-point threat.
The Wolverines scored a verbal commitment from former Duke wing Joey Baker on Friday, a source confirmed to the Free Press, as Howard and his staff made their first addition since Houstan and fellow freshman Moussa Diabate opted to stay in the NBA draft and left the program with three open scholarships. The 6-foot-6, 206-pound Baker, who averaged 4.5 points per game and shot 40.5% from 3-point range last season, will join UM as a graduate transfer after four years with the Blue Devils.
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A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina — roughly 90 miles from Duke’s campus — Baker had his choice of elite programs after a standout career at Trinity Christian School. He was rated the No. 33 overall prospect in 247 Sportss composite rankings and held scholarship offers from Kansas, UCLA, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Florida, among others, in addition to his offer from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He committed to the Blue Devils as part of the nation’s No. 1 overall recruiting class alongside Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones — all of whom became NBA draftees.
Baker’s time at Duke was far less decorated than that of his classmates. He worked his way into the back of Krzyzewski’s rotation for his final three years after barely seeing the floor as a freshman, but still his contributions were limited. He averaged five points in 12.1 minutes per game as a sophomore, 2.9 points in 11.5 minutes per game as a junior and 4.5 points in 11.9 minutes per game as a senior. Of his 89 career appearances, just four were starts.
What Baker does bring, however, is potency from 3-point range. He made 75 of 198 attempts (37.9%) from beyond the arc over his career, with at least three 3s in 11 games. His 40.5% clip and 30 made 3s during the 2021-22 campaign were both career highs.
Baker also shot 80.9% from the free-throw line on 47 attempts across four seasons.
Howard and his staff will be hoping the talent Baker flashed as a coveted recruit in the class of 2018 was obscured by Duke’s top-end recruiting rather than an inability to perform at the Division I level. After signing Baker, Krzyzewski’s three subsequent classes from 2019-21 were rated No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 nationally.
Baker spent his years at Duke playing alongside four eventual first-round picks (Williamson, Barrett, Reddish, Jalen Johnson) and three eventual second-round picks (Vernon Carey Jr., Jones, Cassius Stanley). Five more of his teammates could be drafted Thursday, headlined by potential No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero. Such a ceaseless influx of talent made it difficult for Baker to find a spot on the floor.
Baker’s prospects in Ann Arbor should be better, though, even among a populous group of wings next season. Houstan and fellow small forward Terrance Williams II were the only wings to log significant minutes for Howard last year, and Baker will arrive at Michigan having played more games than anyone on the roster.
His primary competition for minutes will include Williams and a handful of players with little or no collegiate experience to their names: junior Jace Howard; redshirt freshmen Will Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes; and true freshmen Jett Howard and Gregg Glenn.
The addition of Baker, along with fellow graduate transfer Jaelin Llewellyn, who committed to Michigan in April, leaves the Wolverines with one available scholarship for the 2022-23 season. It’s unclear if Howard and his staff plan to use it or keep it open for recruits and transfers in future classes.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball lands graduate transfer Joey Baker from Duke