Archdeacon: Angel divine as usual as Raiders advance in league tournament

Wright State guard Angel Baker is fouled by Northern Kentucky guard Kennedy Igo during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State guard Angel Baker is fouled by Northern Kentucky guard Kennedy Igo during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Baker leads Wright State past NKU in HL quarterfinals

FAIRBORN – “What’s in a name?”

William Shakespeare posed the question so famously in “Romeo and Juliet” almost 425 years ago.

Tuesday afternoon at the Nutter Center, Wright State’s Angel Baker provided a definitive answer.

“What’s in a name?”

ExplorePHOTOS: Wright State women advance to tourney semifinals

So with a name like Angel, she was asked if she’s supposed to something heavenly, cherubic or divine.

“Well, I don’t try to be the nicest thing on the court,” she said with a laugh.

No one knows that better today than Northern Kentucky, who the Wright State women pushed aside 74-56 in their Horizon League quarterfinal game.

A first-team All Horizon League selection for the second year in a row, Baker scored a game-high 23 points. It was the eighth game in the past 10 that the junior guard has scored over 20 points.

She’s carried the Raiders down the stretch this season, helping them become the Horizon League regular season co-champions and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. They’ll now play in the tournament semifinals on Monday, March 8, in Indianapolis.

So if “nice” isn’t the goal out there on the court, what is she shooting for?

For that, you just need to know her twitter handle: @angelthegoat15.

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Wright State guard Angel Baker knocks down two against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Wright State guard Angel Baker knocks down two against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State guard Angel Baker knocks down two against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

That might seem to be a real cheeky reach – Greatest Of All Time – but she didn’t shy away when asked about it after the game.

She explained she’s not trying to put anybody else down, but “it’s just believing in yourself. It’s betting on yourself. I will give credit for sure. I know there are a lot of great players.

“But I’m gonna bet on myself…every time.”

WSU coach Katrina Merriweather laughed at Baker’s youthful conviction:

“She can back it up.

“And I know that’s going to bring up a lot of conversations, it always does: “I mean there’s Kim Demmings!”

Demmings is now an assistant of Merriweather’s staff, but five years ago she was completing the greatest career by a women’s player in WSU basketball history. She had twice been voted the Horizon League Player of the Year and ended up with 2,677 career points, a record not only for WSU women and men, but the top Horizon League women’s mark, as well.

Yet, when Merriweather signed Baker out of Pike High School in Indianapolis, she called her “the best freshman we’ve ever signed at Wright State.”

She holds by those superlatives today:

“Kim was a phenomenal player. She came and played at Wright State in a time when we had to have someone shoot the ball 20 to 30 times a game for us to have a chance to win.

“The reality is, Angel came into the program and we won a championship and she played 20 minutes a game and shot 50 percent from the field and found her way into that (veteran) lineup.

“She’s part of a program now where we have more players that are talented. She doesn’t have to do what Kim did. And Kim will tell you, her talent and even Michal Miller (last year) some of these kids (especially Angel) can handle the ball better and shoot better than they did.

“So yeah, I think Angel should be included up there with Kim Demmings for sure.”

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Wright State guard Angel Baker drives to the paint against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Wright State guard Angel Baker drives to the paint against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State guard Angel Baker drives to the paint against Northern Kentucky during a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Mar. 2, 2021. Wright State won 74-56. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

As a freshman, Baker joined a Wright State team that featured three 1,000 point career scorers. She was the first player off the bench, had some huge games and showed real moxie in the Raiders’ toughest challenge that year.

They won a school-record 27 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, playing Texas A&M on the Aggies home court in front of a partisan crowd.

Several WSU players weren’t themselves that day, but Baker played with swagger. She drove and scored on the Aggies and had a no look, behind the back pass from deep on the wing, that froze three stunned defenders and allowed Teneshia Dixon to make an easy lay-up.

Even the A&M crowd applauded her and the play made ESPN’s Sports Center Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Baker was voted to the Horizon League’s All Freshman Team that year and has continued to blossom since.

“It’s been fun to watch her develop,” Merriweather said. “Angel has not necessarily developed new sills here, she was a really good player when she can here. But she’s picking her spots better and her mid-range jumper is pretty unstoppable.

“And she has developed into a leader. She plays with a lot of confidence, but she has confidence in her teammates too and gets them the ball.”

And yet, when the pressure is on, everybody wants the ball in her hands.

With a mix of speed and juke moves, she’s can be a nightmare for opposing defenders. Late in the third quarter Tuesday, she left two Norse defenders sprawled on the court as she maneuvered past for a twisting lay-up.

“This is a kid who just loves basketball,” Merriweather said. “She would play all day if she could. We have to tell her, ‘You just played a lot of minutes. Don’t go in the gym. Don’t play one-on-one!’

“And when she’s not playing, she watching it. She sits in the office and watches men’s games, women’s games, NBA games.

“I think it has a lot to do with why she’s so crafty with the ball. She watches things and then she goes out in the gym and tries them.”

And often she can pull them off.

That’s always been the case.

Her mom tells how, as a little kid, her daughter played out on the street with bigger boys.

What’s in a name?

She said after a while she wasn’t Angel anymore.

They called her Baby Jordan.

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