By Kaytlyn Poberznick
After a complete relaunch of the NAITs athletic program, Edmonton Stingers power forward, Jordan Baker, has stepped into the men’s basketball head coaching role for the next season. After four seasons as an assistant coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, Baker is ready to lead the Ooks.
The defending Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) champion and Canadian of the Year knows the importance of a strong collegiate experience in his five years with the University of Alberta. Baker was the all-time leader in career points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played during his 2013-2014 season with the Golden Bears.
“I made lots of long-lasting and special relationships, so I know the impact post-secondary sports can have on a young student-athlete. I thought [coaching] would be a great way for me to give back to the next generation, to coach and to lead a program, and to hopefully help a few kids along the way,” said Baker. Baker hopes to give his team an experience that will not only improve their game but help improve their skills outside of the court.
“We want to have our student-athletes be able to be contributing members [to society], a strong alumni group, and guys who are able to play as a team, work as a team, work as a part of a group, and build some of the things you don’t necessarily work on in the classroom,” said the 2020 CEBL Player of the Year finalist. Baker knows what it takes to win a championship playing professional basketball and is setting the bar high for his team in the upcoming season.
“I’m going to set some high expectations, I’m going to be very clear with those expectations, and I’m going to hold [my players] to those expectations,” said Baker. “I think if guys are willing to put up with me, they’re going to get a lot out of it, but it’s not going to be something easy – it’s going to be something they’ll have to work for, but I think the reward is really worth it.”
Shifting from player to coach is something that isn’t new for Baker. He’s experienced what it means to be a leader on and off the court but knows how to keep his playing and coaching different from each other. “As a player, I do pride myself on being an extension of the coaching staff on the floor, having an understanding of every scheme that we’re into, understanding the expectations and the roles and responsibilities of everybody on the team,” said Baker. “I think I’m well suited to step into this coaching role.
I know I’m going to have to maybe dial things back a little bit in terms of intensity and competitiveness, but I’m excited to get started, and I think guys are going to come to play and want to have success, and that’s all I can really ask for.”
Baker is keying in on consistent coaching and honest feedback with his players as he looks to preseason training. “Sometimes coaching is a little bit challenging if you’re sending mixed signals or not being clear enough with your players, so for me, that’s going to be a real point of emphasis; to be especially clear of what I expect our core concepts [to be], what our non-negotiables are, and to make sure everybody is on the same page,” said Baker. With COVID still playing a factor in sports, off-season training remains a point of concern. Baker, alongside many others, is eager to get into the gym and start training with his new team as soon as possible. “Whenever Alberta Health Services decides that it is safe for us to resume any sort of activity, we’ll be in there because we’ve essentially lost a full year with COVID. Any training we can get at this point is going to be valuable for us moving forward,” said Baker.
With a championship on his side with The Stingers and an upcoming 2021 season set to tip off in June, the expectations are no different with the Ooks.