Baker Showing Improvement

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UVa’s Calvin Baker has posted 21 assists and 7 turnovers this season.

Pop quiz: Who leads the Virginia men’s basketball team in assist-to-turnover ratio this season? Now, raise your hand if you said Calvin Baker. Be honest. Yes, it’s probably a little surprising to many observers but Baker’s 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is by far the best on the team so far this season and in three straight starts, he’s been a key factor in the Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak to end 2009.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the NJIT victory that Baker emerged as a leader during the break for exams and that he wanted to reward the senior for that effort, thus the move to slide Baker into the starting line-up. The shift has stuck for three straight games.

“Calvin did a good job in the two weeks of practice where he really stepped up and led. He was real vocal and did a lot of the intangibles and I wanted to reward him for that,” Bennett said after the 68-37 NJIT win.

Baker has improved more than his leadership and intangibles, though. The Woodside High product is playing more under control, making better decisions, and taking better shots. While there are still hiccups where he slips back to the past two seasons’ habits of over-dribbling or driving too deep into the defense or forcing a shot, the moments are few and far between. Even when he ran into some struggles in the second half and moved to the bench against UAB on Wednesday night, Baker returned to the action to play a much more controlled floor game; assistant coach Ritchie McKay talked to Baker while he was out of the contest.

Statistically, the progress is notable as well. Against the Blazers on Wednesday, he led the team with 6 assists and committed just 2 turnovers in 24 minutes. He also added 8 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal while providing the team’s only offense in the first few minutes of the game.

Overall, Baker has dished out 21 assists against just 7 turnovers; Sylven Landesberg and Jontel Evans both check in with the next best ratio of 1.55-1. For the first two years of his