Maurice Baker, who led Madison High School to the 1997 state tournament and later spent 15 years playing professional basketball, is the new coach for the Madison Trojans.
Baker, 38, played professionally in 12 countries, including Syria, Lithuania and Russia.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. These are the same halls I walked down when I was here, I guess, 20 years ago now,” Baker said Friday. “I’m just excited to be back, and I’m looking forward to getting this going and be around these kids.
“Basketball was my way of making a life for myself, and it can help these kids make their dreams come true as well. But academics will come first. I learned later on in life, when I got to college, that you have to work hard in the classroom as well as on the court. That is something we will continue to stress in this program.”
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A member of the Madison team that lost to Normal University High School in the 1997 Class A state quarterfinals, Baker went on to play two years at Dixie State (Utah) Junior College before taking over as the starting point guard for two years under coach Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State University, where he was Big 12 newcomer of the year in 2001.
A undrafted free agent, Baker signed with the Phoenix Suns in 2002. But after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot while playing in the NBA Summer League, Baker was cut just days before the start of the 2002-03 season.
It was then when his worldwide pro basketball career began. From 2002-2016, Baker played with 21 teams in the next 15 years. He won NBA Developmental League championships in 2007 and 2015, and was named a D-League all-star in 2009. Lou Babiarz, a reporter for the Bismarck Tribune, named him a first-team all-time point guard for the Dakota Wizards in 2012, shortly before the team moved to Santa Cruz, Calif.
I’m looking forward to teaching and helping these kids be successful both on and off the basketball court.
“It was difficult to retire from playing basketball. I still have that burning desire to play, and I still feel like I can play,” Baker said. “It’s just that when this opportunity came up that I felt like it was time to home and start giving back to these kids. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this opportunity.”
Baker says will stress defense with the Trojans.
“You create offense through playing good defense. We’re going to get after it on the defensive end. We’re going to full court press, create turnovers and score off those turnovers,” Baker said. “On offense we’re going to get up and down the floor.
“I like what we have coming back this year, and I’m really excited about getting in the gym and working with these kids. I’ve played all over the world, and my basketball knowledge is tremendous. I’m looking forward to teaching and helping these kids be successful both on and off the basketball court.”