Beginning this week and lasting through the remainder of the basketball season, Prep Sports Report will select a boys basketball Player of the Week based on individual stats, team performance and more. And who better to start with than Antonio Baker Jr., the superstar guard for the Class 3A No. 2 Johnson Atom Smashers (10-2, 2-1 region 3-3A).
Last week, Baker scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter against Ponte Vedra (FL) as Johnson overcame a 21-15 second quarter deficit to win 71-60 in its only game at the St. Andrew’s Holiday Showcase event on Thursday, December 29. During the game, Baker’s insane slam dunk over a Ponte Vedra player sent the St. Andrew’s gymnasium into a frenzy.
The video of the “poster” dunk went legitimately viral on Twitter and Instagram when the basketball content account “Overtime” caught wind of it. As of Tuesday, January 3, the video was viewed over 100,000 times across both social media platforms.
“I kind of knew when the dunk happened that it was going to be a big deal,” said Baker during a January 4 phone call with PSR. “I saw the (Ponte Vedra player) on the ground and that’s when I knew it was a good one.
“But yeah, it was kind of unreal that so many people saw it online to be honest.”
When asked how he developed such a spring in his jump to pull off such dunks, Baker chuckled and answered.
“It comes natural to me. Stay locked in, and it just comes naturally.”
A senior, Baker’s per-game averages through 12 games are eye-popping. He averages 23.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.2 steals while routinely coming up clutch in fourth quarters all year. It’s his “clutchness” that has many people picking Chuck Campbell’s Johnson team as a favorite to win the 2023 Class 3A state championship.
Baker thinks the pundits are on to something.
“That’s our real goal,” Baker said of state title aspirations after SCJ reached the Elite 8 last season. “We’ve gotten better since last year. We are still getting better too so I think region (championship) and state (championship) are what we want.”
He has a college scholarship offer from Kennesaw State already, and several other smaller schools are hoping to land his talents at the next level. If he continues to play like he has, more colleges are sure to come calling.
This Friday (January 6), Baker’s Johnson team faces its stiffest region 3-3A test of the season, and Baker matches up with a fellow Player of the Year candidate, Shamarrie Hugie. Johnson plays at No. 4 Beach (10-1, 2-0) with tip-time set for 7:30 p.m. Hugie, a senior wing for Simon Heyward’s Bulldogs, is averaging 20.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals through his first 11 games.
“He’s a great player too,” Baker said of Hugie before acknowledging the difficulty of matching up against Beach. “They are one of the better teams in the state and definitely one of the best teams in our region. It should be a good game.”
You can follow Baker on Twitter, @AntonioBakerJr2.
FOLLOW Travis Jaudon on Twitter and Instagram @JaudonSports. Email him at travisLjaudon@gmail.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: Antonio Baker social media page
Note: How are players nominated for the Grassi Roofing Prep Sports Report Girls Basketball player of the week? Tell your coach to select a player from your team by the Monday following the week of play. Then the player's coach should send the nominee (s) for the Grassi Roofing Prep Sports Report Girls Basketball player of the week to the PSR. Then the Prep Sports Report selects the player to be posted on the Prep Sports Report website and socail medai pages.
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