(ST. LOUIS, Mo.)—There was a point, with the game tied early in the second half, when Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was especially frustrated. He looked to his bench.
And for the first time since Dec. 13, he was able to put Ron Baker in the game. Baker came in, sank a 3-pointer, and the Shockers never trailed again in Friday night's 10-point victory over Missouri State.
Marshall said he didn't remember that exact moment - when he looked for Baker - but he sure is happy WSU's redshirt freshman is back in the mix.
"He's just a solid player," Marshall said. "He does everything well. He makes free throws, he's strong with the ball, he's a good passer, he's a good dribbler and he can make shots. And he's a great defender. Because of that, he gives you comfort."
Baker, who missed 21 games because of a stress fracture in his left foot, was spectacular in his return. He scored 15 points, making 5 of 7 shots - including 3 of 5 3-point attempts - while logging a surprising 19 minutes.
Afterwards, Baker admitted he wasn't even sure if he was going to play or not. But he was ready. As he said, it's not like he's been sitting around on the couch.
"I wasn't terribly winded," said Baker, a 6-foot-3 guard from Scott City.
So how does a guy stay in basketball shape when he's not playing basketball?
Baker said he started his rehab by running against a current on an underwater treadmill. He also rode a stationary bike until he was cleared to run about four or five weeks following the injury. That evolved into half-court basketball, followed by full court.
"That was three days ago," Marshall said.
Baker had only been in the game a few seconds before getting plowed by Missouri State guard Nathan Sheer.
"I was ready to play after that," Baker said.
Baker took just two shots in the first half, making a layup. He said his unselfishness and timidness led the coaching staff chewing him out at halftime.
"The coaches put me in (game) situations in practice," Baker said. "I was pretty focused on what I needed to do to contribute."
Now that Baker's back, the Shockers have more optimism than ever of winning their first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament since 1987.
"To have 11 guys on a Division I roster that can all come in and give effort for a few minutes, that's big-time," Baker said. "You can run people out of the gym doing that. … It just feels good to play again. It's been a long three months for me."