When I arrived in Edmonton, AB. (summer of 2004) it was a must that I get involved in the coaching scene as this was the city that my family had chosen to anchor down in.
Before long, I was offered a position to coach a SLAM Midget-A team (grade 9 & below). As I took pride in coaching these student-athletes, we made a splash in the EYBA League by not only beating teams, but beating teams handily…until one day, we showed up to play against South West.
As I looked out on the court to watch our opponents warm-up, I saw nothing special and like a proud Popa-Bear, I conceded that our opponent was food; hence, this would be just another day at the office and another victory for our Slam Midget-A Team.
Once the game began, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we were the meal and that I was being introduced to a long, lanky, blond haired, extremely versatile and intelligent young prodigy.
As the game ensued, I became increasingly frustrated at how effortlessly this particular student-athlete dissected my team’s every effort. Of course, before the game ended I had to earn a technical from the officials, especially considering that we were having our heads being handed to us on a platter as the opposition crushed us by 40 plus; meanwhile all the kid did was smile and he never broke a sweat.
As I gave my student-athletes encouraging words in hopes of instilling the Three-R’s (Relax, Recharge & Refocus), I remember walking out of the gymnasium thinking to myself “what in the hell just happened?!”
Later I would find out that the young phenom that just gave us fits, was Jordan Baker.
The Coach was his father Doug Baker (three-time Alberta Bears MVP) and his mother – Trix Baker (former Pandas three-time All-Canadian & 98-99 CIAU/CIS National Championship as the Woemen’s Head Coach).
I just learned the hard way, about one of the most (if not the most) influential basketball families in Alberta.
As my time extended in Edmonton and more coaching opportunities came my way, I had a front row seat to watch Jordan Baker continue to cause absolute headaches for opposing teams & coaches, simultaneously exhibiting the demeanor & smile of a choir boy, the competitiveness of a Larry Bird/Magic Johnson and a basketball IQ of Einstein in a basketball jersey.
Eventually our paths started to cross to the point where I would put him through workouts in the summer time while working at the Rocky Mountain Basketball Camp. Again, this young man’s ability to absorb information, digest it and immediately put what he has learned into action was extraordinary.
Year after year would convene at camp, and year after year I would attend the Bears games and watch Jordan effortlessly apply concepts and skills in only a few months of time, whereas the average athlete would need constant supervision and reinforcement.
This is when I was able to finally peg Jordan with a nickname; from that point on, Jordan Baker was known to me as Shake and Bake–a tribute to his ability to leave opponents shook as they try gallantly to devise defensive schemes to derail his on-court success; but despite their efforts and planning Jordan always scorched opponents (baked – at a high overcooking temperature).
On January 25, 2014, all of the knowledge, mentorship, and tough-love Baker received from a plethora of coaches (his mother & father, George Hoyt, Greg Francis, various former coaches of basketball bodies such as Team AB, Center of Performance, National Team Programs & current Coach Barnaby Craddock) over his life span came to fruition as the young man became the All-Time Scoring Leader in the University of Alberta Golden Bears history.
Current University of Calgary Head Coach Dan Vanhooren stirred the pot by adding a huge cup of drama to the mix as he went on the record vowing that Baker would not break the record against his Dinos.
Vanhooren and U of C held true to his declaration on the Friday as they held Shake to 12-points (five shy), but they couldn’t hold him back for long because with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter of the back-to-back double header it was a free throw that cemented Shake into the Bears’ history books and from my perspective – it couldn’t have happened to a better young man and dedicated basketball family.
I thought it was a class act for Bears Athletics to not only stop the game for the Bears faithful (to acknowledge Jordan’s accomplishment), but they also allowed him to cut down the net.
In addition, at halftime of the rivalry contest between the Bears and Dinos, Don Horwood and many of his Student-Athletes that played for his three CIAU/CIS National Championships were honored.
After the game (which UofA won), I joined the Bears, their fans and Alumni to the Hat Tricks Restaurant to catch up with one of my mentors (Don Horwood) but also I wanted to personally congratulate Shake and Bake.
The scene was surreal as I spotted and chatted with many of the Bears greats such as Greg Devries, Stephen Parker, Murray Cunningham, Doug Baker (Jordan’s father & 1,091 points leader) Nick Masglisceau, Andrew Parker and Richard Bates, to name a few.
The room was electric and filled with green & gold sweaters that illuminated the overwhelming sense of Golden Bears’ pride. Finally I sought out the witty veteran Coach Horwood surrounded by his long-time assistant coach Murray Scambler and many friends.
Quickly we embraced and exchanged greeting commonalities and proceeded to catch-up on day-to-day life and our families. When I congratulated Horwood on his honoring, he quickly deflected the attention towards Jordan Baker’s night of accomplishment.
I congratulated the newly anointed Bears’ Basketball All-Time Leading Scorer. I asked Jordan two questions.
How did it feel to be a part of Edmonton and U of A Golden Bears Basketball History when you and many of the greats were being honored on the night?
“Tonight was a special night for the Golden Bears Basketball Program,” he responded.
“Being able to bring all the alumni together to honour Don Horwood is always important, so for us to add a victory against Calgary was simply icing on the cake. I suppose the scoring record could also be thrown into the conversation for reasons that contributed to such a successful evening, but it really was the ability to celebrate with so many supporters and past players that made so memorable.”
Since both parents are lifers when it comes to the City of Edmonton and it’s U of A, I asked if he felt he was born and groomed to be able to accomplish the many accolades obtained and acquired with such humility and grace.
“Edmonton is home and will always be home. This city has done so much for me over the years that it is impossible for me to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today,” explained Baker.
“I am very happy with my decision to play for the Bears, and at the time I thought I had chosen U of A purely based on merit rather than on family history. Looking back, I realize the influence my parents had on my decision, and I owe them a lot for helping me see the University of Alberta for the fantastic institution I have come to love.”
As I listened to Shake & Bake’s response, I had no choice but to acknowledge that Jordan Baker had the same wittiness and quick response as Coach Horwood so I had to ask what were his plans if his Professional basketball career (and membership with the Canadian National Team) came to an end?
Just like I thought, the senior replied, “I want to coach – I will get into coaching.”
I replied, “I can see that and I can see you being the future head coach of the A ( U of Alberta Golden Bears) as soon as you are available and there is a vacancy.”
As I walked away I thought to myself, what a finale that would be for the golden boy who was born, bred and groomed to be an ambassador for the city of Edmonton and its Provincial Post-Secondary Institution that is known as one of the top learning institutions in the world – to return home to annually lead student-athletes to show them what he has always done: play with intelligence, play with grace & class, play with IQ and be a competitor.
All the attributes mentioned are a summation of Jordan Baker, AKA Shake & Bake AKA…a WINNER!