Cambria Heights’ Baker lives dream

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Cavon Baker was determined to play Division I basketball.

It didn’t matter that he didn’t have any interest during his career at Thomas Edison, that he didn’t have any scholarship offers for much of last spring and summer on the AAU circuit or even that when Bryant came into the picture late and did present him with an opportunity, it didn’t work out because he failed to meet the school’s heightened academic standards.

Baker, a qualifier out of Edison, went to New Hope Academy in Maryland to make his dream a reality. After a stellar season in which he helped the prep school go 30-4, the Cambria Heights product finally realized his dream. Baker verbally committed to Florida Atlantic and former St. John’s Coach Mike Jarvis May 2, picking the Sun Belt Conference school over Iona and Hartford.

“I’m excited, anxious all in one,” the 6-foot-1 combo guard said. “I feel accomplished, I feel good. My hard work paid off, a year of prep paid off. It was my goal to play Division I basketball. I stuck with my dream of playing Division I.”

Baker developed a bond with Jarvis and his son, assistant Mike Jarvis II, who was his lead recruiter. Mike Jarvis, who nearly guided St. John’s to the Final Four in 1999, has coached at the Division I level for 21 years and has taken three schools to the NCAA Tournament, put in a lot of time with Baker, and when he wasn’t checking in, his son was.

“It’s always cool when the head coach calls you and expresses how much he wants you,” Baker said. “Overall, it came down to me being comfortable with Coach Jarvis. My relationship with Coach Jarvis made me pick FAU. He’s a straightforward guy and the whole time he was recruiting me, he contacted me the most within the guidelines he could. We had real conversati­ons.”

Baker was frustrated with his lack of Division I interest last year, but used it at motivation. He enjoyed a solid AAU season with the Raising Champions, putting in solid performances in the iS8 Nike/Spring League, Hoop Group End of Summer Classic, among others.

“He took off from there,” Raising Champions Coach Hasani Stewart said.

Bryant was ready to take him, Stewart said, but he was one class short. Instead, Baker headed for prep school and continued to evolve as a player and as a person. At New Hope Academy, Baker was on his own for the first time.

“My father called it pre-college, I had to grow up fast and be responsible,” he said. “I was out there for a reason, to play basketball and get better overall. It was a great experience. It opened up the opportunity to play Division I basketball.”

An opportunity he made the most of.

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