Baker develops bonds on Oregon official

Bellvue (Wash.) athlete Budda Baker took his official visit to Oregon last weekend and developed some bonds along the way.

Bellevue athlete Budda Baker took his official visit to Oregon last weekend, taking in the sixth-ranked Ducks 44-21 victory over Utah. As the top uncommitted prospect in the Northwest, Baker has narrowed his list to the Ducks, UCLA, and hometown Washington, with Arizona State still hanging in the background.

After Saturday though, it sounds like Oregon has made some progress in his recruitment. When asked whether or not the visit put the Ducks at the top of his list, Baker was short and sweet with his answer.

"Yeah," Baker said.

But, the reasons for the successful visit had more to do with things away from the gridiron, and more with the way the Oregon staff and players welcomed Baker and his mother, who is battling an illness that has made walking difficult. He specifically praised recruiting coordinator Jim Fisher for his involvement in making it easy for Baker's mother to get around on the visit.

"My mom's sick and she can't really walk," Baker said. "Right when we got off the plane, they had a wheelchair for her and had someone pushing her wheelchair. When we got [to Oregon] Coach Fisher was just pushing her wheelchair the whole time. That was probably one of her favorite parts."

Having his mother on the trip meant a lot to Baker since she had never been to Eugene. When they arrived at a team meeting later on, they were both introduced and treated like family.

"When I got there, there was a big meeting with a pop-up thing in the theater," Baker said. "Right before the coaches brought me down they said, 'This is Budda and his mom's over there.' Everyone started clapping so that was cool."

During Saturday's contest, Baker kept a close eye on both the Oregon secondary and wide receivers since he could end up on either side if he becomes a Duck. He lauded senior wide receiver Josh Huff for his downfield blocking and enjoyed trading stories with other visitors Morgan Mahalak, Chris Brown and Glen Ihenacho.

Baker's host was wide receiver Bralon Addison and the two spent their Saturday night at Addison's residence watching USC upset then-fourth-ranked Stanford. It was here that Baker was able to develop another bond. Not only do both live similar lifestyle, but they can both relate to situations involving loved ones trying to overcome illnesses.

"He was talking to me about how his grandma is real sick like my mom is," Baker said. "We have kind of a similar lifestyle. Both of us don't really like to party, we just like to chill around with our girlfriends. We were talking about life and football."

Away from the game, Baker and his mother also got a chance to learn more about the academic lifestyle Oregon offers its student athletes, as well as what life is like living off-campus. Becoming educated on the difference between living in the dorms and living in an apartment helped Baker understand some of the steps of becoming more responsible for his own well-being, or as he put it, 'Becoming a man.'

"That's real different from staying in dorms where you can just do what you want with your money," Baker said. "I really liked that they try and teach you how to manage your money."

Of course, no visit would be complete without talking with the coaches. Secondary coach John Neal and wide receivers coach Matt Lubick spent time with Baker and explained how he could find himself playing early at Oregon if he earns the spot.

"The thing I liked most was that they didn't promise anything," Baker said. "They said you have to work to get your spot. With a lot of colleges they just say you're going to play, but Oregon was straight up with me and real and I really liked that."

Baker has shifted his focus back to Bellevue football, preparing for the Wolverines upcoming playoff game this week. However, he does have two other visits penciled in for after the season. He will visit Washington on Dec. 16 and UCLA on Jan. 24, shortly before signing day. He said if he did take another visitit would be to Arizona State, but nothing has been confirmed as of now.

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