Hall of Fame Profile: Warren Baker

West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame inductee Warren Baker is incredibly modest about his achievements on the basketball court – even though he owns a statistic matched by only two other players in Mountaineer history.

The man nicknamed "Wonderful" – even Baker isn't sure of the origins – is one of only three players to record more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career at WVU. Jerry West and Lloyd Sharrar, two other all-time greats, also own the rare accomplishment. Mention this to Baker, however, and he quickly deflects the praise.

"There should always be an asterisk by Jerry's numbers, because he did it in three years," said Baker (Sharrar likewise achieved his stats in that time frame.) "How good was he? I had a great group of teammates that I played with, and we have stayed very close."

Baker's close ties with friends and fellow players is a thread that runs through his basketball career. From his early playing days in White Sulphur Springs through his time at West Virginia, the pull and influence of his teammates was strong.

"I grew up with a bunch of great players in White Sulphur Springs, and all we would do was play," Baker recalled. "We didn't have cell phones or the Internet or video games, so whatever you were good at or liked to play, that's what you did. There were a bunch of great players in White Sulphur Springs, and they would come and get you to go play. That's what we did.

"At West Virginia, I had a lot of great teammates, and we had great relationships that have lasted a long time. With the reunions Coach Huggins has been having, we have gotten to renew those ties. That's the best memory I have of my time here. It was a very close-knit group of guys."

Getting Baker to talk about his accomplishments on the court is a difficult task, but he does remember a game against Pitt from his junior year of 1974-75.

"Pitt had a player named Melvin Bennett that just played there one year before he went on to the Indiana Pacers," he recalled. "He was one of the toughest players I ever faced. He was a great leaper, and he was a real force inside. I had a lucky game against him, so I remember that one."

Somehow, Baker's numbers suggest a little more than luck was involved. In an 82-78 overtime win at the Coliseum, Baker poured in 31 points and ripped down 22 rebounds – a performance for the ages. Bennett came close to Baker on the boards, pulling down 17, but scored just four points on two of eight shooting.

Give most any member of Mountaineer Nation the chance to relive a 31 and 22 performance against Pitt, and they'd probably still be talking about it. Baker, however, prefers to credit those around him for his success.

"I just went out there and did what the coaches told me to do," he said modestly. "You have to be blessed and lucky My family and parents were obviously very supportive of me too. That's the way West Virginians are, and they were all a huge part of this."

While it was Baker's greatness on the basketball court that earned him a spot in the WVU Hall of Fame, roundball wasn't his favorite sport. It was the pigskin that first drew his attention and still holds his interest.

"Football has always been my first love," he confirmed. I still watch more football today than I do basketball. I got drawn into basketball because we had so many good players in White Sulphur Springs that they were always wanting to play, so they'd come get me and drag me into the games.

"Once I got to West Virginia, I did have Frank Cignetti come to me and ask me to play football," he revealed. "This was after Scott MacDonald caught the winning pass against N.C. State in the Peach Bowl. I was really very honored and I really considered it for a while, but I knew it was not something I was going to do for a long period. And after I finished with basketball, I just needed some time to rest."

Baker went on to a successful career in education, but his ties to WVU remain strong – especially around football Saturdays. For every home game, you can find him manning the grill at a big multi-canopy tailgate in the stadium Blue Lot.

"I don't remember how I got started doing that but I absolutely love it," he beamed. "Having friends stop by, seeing them, that is as big to me as the game. Having all those close friends, and being able to have those good times with them is something that I just love."

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