Coley Baker virtually rewrote the blocked shots section of the girls basketball record-book at Seneca High School, but her totals barely resonated on a state or national level.
In fact, Baker’s name does not appear once, for blocked shots or otherwise, in the records section on the IHSA website.
Halfway through Baker’s eligibility at downstate Greenville College, she already is blocking shots at a rate that is earning her attention on a much larger scale. Her 18 blocks in a February game against Blackburn tied the NCAA Division III single-game record. Laurie Miller of Eastern Mennonite set the record in 1995.
“The game was so close – it went into overtime – that like I wasn’t really even thinking about, ‘Wow, I have so many blocked shots.’ I was thinking that we have a chance to win the game,” Baker said, “And I guess that it’s just become so natural for me to be blocking shots that I don’t really think about it until people point it out to me afterward.”
Baker finished the season with 101 blocked shots; none of her teammates had more than eight. She has 183 blocks during her time as a Panther. Among active D-III sophomores nationally, only Rachel Parupsky of Bethel (Minn.) has more.
Merely being 6 feet tall, and having some jumping ability and length, is not enough to block shots in college, Baker said, the way it might have been in high school.
“I would say I’m smarter now than I was in high school,” Baker said. “Part of it is that officiating is so much different from high school to college. In high school, you could get away with a lot more, and I guess you could say that allowed me to play with more physicality. In college, I had to get used to the fact that the refs call a lot more. It’s forced me to play smarter. Instead of just swatting away, I have to be more straight up when I try for blocks and make sure I stay out of foul trouble.”
Baker tries to use her first blocked shot that is not clearly clean to gauge the officials.
“It’s something I look for every game,” she said. “The first time I try it, if I thought it was clean and they call it, I will back off a little bit just because I know I can’t get away with much.”
The blocked shots were far from the only contribution Baker made for Greenville this season. She was its leading rebounder with 171 and second-leading scorer with an average of 11.2 points a game. That her average rose by more than 2 points a game is, she feels, the product of a combination of more playing time and growth in her game.
“I guess heavy post moves that are different from what I was doing in high school,” Baker said. “I do have more of an outside shot. I was told to take it more. In high school, it wasn’t really much of my game, but yeah, in college, it’s coming along. I did make a 3-pointer, so that’s something. It’s the only one I’ve attempted, so I can say I’ve made 100 percent.”
For the Panthers collectively, Baker admits it was a “pretty frustrating” season. They finished 10-15 overall and had a seven-game losing streak.
“Next year will be a big year for our team,” Baker said. “We really hope to get to our conference tournament, and it will be helpful that we have a lot of big recruits. It should be a really good year, and I’m excited for it.”