Given the personnel losses incurred at the end of the 2013-14 season, Oregon State freshman guard Chai Baker was one of the newcomers expected to compete for minutes in head coach Wayne Tinkle’s first season at the helm. However things changed in mid-August, as Baker went into cardiac arrest while going through summer workouts at Oregon State.
Baker underwent multiple tests, with doctors looking to figure out what led to the episode. As a result of his medical issue the school announced Wednesday that it will not clear Baker for competition according to Connor Letorneau of The Oregonian. Even with this development, Baker will keep his athletic scholarship and remain a member of the basketball program.
While not having control of the way in which your career comes to an end can be painful, the fact of the matter is that Baker’s health is of far greater concern than the game of basketball.
“I know Chai is disappointed, as we all are,” Beavers athletic director Bob De Carolis said in the release. “However, Chai will have all the university support available to him to be successful academically at OSU and still be a member of Coach (Wayne) Tinkle’s program.”
Since his collapse, Baker has attended every Beavers practice. He sits on the sideline, dribbling a basketball or shooting hoops on an adjacent basket. The hard part, he said last week, is that “I feel normal. But my health is more important than anything. That’s the first and foremost thing.”
From a basketball standpoint losing Baker is a tough blow for a team that was already low on numbers. Returnees Malcolm Duvivier, Langston Morris-Walker and Victor Robbins are Oregon State’s most experienced perimeter returnees, with junior college transfer Gary Payton II also in line to play a lot of minutes in 2014-15.
Wednesday marked the first day of practice for Oregon State, with Wayne Tinkle presiding over the drills after making the move from Montana during the spring. Unfortunately for Tinkle he wasn’t operating with a “full deck” so to speak, with there being just nine players available for the first session. And that’s expected to be the case for the foreseeable future as well, based upon the updates Tinkle provided on the two players sitting out.
Freshman guards Alex Roth (redshirt) and Chai Baker were unavailable, as both are recuperating from offseason health issues. Roth is dealing with a shoulder injury that was expected to keep him out until at least March, but according to the Oregon State athletic department he’s progressed at a better rate than originally expected.
“We thought Alex was going to be out all season long, but he got some really encouraging news on his shoulder the last week,” Tinkle said following practice per a release from the program. “We’ve even been told he might be able to start doing some light practice in the next couple of weeks. So that would be a real bonus if a month from now he was on the court 100 percent, because we weren’t counting on him this year with the injury. But it looks like he’s going to be joining us before too long so that has us fired up.”
Baker’s situation isn’t as clear-cut, with the Florida native having collapsed during a workout in August. Tinkle said the following about Baker, who was expected to factor into the rotation for a team that lost its top five scorers including Roberto Nelson and a promising young player in Hallice Cooke (transferred to Iowa State):
“Chai is continuing to get evaluated and they are waiting to get some test results back that take I guess up to four to six weeks; the blood work and that sort of thing. He’s hanging in and right now all he can do is stand still and shoot. I think later this week he’s going to kind of get word from the some of the doctors on what the plan is.”
Oregon State’s leading returning scorer from 2013-14 is junior guard Langston Morris-Walker, who averaged just four points per contest last year. With that being the case all available players, including sophomore guard Malcolm Duvivier and junior college transfer Gary Payton II, will need to step forward in a conference that won’t lack for talent in 2014-15.
It goes without saying that having every player available would help matters for the Beavers. However with that unlikely to be the case for the time being, Oregon State will simply look to do the best it can with the pieces they currently have.
Oregon State had a scary incident earlier this week when incoming freshman guard Chai Baker collapsed on Tuesday morning while participating in informal preseason drills.
The 6-foot-3 Baker, a native of Florida, was taken to the hospital and continues to improve according to a report from Gary Horowitz of the Statesmen Journal.
“He’s doing very well,” Steve Clark, Vice President of University Relations and Marketing at OSU said to Horowitz. “He’s off the ventilator, he’s breathing on his own, and he’s actually able to eat on his own now.”
With the losses of Roberto Nelson and Hallice Cooke this offseason, new Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle surely wanted to see how Baker would fare in the preseason to compete for backcourt playing time, but now the concern is just for the freshman to recover and get back on the court.
Tinkle visited Baker on Thursday night for what is being called, “a medical related heart incident” and Baker remains in the intensive care unit. Clark told Horowitz that Baker was expected to be moved out of ICU on Friday afternoon.
Hopefully Baker can recover from this and see the court quickly as Oregon State needs to see how he fares early on in the season.