Forget the rap about AAU basketball being all offense, no defense and to heck with team ball.
Here at Indiana’s state-of-the-art Cook Hall we have state-of-the-art travel ball and the intensity is smokin.’ Drives to the rim do not go unchallenged. Collisions are many; concessions are few.
Players go hard, hot and hungry. They play to win as a team, not thrive as an individual.
Case in point -- Sherron Wilkerson paces the sidelines of his Team Southern Indiana Red squad. It has rallied from a 17-7 early deficit against Club Elite to take a 56-51 lead in the final four minutes. Wilkerson resorts to the four-corner offense North Carolina made popular before the shot clock.
“Wait to attack!” he shouts. “Don’t force it. Don’t play with it. Be patient.”
Wilkerson has paid his dues to be here. He was once the brightest of in-state basketball stars before immaturity cost him his Indiana Mr. Basketball title, his IU basketball scholarship and, perhaps, NBA opportunity.
Some people learn easy, some learn hard and if Wilkerson chose the hard route, at least he learned, and from that wisdom comes the chance to help the nephew of Theo Moore, a long-time friend.
That would be Darryl Baker, the Jeffersonville freshman standout who has become a recruiting focal point for the likes of Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Butler.
Baker has a world of talent packed into his 6-2, 190-pound frame (doctors believe he could get to 6-6 before he’s done growing), but it won’t mean anything without the right approach.
That’s where Wilkerson can help.
“He’s very fortunate that for the better part of his life he got to see some of the failures and troubles that I had. It’s like giving you all the answers to the test before the test even begins. You already know you’ve got to do A, you’ve got to do B, you’ve got to do C before you get to D. It’s helped him a tremendous amount. Hopefully he can build on what he’s started.”
Baker would like to build an impressive high school career and it starts with good health. He missed all of his freshman season because of a broken tibia in his right leg. As a result, all his acclaim has been built on the travel circuit.
He returned to the court last month for the first time in half a year and scored 27 points. He had 28 points in Team Southern Indiana Red’s 68-61 victory over Club Elite Friday night at IU’s Cook Hall. He has much to learn, much to improve, and mixing high school opportunity with travel team experience will accelerate the process.
“He has not played a high school game yet, so he’s very anxious,” Wilkerson said. “He’s chomping at the bit to experience that.”
Baker said he sees himself as a shooting guard, although, “If it comes down to me playing point guard, I will, but I’m more comfortable with shooting guard.”
As far as his outside shooting … well … comfort comes and goes.
“If it’s there, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll go to the bucket.”
Wilkerson provides insight on college and opportunity. He does not, however, push the Cream 'n Crimson cause.
“I tell him the positives and negatives, and then he has to make his own decision. I support whatever decision he makes.
“We walk a lot. A lot of times we just talk about life. It’s important that he understands there are two separate issues -– there’s Darryl Baker the basketball player and Darryl Baker the person. He’s got to separate the two.”
If he does, there are no limits.