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Baker supplies recipe for success

Senior leader keys SOU run

ASHLAND -- He's one of the inside forces that have driven the Southern Oregon Raiders to the top of the Cascade Conference men's basketball standings.

In case you aren't a history buff, that has never happened for the Raiders after eight Cascade Conference games.

Amos Baker, 24, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound senior forward from Eugene, who can score inside and outside, rip down rebounds with fury, defend an opponent's best offensive player, and just plain do what it takes to win, helped power the Raiders to two more conference victories on the road last weekend.

Baker scored 15 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots as the Raiders opened the weekend with a 78-69 win over 22nd-ranked Northwest College last Friday night.

One night later, Baker scored 14 points and pulled down six rebounds, as the Raiders completed a weekend road sweep with a 70-61 win at Concordia College in Portland.

With the wins, SOU (8-0) has opened a three-game lead atop the Cascade Conference.

For his weekend performance, Baker was named Cascade Conference player of the week.

Amos is somewhat of a free spirit, but he's worked hard to improve and to conform to what we need him to do for us, says Southern Oregon coach Brian McDermott. He's made huge strides. What he does best for us is rebound and make plays. We now know what to expect from him, and we usually get it now.

One thing about Amos is that he's not afraid of anything out there, including making mistakes. When he makes one now, he usually makes a big play to make up for it very soon.

About winning the award, Baker says, I'm a little surprised, but I'm happy.

I thought Donny Guy (Southern Oregon's point guard) had a little better weekend than I did, and maybe he deserved the award, says Baker, who is averaging 9.9 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. But I'll take it.

Baker played high school ball at Sheldon of Eugene and moved on to Lane Community College in Eugene. He led Lane in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore in 1997.

Coach (Jim) Boutin and I didn't see everything eye to eye, says Baker of his days at Lane. I had some chances to play (NCAA Division I), but he told some coaches not to take me.

I don't hold that against him because we actually liked each other. But I think I can play with 85 percent of all Division I players. I used to play with them on the Oregon playgrounds. I know what that level is all about.

Baker hopes to graduate with a degree in business from Southern Oregon after winter term of 2000.

I want to get a job in resort management, says Baker. I'd like to work for TPC golf resort of Scottsdale (Ariz.) I have my eye on that one. That way, I could work (as a golf professional) and play golf for free.

Baker says he's basically a self-taught golfer who picked up the game quickly.

I had a little help, but I have only been playing a little while, he says. I'm about a 6-handicapper.

Baker says he's also looking forward to the birth of his first child later this year.

Just the thought of that has inspired me to work harder and appreciate what I have, says Baker. When I play, one of my goals is to inspire others to want to try and work harder at what they do to be more successful. Basketball has taught me how important that is.

Baker ranks seventh in the Cascade Conference in rebounding with a 7.1 average. He's known as an intense player who does what it takes to win.

I usually try to see what the team needs me to do to win and I do it, says Baker.

Baker says the Raiders learned how to win under McDermott.

We have a group of guys who bonded on the court, he says. Nobody really cares about personal statistics or averages.

We've developed an uncanny ability to play together, says Baker. When we're out there, we're there to win. It doesn't matter how. We just go out to do it.

Southern Oregon is halfway through its Cascade Conference season unbeaten.

Our goal is to run the table even though we have some tough road games left, says Baker.

Southern Oregon (8-0) plays at perennial powers Northwest Nazarene (4-5) on Friday night and Albertson College (5-3) Saturday.

On Jan. 30, the Raiders play at 1998 NAIA national runner-up Oregon Tech (5-3) at Owl Court in Klamath Falls.

We expect to win every one of those games, says Baker. If we lose one, I think you'll see us bounce back harder than ever.

Baker is the second SOU player to be named Cascade Conference player of the week. Wing Chris Schmerbach of Klamath Falls earned the same award on Dec. 7.

Southern Oregon (13-6 overall and 8-0 in the Cascade Conference) has won seven straight games. The Raiders have an eight-game winning streak at home.