A tremendously deep Texas Longhorns roster is now down one body who could have projected as a key piece of the program’s long-term future, as sophomore center Will Baker has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, per Roger Wallace of KXAN News.
“Playing for Texas was always a childhood dream,” Baker said. “My decision to transfer has been one of the most difficult and has been a year in the making.”
“My goal has been and remains to meaningfully contribute to the success of my team,” Baker later added. “At Texas, I wasn’t maximizing my potential. I gradually came to realize that there is another place that’s a better fit, and now I am trusting God to lead me to the right program.”
Per the announcement, Baker doesn’t have a specific transfer destination in mind at this point.
A former four-star prospect ranked as the nation’s No. 9 center in the 2019 class, per the 247Sports Composite, Baker arrived in Austin as a potential key piece of the Longhorns’ puzzle last season as Texas aimed to replace Jaxson Hayes.
But rather, limited minutes out of the game and shooting struggles on Baker’s part prevented him from ever cementing his role in the rotation, playing only 10-plus minutes twice prior to mid-February.
Baker’s most impactful contribution came during Texas’ Feb. 19 win over TCU, when Baker poured in 20 points in 26 minutes off the bench with Jericho Sims sidelined due to injury.
Otherwise, though, Baker scored more then three points only once — five points against Kansas State following his TCU performance again — so as he noted in his announcement, the opportunity to provide a meaningful impact to a team never really manifested in Austin, as he averaged 2.1 points on 27.5 percent shooting and 1.9 rebounds per contest. As evident by Baker not playing in Texas’ season-opening win over UTRGV, that opportunity almost certainly wasn’t going to manifest this season, either, between the return of senior Jericho Sims, sophomore Kai Jones’ continued development demanding increased playing time, and the arrival of hyper-athletic five-star forward Greg Brown III.
However, with Sims and Royce Hamm Jr. set to graduate following the 2020-21 campaign — that is, unless they take advantage of the extra year of eligibility allowed due to COVID — and Brown all but guaranteed to become Texas’ latest one-and-done, Baker’s departure presents the challenge for Shaka Smart to find and develop another option to anchor the interior alongside Jones for the 2021-22 campaign and beyond.