Four-star athlete Budda Baker is the top Northwest prospect in the Class of 2014. Hailing from local powerhouse Bellevue High School, the 5’9″ 174-pound Baker lacks outstanding size, but makes up for it with athleticism and versatility. While listed as just an “athlete” by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout both consider Baker a safety prospect, and that is most likely the position for which he is being recruited to play. He’s also seen as a talented kick and punt returner.
As you would imagine is the case for a consensus four-star prospect and number one recruit in Washington, Baker has many schools to choose from. Notre Dame and Texas A&M have offered, as have USC, ASU, and Cal. But Baker recently trimmed his list to just three schools, all Pac-12 programs: UCLA, Oregon, and Washington. While Baker has included UCLA for a reason, it’s long been speculated that this recruiting race is really a fight between Pac-12 North rivals Washington and Oregon.
The Huskies have been recruiting him hard for years, Baker long being considered a special talent right in Washington’s backyard, and the Bellevue prospect has been visiting UW practices and games often, sometimes several times a month. He was also present for Washington’s season and stadium-opening drubbing of Boise State. But the Oregon offer also carries great weight with him, and he does not appear to have any qualms about leaving home.
There is a long way to go in the recruiting season, which ends with National Signing Day in February. Baker could wait until that very day to make his final decision, and even if he verbally commits to one program or the other, he’d still have time to switch back and forth as many times as he wanted. But even if nothing is final until that letter of intent is faxed in, the battle for Budda is interesting in that it pits two rival schools against each other for a recruit located right in Coach Sark’s backyard at a time when Washington appears more ready to challenge Oregon than they have in years.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, or to exaggerate Washington’s chances of beating Oregon in Seattle on October 12th. But it’s a fact that if Washington continues to succeed, all eyes will be on Husky Stadium that Saturday, and you can bet Budda will be there. And given the enormous, arguably disproportionate, amount of stock that is put into the successful signing of local blue chip players by fans and even the media, all eyes will be on Budda when he has finally makes his choice.
Perhaps who beats who on the 12th won’t have any impact on his decision. Maybe he tires of the assumptions and the beaten to death storyline and chooses Jim Mora’s Bruins. Either way, this isn’t the last you’ll hear about Budda Baker, as his story is automatically intertwined with the story of a bitter rivalry that looks to be intriguing this season for the first time in several years.