When watching EYBL events live, there are always a few players who stand out that are relatively off the recruiting radar. They may not show up in the stat sheet all too often, but they clearly belong on the court due to their energy and toughness.
A classic case of this is Team United guard Mike Baez. Throughout the first four sessions, he was one of the players on their squad that was routinely noticed doing the small things - the hustle plays. A lot of players have to adapt their playing style when entering the EYBL, and a role-player is what Baez embraced.
Having been through the rigors of the EYBL, D1's Alec Kinsky caught up with Baez to find out his reaction to the league, his recruitment, his mindset and a variety of other topics.
Alec Kinsky: Break down your experience in the eYBL. Was it everything you expected it to be?
Mike Baez: EYBL was fun. It was fast-paced and there’s a lot of great talent. There wasn’t one player in the EYBL you could say is sorry or doesn’t belong. Everybody there will end up somewhere and is being recruited by several school. But from the gear to the flying around the country, it was something I’ll hold onto forever.
AK: What is the biggest difference from EYBL to high school ball?
MB: High schools have enforcers that don’t really play ball, just football players. It’s not like that in the EYBL. There are not a lot of plays run, just talent and run-and-gun. And the addition of the shot clock.
AK: How has your confidence improved since playing on the circuit? Feel you’re ready for a big senior season?
MB: I feel I am. It gave me a chance to play at the top level and it elevated my game physically and mentally. And my basketball IQ increased.
AK: It definitely helps you address your strengths and weaknesses. What would you say is your biggest asset on the court right now?
MB: I would say my shot and my court vision.
AK: What is your current listing for height and weight? What position do you see yourself at the next level?
MB: I see myself at the two or three. I am 6-foot-5, 205 pounds.
AK: When asked who impressed him most with Team United, Luke Maye said it was you. What is it like playing with an elite big man like Luke, and what does it mean to have him say that about you?
MB: It means a lot because Luke has always been somebody I kind of looked to because we played on rivals school and on the same AAU team from second grade, until this year when we moved to Team United. He made me elevate my play this year and it’s always good because him and me have always been close on and off the court. I was actually supposed to go to his house today.
AK: Can’t get those relationships anywhere else. What were your junior year high school numbers?
MB: 20 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds per game.
AK: What type of team do you have around you this year at Charlotte United?
MB: We have a good team, and we play a lot of big time competition so we’ll definitely be challenged. Just gotta lay it all out and everybody has to play their best.
AK: See yourself taking a leadership role after playing EYBL?
MB: Yeah, I’m the team captain this year and I’ve always been the leader of the teams I’ve played on, just without the captain title.
AK: Coaches love leadership, which leads into my next question. Why do you think you’re a bit underrated nationally? What are coaches missing out on?
MB: Because I’m not a big name or don’t go to a big name school, so I got recognized late. They sleep on me, and playing with Luke Maye and CJ Bryce, which are both going to be top college players for a few years, it’s hard to keep up with their recruitment. But they just don’t think I can score enough. I like to score, but only when I have to. I have that switch, but I like to get my teammates involved and be a distributor. I guess they don’t want that from a 6’5 shooting guard is all I can say about it.
AK: You played against some type flight competition and held your own. Did anyone stick out in particular as far as opposition?
MB: Playing the two, they had me guard anybody who is anybody in the EYBL. I matched up with Allonzo Trier, Antonio Blakeney, Isaiah Briscoe and Austin Grandstaff the entire game. They stuck out big time.
AK: Doesn’t that make you think you can compete with anyone in the country? Does it make you wonder why you don’t have more looks right now?
MB: I mean yeah, but I’ve been doubted my whole life. They’re just going to feel stupid when I become a big time player and they’re the ones who missed out on me. I learned not to be spiteful and wonder what could have been, and just keep looking forward to success.
AK: What’s the workout regimen for you right now?
MB: 6 AM shooting practice, conditioning after school, night shooting or pick up ball, and I run cross country. I lift Mondays occasionally on Wednesdays and always on Friday.
AK: Which schools currently have interest?
MB: A lot of calls and letter have come on. Radford, Gardner-Webb and George Mason for a little while. Quinnipiac, Winthrop and Appalachian State are all after me hard.
AK: Anything you’re looking for in particular when choosing a school?
MB: A good coach, and his relationship with his players. No more than three hours away from home. And I want to go somewhere that truly cares about me, not just winning.
AK: Describe your EYBL experience in one word: