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By BEN HALVERSON
PHOENIX – Each high school game is an opportunity for athletes to showcase their talent and prove that they have the skills necessary to play at the college level. Desert Vista’s Noah Baumann had to find another way to prove he can play.
As a sophomore, Baumann played spotty minutes in 15 games for Desert Vista’s varsity basketball team, averaging only 2.1 points per game. Then a back injury limited him to just two games during his junior year.
“I over used it,” Baumann said of his back. “I didn’t take care of my body as much as I should. It really came down on me during the beginning of the season. I had to miss out but with physical therapy and icing my back, everyday it got better.”
Fortunately for Baumann, he didn’t have to rely soley on his high school experience. San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik spotted Baumann during a summer club tournament when Wojcik was there watching his son play.
“He played against my son up in Anaheim,” Wojcik said. “I got to see him play there, and he played really well. I was like, ‘who is this kid?’”
Last month, the 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard signed to play for Wojcik at San Jose State.
“I just kept watching him,” Wojcik said. “He had a great game and we just got on him from there. Then we followed him and really watched him in the spring and in July. He just kept growing on us. I really liked the way he played.”
Desert Vista coach Gino Crump was hopeful Noah would get a shot to play at the next level, despite his injury.
Crump told Noah college coaches would eventually recognize his ability and he would get a shot.
“I believe they’ll find you,” Crump said. “They’ll find you if you’re good enough, and he’s obviously good enough.”
Desert Vista assistant Pat Johnson, who often works with Baumann practicing one-on-one drills before practice, has watched Baumann’s confidence return.
“His confidence has skyrocketed since he’s come back completely from his injury,” Johnson said. “The confidence is key and it’s at an all-time high right now. Hopefully (it) carries over to the season.”
Being able to play at the college level always has been a dream for Baumann, and the way he dealt with the injury actually helped convince Wojcik to offer a scholarship.
“It’s unusual because he had the injury and he sat out,” Wojcik said. “But the thing that I like about him is he came back from that injury. I like those kind of guys who have had some setbacks and don’t let those setbacks keep them down, and it actually fuels the fire for them to get back at an even higher level than what they were.”
Wojcik expects Baumann make an impact on the Spartans as a freshman.
“I think he has the ability to come in and get minutes,” Wojcik said. “I just want him to compete. I don’t look at guys (as) freshmen, sophomores, juniors. You’re either a ball player or you’re not a ball player.”
As he goes into his final season at Desert Vista, Baumann is expected to do one thing according to Crump; hit shots.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be in a position when your coach tells you if you don’t shoot you’re in trouble,” Crump said.
Baumann is excited to be back on the court with the Thunder and grateful for what he learned in throughout the process.
“It was a difficult journey,” Baumann said. “I thought, ‘just keep working hard and you’ll get the results.’”