Bob Tipson won 704 games in 34 seasons at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.
He could draw up a play with the best of them.
He also knew when to leave things in the capable hands of his best athlete.
“One time, we’re in a timeout, and I design everything,” said Tipson, now an assistant athletic director at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. “The timeout is finished, and I pull Terrell aside and say, ‘Just make a play.’ ”
That’s one of Tipson’s best memories of coaching Terrell Baker, who became a junior-college All-American at Champlain and led the team to a 31-2 record in his second and final season.
Baker, who starred at Gloucester Township Tech and also played at Florida State, will be inducted into the South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame on Feb. 10 in well-deserved recognition of a well-traveled and highly accomplished career.
The incident also showed the trust the demanding Tipson had in Baker, who took a long and winding road from his days as a mischievous youngster to his rightful place among the pantheon of South Jersey greats in the sport.
Baker, 43, credits the no-nonsense Tipson with creating the structure for him to flourish on the court, in the classroom and in his personal life while providing the creative freedom to improvise a winning play at the end of a game.
“That really was my last shot,” Baker said of his time at Champlain. “Coach Tipson told me, ‘Everybody has a window, and your athletic ability has allowed your window to stay open longer than some other people’s.’
“But he said that everybody’s window closes, and mine was about to close.”
Baker grew up in Lawnside. By his own admission, he wasn’t focused as a student, or even as a basketball player, despite his prodigious talent.
One of his closest friends was future Middle Township and Florida State star LaMarr Greer, another South Jersey Basketball Hall of Famer. The two were in kindergarten together, with Greer’s mother as the teacher.
“She always took care of me,” Baker said of Greer’s mother. “When I was in middle school, and I used to get in trouble — and I got in trouble a lot — they would call Ms. Greer before they called my mom.”
LaMarr Greer said Baker played with him on a travel team in middle school, coached by Greer’s father.
“I remember my dad throwing him out of practice, and we’d see him outside looking in the window,” Greer said with a laugh.
Baker said he was “too wild” to attend Haddon Heights. He enrolled at Gloucester Township Tech and became one of the best players in that school’s history. He averaged 21.9 points as a junior.
Baker transferred to Woodrow Wilson as a senior, but the NJSIAA ruled that he wouldn’t be eligible. He returned and graduated from Gloucester Township Tech in 1994 but was suspended for his final season for violating team rules.
Baker enrolled at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College, one of the best-known two-year programs in the country. But he suffered a knee injury after six games, grew homesick, and left that school.
“At that point, I had been to, like, eight different schools,” Baker said. “I knew it was my last chance.”
Baker found a home at Champlain. He excelled on the court and did well in school.
“Something about that place just worked for him,” Tipson said. “He really was one of our best success stories, one of my all-time favorites.”
Baker was good enough to play at Florida State, where he averaged 13.5 points and finished a two-year career in the No. 5 spot on the Seminoles’ all-time list with 139 steals.
“He could play with anybody,” Greer said.
Baker played briefly in professional leagues in Turkey and Argentina. He returned to Florida State in 2005 and earned his degree and currently is the general sales manager of a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Cadillac dealership in the Tallahassee, Fla., area.
Baker said his induction will remind him of his playing days in South Jersey and of the long and bumpy road from his days in Lawnside to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s something special for me,” Baker said. “I came a long way. I always look back to my neighborhood. I know I had a lot of help along the way.”
What: South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
When: Sunday, Feb. 10, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Crowne Plaza hotel, Cherry Hill, N.J.
Who: The class of 2019 includes Clarence Jackson (Cherokee), Terrell Baker (Gloucester Township Tech), Donna Seybold (Collingswood), Joyce Moffett Klinewski (Cherry Hill West), Fr. Edward Lyons (Holy Spirit), Brian Zoubek (Haddonfield), Matt Brady (Paul VI), and Teresa Polini-Cunniff (Wildwood).