National Signing Day

Paetow’s Baker finds perfect fit at Arkansas

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/10/20

Johnathan Baker and his parents, Bryan and Rolanda Lacy, moved to Katy from Atlanta, Georgia, when Baker was in the seventh grade.

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National Signing Day

Paetow’s Baker finds perfect fit at Arkansas

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Johnathan Baker and his parents, Bryan and Rolanda Lacy, moved to Katy from Atlanta, Georgia, when Baker was in the seventh grade.

From there, it didn’t take long for the young man to make his name in the area.

In the eighth grade at Katy Junior High, Baker won the district championship in the high jump. Two years later, he took second at the AAU Junior Olympics.

Last spring, in his junior year at Paetow High, Baker became the school’s first state champion in athletics by winning the long jump, setting a personal record by 20 inches with a jump of 24-feet, 10-inches.

On National Signing Day on Feb. 5, Baker saw the culmination of it all when he signed a full scholarship to compete in track and field at Arkansas. He is the first Paetow track and field athlete to sign a scholarship to compete at the college level.

“He’s a natural,” Bryan said of his son, who stands 6-foot-4 with impressive athleticism and length. “Anything he puts his mind to, he’s going to study it, then he’ll do it, and then he’ll succeed. He’s a machine. Once he sees something he likes, he goes for it.

“He’s very disciplined, so much so that it’s scary. Sports, homework, chores. He knows what he’s supposed to do. Everything is systematic for him. He takes care of business.”

Baker chose Arkansas for not only the coaches and atmosphere, but the education. He will major in business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship and wants to go into real state, following in Rolanda’s footsteps.

“Everything felt like home,” Baker said of Arkansas.

Recruiting for Baker picked up significantly after he won state last year. In high school, he has played three sports. His freshman year at Morton Ranch, he competed in track and basketball. Then when he got to Paetow his sophomore year, when the school opened in 2017-18, he was looked at for football.

“Just walking down the hallways, all the coaches are trying to get their guys together, put together their teams,” Baker said. “(Paetow offensive coordinator) Coach (Joseph) Longacre catches up to me about wanting to join football. I gave it a try. I’d been wanting to try football because my dad played football, and I’ve been grinding and working at it ever since.”

Baker played receiver and was a dynamic contributor in Paetow going 8-3 in its second year of varsity football in 2019. He caught 32 passes for 545 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 17 yards per catch.

He has talked to Arkansas coaches abut potentially walking on to the football team.

“I think about it from time to time, but it’s really just about how I’ll feel once I get there,” Baker said about whether he’ll play football. “I don’t know what the college experience is like yet, but once I get adjusted and everything, I’ll make that decision.”

Football helped Baker compete in track, as far as making him physically and mentally tougher. He is focused on defending his state championship. He has worked on getting his form right in the triple jump, perfecting his steps and getting to full speed down the runway at the right time.

“I’ve been watching film. I’ve been seeing stuff I could’ve fixed,” Baker said. “I could’ve gone to state in both triple jump and long jump, and probably won it in both. I know I have a lot of potential in being good and going back, so I’m really confident.”

Baker does not have a favorite sport between football or track, but the latter is the one he has been tied to longest. He started running track when he was 5 years old and has worked diligently ever since.

Coaches often tell Rolanda that they wish more of their athletes had Baker’s work ethic.

“I’m excited. My son has been working for this all his life,” Rolanda said. “Dedication, hard work. I never had to tell him anything or motivate him. He did it on his own. Something he’s been doing since he came into this world has finally paid off, and this is just the beginning.”

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