Cesar Chavez guard Chris Baez grows into game

Cesar Chavez guard Chris Baez was in the middle of expanding his game and his body when he took a month-long trip to the Dominican Republic last summer. He visited relatives in a number of cities, and word quickly got around to family and friends that he was a talented basketball player. So they helped him find some pick-up basketball games so he could keep working and some of the competition were against kids his age. Others were against physical contests against grown men, he said, which added an edge to his game.

“It was a big difference,” Baez said. “I didn’t really think basketball was popular over there, but it’s getting pretty popular over there.

“I really wanted to get better, and that was one of my main focuses this summer.”

That edge certainly hasn’t left Baez this winter, as he’s helped turn the Eagles (11-6) into a legitimate contender in the Public Charter School Athletic Association. Cesar Chavez has been on a roll as of late, winning five straight, including a 20-point win over one of the DCIAA’s best teams in McKinley Tech (12-4) and a hard-fought eight point win over a quality Gwynn Park (11-5) squad.

Baez showed his diverse skill-set in those contests in particular. He hit three three-pointers and had 19 points in the win over the Trainers, and against the Yellow Jackets last week, his most important contribution came on the glass, where he grabbed 11 rebounds. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Baez is about 15 pounds heavier than last season. It was a part of his game that was necessary to add, his coaches told him, and it has helped turn him into a potential Division I recruit.

He’s always had the ability to score. A year after averaging 10.6 points per game as a junior, Baez is averaging a modest 9.7 points per game this year. He has the ability to go off (he had 12 against Baltimore power Mount St. Joseph’s and 15 against Georgetown Prep earlier this year), but it has been his commitment to rebounding and defending from the guard position that has been critical for the Eagles, Coach Malcolm Battle said.

“Chris Baez is the key. When Chris Baez is playing at a high level, we play at a high level,” Battle said.

Baez has gained interest from Rider, Liberty, Abilene Christian and Maryland Eastern Shore. His trip to the Caribbean last summer helped give him perspective on his college basketball future, he said, showing him the need to continue practicing every day no matter the circumstances and seeking out new experiences against new competition. 

“I’m starting to realize that I can play at a real high level, and that I can play with some of the best,” Baez said. “I’m just trying to go out there and play my hardest, and make a mark.”

NUMBER CRUNCH: 11

The number of goals scored by No. 1 Gonzaga ice hockey in their shutout win over No. 3 Landon, which came during a week of little preparation.

BREAKFAST LINKS

– Sunday’s showdown between No. 3 St. John’s and No. 4 O’Connell lived up to the billing, and Cadets senior James Palmer stood out on a court full of stars during the double-overtime thriller.

– Montrose Christian guard Allonzo Trier elevated his game during the third quarter of Saturday’s game against No. 14 Maret, and the Frogs never recovered.

– Using a new piece of equipment, Reservoir pole vaulter Eric Higgins pushed his limits Saturday at the Last Track to Philly event this weekend, and came away with another notable finish.

– Looking to prove that he’s not exclusively a three-point shooter, Bullis guard Aaron Briggs flashed his versatility in an important win over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes on Saturday.

VIDEO FROM THE WEEKEND

PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Boys’ Basketball: W.T. Woodson at Lake Braddock, 7:30 p.m.

The Bruins (11-3, 5-1) can move into a tie for first place in Conference 7 play Monday against the rival Cavaliers (12-4, 6-0), who dominated T.C. Williams for their eighth-straight win last weekend.

 

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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