Back on Dec. 8, 2014, Utah center Jakob Poeltl was a relatively unknown freshman who had played in just seven collegiate games.
Wichita State guard Ron Baker was the polar opposite in terms of experience, a junior who had already been to a Final Four and was on the NBA radar.
When the 25th-ranked Runnin’ Utes took on the eighth-ranked Shockers that night at the Huntsman Center, however, it was Utah that came out on top, 69-68 in an overtime thriller.
A year later, Wichita State rolled over Utah, 67-50, in Kansas.
At the conclusion of a predraft workout with the Utah Jazz on Sunday afternoon at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Baker reflected on those games and also shared how he and Poeltl have become good friends over the past few weeks as they’ve spent a great deal of time working out together in preparation for the draft.
“We’ve reminisced about the times we’ve played against each other the past two years,” the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Baker said. “He’s a great kid, and coming back here knowing Jakob’s a good kid and a friendly guy, it didn’t make me feel so sick to my stomach thinking about (the 2014) game.”
Having trained recently with Poeltl, a likely lottery pick during the June 23 draft, Baker also provided a bit of a scouting report on the 7-footer from Austria.
“I think what surprised me about him is how finesse and unique he is with the ball,” Baker said. “He never panics, he plays at his own pace and he never shies away from contact.
"When he gets down there with a guy that’s stronger than him, so to say, he doesn’t shy away from him. He plays really hard, and it seems like he always makes the right decision with the ball, whether it’s scoring it or passing it out, playing good team basketball. Being around guys like that, it’s always fun.”
Although Poeltl was a newbie on the college scene and Baker a seasoned vet back in 2014, their NBA stocks have gone in different directions since then. Baker was once thought of as a possible first-round pick but is now a likely second rounder if he gets selected at all, while Poeltl is expected to go within the first 14 picks.
In that regard, Baker values the opportunity to have workouts with teams like the one he had Sunday for the Jazz, the sixth out of 14 on his schedule.
“I’ve been in the NCAA for four years, so the scouts and front office gentlemen have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to get from me,” he said. “I just need to come in the workouts, be myself, be a good person and I think it’ll take care of itself from there.”
Ryan McDonald is a sports reporter at DeseretNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.