Fremd setter Rian Baker commits to Wake Forest
Most Division I high school recruits aren't going to commit to a college without meeting a team's head coach in person.
But welcome to 2020 and virtual recruiting, where everything from informal get-to-know you chats, to campus tours, to conversations about formal commitments is done via FaceTime or Zoom or some other kind of digital platform.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced coaches and athletes into a different style of recruiting. But Fremd volleyball standout Rian Baker is happy to report that it has worked for her.
Baker, a 5-foot-11 junior setter for the Vikings, recently committed to Wake Forest, despite experiencing less than your usual personal touch during the recruiting process.
"It's kind of weird that I haven't even met the coaches yet in person," Baker said. "But I've had a lot of FaceTime calls with them, at least once a week since June 15 when the dead period ended.
"I actually felt like I got to know them pretty well. I fell in love with everyone on the staff and their energy. I love the way they think about the game, and I love their vision for the program."
Baker also loved the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C.
She was able to visit in person this summer. But due to COVID-19, she and her family were on their own. No personal tours, no informational interviews, no hanging out with coaches or players.
And most of the buildings on campus were locked since the school was essentially closed for the summer.
"But we were able to walk around doing FaceTime on the phone with the head coach (Randi Smart)," said Baker, whose father Brad is the head coach at Benet, which won the Class 4A state championship in 2019. "She had us walk around and would tell us about everything she could. We went by this building that has all these restaurants and game rooms and she said that's where a lot of people hang out. She also took us in the main quad and told us that all the trees there are like 100-year-old trees.
"We walked by the gym and the athletic center and the dorms. We didn't talk to anyone (in person) but it was still a good visit. It's a beautiful campus, there are mountains there and the weather is so warm and perfect."
Baker, who also seriously considered St. Louis University, thinks it might be the perfect time to get in with Wake Forest volleyball, which has been more of a middle-of-the-road program in the ACC in recent years.
She says that Smart is a first-year coach with a lot of energy and a determination to sign players of the caliber of Baker, who is ranked No. 73 in the nation in the Class of 2022 by prepvolleyball.com.
"(Smart) was really honest with me," Baker said. "She said that they might not be the best team in the ACC, but their goal is to recruit the best kids and build a strong program and fight. She was also a setter in college and she said that she is going to push me every day."
The staff at Wake Forest has known about Baker for quite some time through her club team, Sky High.
"I think they saw me during nationals in January, February and March of 2019," Baker said. "I think they like how I lead on the court and take initiative," Baker said. "I think they also like how I move the ball and how consistent I am."
Baker likes the chance to be a part of a growing program, and she's also excited about Wake Forest's strong academic reputation.
"I was thinking about whether I wanted to go to more of an academic school or a bigger volleyball program," Baker said. "I think this is kind of both. The academics at Wake Forest are great and playing in the ACC, in a Power Five conference where there area a lot of resources, is really the best of both worlds."