Just recently, Malachi Baker was going on and on about how his keen ability to progress on the basketball court has come to fruition, in large part because of the unyielding contributions of his father, Stephen Baker.
“My dad has been very supportive,” Malachi said. “I often practice with him at home and he always encourages me to do my best. He even watches NBA TV with me every morning to watch the highlights. He buys me NBA collector’s cards every season and he takes me to the Wizards games from time to time to see (All-Star point guard) John Wall.”
Still, among the grandest reasons Malachi has enjoyed success on the amateur basketball circuit in recent years — particularly as a rising AAU standout — is that even for a nine-year-old, he steadfastly takes heed to his father’s pivotal advice.
Especially his occasional constructive criticism, a trend by which this youngster has gone to great lengths to embrace ever since he first began dribbling a basketball at the age of four.
“I hate it when he criticizes me sometimes but I know it’s for my own good,” Malachi said. “The best advice that my father and coaches have given me is to keep trying to get better and never quit playing or dreaming.”
Fortunately for Malachi, a young, vibrant, assertive player who has developed a reputation for boasting an assortment of immense basketball smarts, he has managed to flourish in his brief time of playing competitive hoops, most notably in the Washington, D. C. area.
For starters, Malachi, a Takoma Park, Maryland native who attends Mattaponni Elementary School, has become a fixture on the AAU circuit in recent years, having traveled to a number of establishments throughout the East Coast and
Mid-Atlantic regions, where he’s had the luxury of putting his skills on display.
Add to the fact that his father had played such an instrumental role in his life on and off the hardwood, and it’s no wonder it’s safe to assume the sky’s the limit for this up-and-coming youth athlete.
“He first attended a basketball summer camp around this time,” said Stephen Baker, explaining when he first discovered his Malachi’s admiration for basketball. “For the next three years, he would attend various basketball clinics that the rec centers would have. This is the only sport that he plays thus far.”
For Malachi, it is a sport in which this youngster has shown no signs of giving up anytime soon.
As Stephen tells it, his son not only has learned the importance of valuable sportsmanship — a trend by which a number of his peers often struggle with at this age — but he has become knowledgeable of the various mechanics and fundamentals needed to enjoy success as an amateur.
“His rec league coach from this past season was extremely helpful and very encouraging,” Stephen said. “His current AAU coach is very patient and a natural teacher who is tough on discipline which is exactly what Malachi needed.”
On game days, arguably no one seems as giddy and excited as Stephen who, even while watching his son compete from the stands, he get to witness firsthand a rising young athlete — who, because of his ability to become teachable — is destined to become a household name someday.
Much like Wall, the Wizards’ prized two-time All-Star point guard.
“I always tell him to just keep at it and never quit,” said Stephen, when asked what is among the life’s lessons he offers his son. “The easiest thing you can always do is quit. The sky is the limit for him because I believe he has that “IT.” Whatever that “IT” is, he has “IT.”
And because little Malachi is armed with the proverbial “IT” factor, his father deemed it necessary to enlighten the sports world of a sign of things to come.
“In time, the world will be introduced to him to see “IT” for themselves,” Stephen said.
Young Malachi is just starting heating up.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.