For most of his career with the Iowa men’s basketball program, Michael Baer had the distinction of being the scout team’s tallest player.
That meant it was Baer’s job every practice to take on Iowa starting center, who was 6-foot-11 Luka Garza, the consensus National Player of the Year last season.
Far from an easy task – but one that Baer, ââwho signed up last week to be transferred to play for head coach Carmen Maciariello’s men’s basketball program in Siena, has enjoyed every workout.
“Not only was Luka the best player in the country, he was probably the hardest working player in the country,” Baer said in an interview with the Daily Gazette. âHe never took a game away, so it made me do the same. It was a great experience. Not every guy can face the best player in the country every day.
A 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward, Baer was a walk-on at Iowa for the past three seasons after starting his tenure with head coach Fran McCaffery’s Big Ten Conference program as the student-director. In three seasons competing for the team he grew up with as a growing child in Bettendorf, Iowa, Baer has seen limited action. He recorded 46 minutes in 20 games and recorded 10 points and 11 rebounds.
In Siena, as a fellow, Baer wants to show that he is capable of much more than that. With undergraduate degrees earned in business management and economics, Baer entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this spring as a graduate transfer in an effort to find a school willing to give him a scholarship. and a chance to save minutes, and the bond between McCaffery and Maciariello helped make Siena this place.
âCoach McCaffery couldn’t have been more excited for me,â Baer said of the former Saints coach who led Siena on three trips to the NCAA tournament. “I knew I could count on his advice.”
Baer is also excited and wants to show he can be a Division I level field contributor. He has grown three inches and gained almost 50 pounds since he graduated high school and tried to make the most of her matchmaking experience with Garza to improve her own game.
âI definitely have a lot of basketball left in me and a lot of room to grow, so that was always the plan – to keep playing,â Baer said. âI wanted to find a place where I could find a few more opportunities to speak up and impact the victory in this way, but it was also important to me that the team was at the top of their conference. . “
Siena won the 2020 MAAC regular season championship and appeared to be heading to the NCAA tournament before this year’s event was canceled due to concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Saints won a share of the MAAC 2021 regular season crown before falling to the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament.
Siena, like so many programs, has seen significant roster turnover this offseason which has seen the adoption of a new policy whereby all players can transfer once without having to be absent. Right now, Baer is one of eight incoming players for the Saints, while the program has lost six fellows this offseason either at the end of the season or on a transfer, including the top three scorers in the l team from last season.
Baer said he heard from several schools after heading to the NCAA transfer portal. However, it wasn’t until a few days after the first contact with Maciariello that Baer decided to join the Saints.
âOnce Siena proposed to me,â Baer said, âI couldn’t see how any other situation could be better than this.â
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