When Deana Moren Baker ’86 was in middle school in Bremen, Indiana, her basketball team held practice in the school cafeteria because the boys were using the gym. They took layups using the Peter Pan mascot’s head on the wall as a stand-in for a basket.
When she was in high school, wearing polyester uniforms and tube socks, the long shots she took with the larger boys’ ball then in use didn’t count for three points. The 3-point line hadn’t been created yet.
When she played for Eastern Mennonite University, it was often out of the limelight, as women’s basketball didn’t receive the media attention it does now.
Through all the challenges, though, Moren Baker just kept loving the game and succeeding at it. She set the career scoring record and a variety of other records at Bremen High School — many of which still stand. At EMU, where she transferred after spending her first year at Goshen College in Indiana, she was the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 1986 and received All-America honorable mention twice. She is currently No. 13 on EMU’s all-time scoring list with 1,040 points in three seasons, having just been passed this year by Jess Rheinheimer.
Now, her home state has added its accolades to her stellar, pioneering career. On April 30, Moren Baker was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Larry Bird, John Wooden, Tamika Catchings, Steve Alford, Muffet McGraw and Calbert Cheaney.
“They called before Thanksgiving to let me know I was being inducted this year,” Moren Baker says. “It’s quite an honor, obviously. It’s a pretty big deal—the whole state. I’m excited to share it with EMU and the community there.”
Moren Baker says she was first nominated about four or five years ago, as nominees have to be out of high school for 26 years to make the ballot. Nothing happened for a while, so she had just about given up on it.
Joined by teammate, coach
This past weekend, however, she joined this year’s other honorees at a banquet in Indianapolis, surrounded by family, friends, former teammates, and her middle school coach from the cafeteria days.
One of those in attendance was Sue Blauch, an NCAA Division I and WNBA official who was one of Moren Baker’s teammates at EMU.
“Deana stood out then, and continues to stand out now,” Blauch says. “Her work ethic and basketball IQ were above and beyond. Deana made her teammates better just by working hard and enjoying the game. Her love for the game always came through. For Deana to receive this kind of recognition for her accomplishments is very satisfying to anyone who knows her well.”
Moren Baker’s coach at EMU was Sandy Brownscombe, now chair of the Physical Education and Recreation Department. She says the Hall of Fame honor is a tribute to all the pioneers of women’s basketball who moved the game into prominence.
“The induction is a thank you to her and a recognition of a time when girls didn’t get a lot of recognition for what they did,” says Brownscombe, who also attended the induction ceremony. “I think the peers who played with her are maybe as happy as she is.”
Brownscombe says the 5-foot-9 Moren Baker was unusually tall and strong for her shooting guard position and possessed great range, with especially deadly accuracy from the right wing spot. She helped the 1984-1985 team average 76 points per game, the highest in the program’s history.
“Deana and that group started to put us on the map,” Brownscombe says. “She really made a difference and helped us move the quality of the program up considerably. She was just the classic student-athlete, exactly what you wanted in your players.”
Still a Royals fan
Moren Baker actually came to EMU because she wanted to also play softball, a sport Goshen didn’t have at the time. It was on the basketball court, though, that Moren Baker made her mark, and she says she “loved every minute of it.”
“I love EMU, and it was a great move (to go there),” she says. “I still follow EMU’s team online.”
She was inducted into EMU’s Hall of Honor in 1986 after leading EMU to its first of two ODAC championships and setting Virginia Division III records for career and season free-throw percentage.
EMU athletic director Dave King says he is pleased to see Moren Baker get this latest honor in a state “synonymous with quality basketball.”
“To have one of our alumnae inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is a true honor for Eastern Mennonite University,” King says. “We are very proud of Deana for her accomplishments before she arrived here, while she played for the Royals and in the years following graduation. She set high standards for those who followed her and is an example of what can be accomplished through hard work and commitment.”
After graduation, Moren Baker went to work in California and Minnesota in the biotech and pharmacy industries and now teaches biology for Thomas University in Georgia. She doesn’t play basketball as much as she used to, but is hoping to play in a senior competition in New Zealand next summer with friends from Minneapolis.
Moren Baker and other inductees will have a special display of memorabilia at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for the coming year and will be permanently honored in the enshrinement hall. The museum is located in New Castle, Indiana, about 45 minutes east of Indianapolis.