The joke in the Baron family goes like this: Billy Baron’s coach in Lithuania last season hollered a lot and barely spoke English. … It was just like playing at Canisius for his dad.
Baron is back in Western New York after 10 months of playing in Lithuania, and he’s excited about what’s in store for his second season of pro basketball.
Baron has received an invitation to play for the Detroit Pistons’ entry in the NBA’s Orlando Pro Summer League from July 4-10. Baron is hoping that will lead to a spot in an NBA training camp. Even if it doesn’t, the Summer League is a prime showcase for Baron to get another offer to play somewhere in Europe next season.
Baron, the 2014 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year, averaged 24.1 points a game under his father Jim’s tutelage as a senior for the Griffs in 2013-14. The coach of Marist that year was Jeff Bower, who now is general manager of the Pistons.
“I have relationship with him,” Baron said. “He’s always liked me from last year. I felt like this was a good opportunity. Not only am I playing for the Pistons but I’m showcasing for all 30 teams. You’ve just got to find a spot where minutes may come your way.”
Baron learned a lot about perseverance playing for Lietuvos Rytas last season. The team went 35-5 and lost in the league finals. But Baron didn’t play a lot, perhaps 14 minutes a game, and he averaged 5.7 points a game. The coaches did not speak English, which made settling into a role a tough challenge.
“They did teach me some valuable lessons,” Baron said. “You have to dig down deep, and stuff is out of your control. There’s other people making decisions, and it’s not always you.”
Baron thinks he got mentally tougher and learned to play a more physical style on defense.
“You’ve got to stick with it, and you learn you really have to believe in yourself,” Baron said. “It was like 10 months of isolation when basketball wasn’t going in the right direction for me. You do a lot of thinking, and you’ve really gotta grind it out.”
Baron has phenomenal shooting range. He made 42 percent of his three-point attempts for the Griffs as a senior, even though he took the most attempts behind the arc (254) in the MAAC.
Baron will hold his inaugural Billy Baron Basketball Clinic for boys and girls age 10 to 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 27-28 at Sweet Home Middle School. Cost is $125. Youths are welcome to show up the day of the event.