Updated Sat, Feb 2, 2013 10:11 am
Ivo Baltic’s position on the basketball court is difficult to identify.
Offensively, he can nail the outside shot like a shooting guard, but can also post up and perform his signature move by fading away for a 10-foot jumper like a big man.
When he switches to the defensive side of the ball, he can contest an opponent’s shot like a prototypical center or record a steal and push the ball in transition like a point guard. He’s adept at guarding the best Division I the centers or the point guards in the country.
Sometimes, Baltic doesn’t even know his exact position.
“I don't think I have a position. I'm in-between,” Baltic explained. “Kinda makes it difficult to guard, I guess.”
If coach Jim Christian wants him to attack the boards, he can do that. He’s reached double-digits in rebounding three times this season and leads the team with 5.5 a game.
If Christian wants Baltic to be the contributor, he can do that, too. He’s second on the team with 2.7 assists and contributed five against rival Kent State. He finished with a season-high nine against Massachusetts, which is remarkable for a big man.
On nights where the Bobcats need scoring, Baltic’s capable of knocking down his share of shots. He’s scored in double-digits on nine occasions this year, averaging 8.7 points a game. That’s fifth best on the team.
He does a lot of things well, making it hard to draw comparisons between Baltic and any one particular player in the NBA.
Any basketball player hates to answer the comparison question simply because it’s hard to do so. There’s always one thing another player doesn’t have. When Baltic was asked what player he resembles the most, he laughed and hesitated to answer.
“I don't want to say LeBron, but he's always been my favorite player,” Baltic said. “But you know, I just feel like I'm a pretty decent rebounder, pretty decent scorer, pretty decent passer, and I feel like LeBron does all those well.”
Anyone that knows Baltic or follows the senior on Twitter can tell how much admiration he holds towards the Miami Heat small forward.
The background of his Twitter page is a picture of James with the ball and NBA legend Michael Jordan with a hand in his face. Baltic often tweets about James’ games and his legacy in the league.
“I just think he's the best overall player. He does everything well and he does it on both ends,” Baltic said. “You know, I feel like he'll sometimes guard point guards. Sometimes, I'll switch up and guard point guards. I think that's kinda fun. In the NCAA Tournament, I got to guard Trey Burke a little bit.”
Baltic has switched up defensively to play some guards in games this year, too. In Ohio’s one-point win over Kent State, it was Baltic who met Randal Holt at the three-point line with the clock ticking below six seconds. He forced Holt to slow down and shoot a tough runner in the paint instead of a layup to win the game. Holt’s shot rimmed out, and Ohio won.
With the legacy James has already created in his career, any comparisons to “The King” are deemed outrageous. Baltic doesn’t necessarily want to be compared to James.
“It’s almost impossible to do the stuff LeBron does,” Baltic explained. “But you try to model yourself after him, I guess.”
From his game on the court to his jersey number (No. 23, James’ number while in Cleveland), Baltic certainly does model himself after James.
As LeBron strives to be the greatest in the NBA, how does Baltic’s legacy stand in Ohio basketball history? He is 34th in the school record books with 1,002 career points. Scoring 1,000 points is an accomplishment in any program, but for Baltic, the milestone hasn’t fully set in.
“It still hasn't really hit me yet, but I'm just thankful for all my past teammates, past coaches and also current coaches and current teammates,” Baltic said. “I couldn't have done any of it without those guys.”
He’s scored over 1,000 points in 129 games, but there’s one game that still sticks out in his mind.
From the pregame warm ups to the final buzzer, Baltic remembers the emotions of his first game.
“I just remember it being my first game,” Baltic said. “You'll always remember your first, whatever the topic is.”
Baltic came into the program with arguably one of the greatest recruiting classes in Ohio history with D.J. Cooper and Reggie Keely. In their game together, it was Baltic who led the team in scoring.
“I had 20 that game, I remember that,” Baltic said. “Should've had 26. I missed a couple free throws and a couple shots I should've made. I remember that game.”
Baltic was 8-of-10 that day from the field and 4-of-9 from the free throw line. He also added in eight rebounds in only 17 minutes coming off the bench against Ohio Valley.
128 games and 982 points later, Baltic still remembers the six points he didn’t have against Ohio Valley.
His first start came against Akron at home. In his four years at Ohio, he has come to know what the Zips will throw at him. He has seen Zeke Marshall’s game several times throughout their four years opposing each other.
“(Marshall) likes to do that jump hook. He can pretty much shoot it from anywhere, almost like half court it seems like,” Baltic said. “He can just shoot that jumper from anywhere. You've just gotta play him tough, don't let him catch the ball anywhere deep. Let him catch it like 10 feet out or something.”
Ohio plays at Akron this Saturday in a key match up of conference leaders. If the Bobcats can hold their own inside, they’ll control the game, thus taking control of the Mid-American Conference.
That game plan is something Baltic knows well.
Will he lead the team in points, rebounds or assists? That remains to be seen, but he’s certainly capable of all three.
After all, he’s done it before.