In the end, Budda Baker couldn’t wait until signing day to announce his college decision.
The Bellevue High School defensive back, considered the top football recruit in the Northwest, scrapped a planned 7 a.m. Wednesday announcement and instead appeared on KING-5 television in Seattle on Tuesday night to say that he will stay close to home and play for the University of Washington.
Baker, a four-star prospect, originally said in December that he would play for Oregon. But he reneged on that commitment in January, announcing that he would instead decide between Washington and UCLA.
Baker is expected to sign his national letter of intent Wednesday, along with the rest of UW’s first recruiting class under new coach Chris Petersen.
On the 5 p.m. KING-5 nightly news, Baker said his decision was made with family in mind. His sister, brother-in-law and nephew accompanied him in-studio.
“I’m just a big family person. Family always comes first,” said Baker, the 2013 News Tribune All-State Player of the Year. “I’ll be close to my family. They’ll be able to come see me play. It’s just a true blessing.”
Baker, who revealed a UW hat and T-shirt during the broadcast, will be the gem of Petersen’s first recruiting class, and is the fourth four-star prospect to give an oral commitment to the Huskies. The others are Fife offensive lineman Kaleb McGary; Bellflower, Calif., defensive back Naijiel Hale — the son of late rapper Nate Dogg — and San Jose, Calif., quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels.
Scout.com’s database now lists UW with 21 known “commitments” who are expected to sign Wednesday — four short of the 25-man limit for a single recruiting class. But the Huskies are reportedly still in play for a handful of recruits who haven’t yet announced their decisions, such as West Hills, Calif., receiver Brayden Lenius and Falcon, Colo., running back Kalen Ballage.
Baker becomes the eighth player to commit to UW who projects as a defensive back. The Huskies are expected to sign at least four offensive linemen — McGary is thought to be the best of the bunch — and four defensive linemen.
Carta-Samuels is the only quarterback in the class.
Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said Newport High School tight end Drew Sample, who committed to the UW in December, will be a player to watch.
“He’s as good a blocking tight end as you’ll find in the West, but he’s also a very good pass catcher and moves well,” Huffman said. “He just didn’t have a lot of opportunities to because he was in the veer option at Newport.”
Baker’s commitment Tuesday bumped the Huskies to No. 35 in Scout.com’s team-by-team national rankings. Huffman said last week that the UW’s class looked like it rated as “a solid B,” with “a chance to be an A” if McGary and Baker both committed and signed.
In that regard, the hard part — for the UW — is over.