UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky players say Jemarl Baker’s absence will ‘hurt us’

Kentucky forward Jarred Vanderbilt, left, and Jemarl Baker have both been sidelined by injuries ahead of the upcoming season.
Kentucky forward Jarred Vanderbilt, left, and Jemarl Baker have both been sidelined by injuries ahead of the upcoming season.

Freshman guard Jemarl Baker may be out three months after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said Monday.

Baker has been billed as a perimeter shooter, a skill Kentucky figures to need with opponents expected to sag defenses in the lane.

“We’re not as bad as everybody says shooting the ball,” Calipari said. “I mean, I’m with them every day. But we’re more of an athletic, driving, throw-the-ball-at-the-basket-(and)-go-rebound-it kind of team, too.”

UK made six of 16 three-point shots in beating Morehead State 92-67 in an exhibition game Monday.

Baker’s absence will impact Kentucky’s team, teammates said.

“It’s going to hurt us,” Quade Green said. “Not having another guy out there. We’ll have to rely on everybody else, now.”

Hamidou Diallo echoed that sentiment.

“Definitely a big impact,” he said of Baker being sidelined. “I mean, losing a player like him, of his caliber. He’s a great shooter. We need him on this team. So losing him is really going to hurt us.”

Vanderbilt progressing

Calipari and UK players spoke hopefully of Jarred Vanderbilt’s return. Initial reports said Vanderbilt would not play before January because of a foot injury.

Although he did not specify with dates, Calipari said Vanderbilt had a timetable now to begin conditioning under the supervision of associate coach Kenny Payne, then returning to practice.

“Then see where we are,” Calipari said. “So there’s a good timetable now for him.”

Green sounded even more optimistic.

“Jarred’s on his way back,” Green said. “So America’s got to be scared right now.”

Green likened Vanderbilt to a former NBA player.

“I call him the next Lamar Odom,” he said of Vanderbilt. “I know that’s big expectations for him. But he really plays just like Lamar Odom. He can rebound. He can score any way you want. He can shoot a little bit.”

Charity

UK announced its Kentucky Cares Classic generated $448,220 in ticket sales. Proceeds from the game against Morehead State will be used for relief from recent hurricanes and wildfires.

The attendance was announced as 14,138.

Last Sunday’s Kansas-Missouri exhibition, dubbed the “Showdown For Relief,” raised $2,011,000 for relief in areas hit by recent hurricanes and wild fires.

The money came from ticket sales ($1.15 million), pay-per-view stream ($768,000) and text-to-give contributions ($68,000). Additional donations totaled $25,000.

UK Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy said that playing the Kentucky Cares Classic in Rupp Arena tied UK to its television contract with the SEC Network. No available window to televise the game could be found.

It was the first UK game not televised since the Cats played New Jersey Institute of Technology on Nov. 14, 2015.

Plusses/minuses

Defense and rebounding, the twin pillars upon which Kentucky hopes to build its team, were lackinga Monday night.

Calipari did not like UK’s defense. Morehead State shot 49 percent (47.6 percent on threes). The Eagles also outrebounded UK 30-25.

“That’s not my kind of team,” Calipari said. “That’s not how my teams play.”

On the plus side, UK had more assists (15) than turnovers (11).

“Are you kidding me?” Calipari said. “A bunch of freshmen?”

Morehead State Coach Preston Spradlin was surprised but proud that his team outrebounded Kentucky In Monday night’s exhibition game.

Counting dribbles

Although Green played well, Calipari saw room for improvement. He continued to say he wants the freshman guard to not dribble so much. This will require a new way of playing, Green said.

“My whole life, AAU, high school, I was the main point guard,” Green said. “Just dribbling up top controlling everything. Now, I have other guys around me, so I can just swing it. . . .”

Green said he’s making a conscious effort, literally, to not dribble so much.

“I usually count my dribbles in my head now since he said it,” Green said. “Three to six dribbles. (Then) I just give it up.”

Kentucky Coach John Calipari talks about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green after Monday night’s win over Morehead State.

Ninth place?

Calipari scoffed at a poll of media, coaches and athletic officials picking Morehead State to finish ninth in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Wow,” the UK coach said. “They’re going to have four teams going to the NCAA Tournament then, if they’re ninth. My gosh.”

Etc.

▪ Kentucky improved to 58-4 in preseason exhibition games, and 17-0 with Calipari as coach.

▪ Freshmen scored all but eight of UK’s points.

▪ Morehead State snapped UK’s streak of scoring 100 or more points in exhibition games at seven.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

Next game

Centre at Kentucky

What: UK’s final exhibition game

When: 7 p.m. Friday

TV: SEC Network

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