Although he has not played a minute, Jemarl Baker hopes he can use this season to improve and be a better player for Kentucky in 2018-19.
“I’m looking at basketball from a different perspective,” he said Wednesday. “It’s only going to help me.”
Illness and an injury have sidelined Baker all season. Torn meniscus in a knee prevented him from playing, he said.
Then in the later stages of the season, Baker did some standstill shooting during informal pregame warm-ups. Then he was not only not seen on the court, but he also was missing from the bench area during games.
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“I was sick,” he said. “I had the flu. It was pretty bad. At that point, we had a great rhythm going. So I wasn’t trying to be around the team or get anybody sick. . . . So I was watching from afar.”
Baker, a consensus four-star prospect, acknowledged the frustration that came with not playing.
“Well, it’s hard,” he said. “Something I haven’t done.”
Baker came to Kentucky billed as a shooter. He made 94 three-point shots as a high school senior, and made 44 percent of his three-point shots as a junior.
“He’s a really good shooter,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I’ve had shooting contests with him a bunch. I’ve won a couple times. But when he shoots, he’ll barely hits the rim. He’s really a special shooter. He’s got great touch.”
Of course, Kentucky went through spells of poor perimeter shooting this season: 2-for-20 on three-pointers at Missouri, 1-for-11 at South Carolina, 2-for-14 against Harvard.
“He could have helped a lot,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Baker.
Presumably, that help — which includes spreading defenses and, of course, making shots — will come next season.