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.
“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.