Q&A: Will Jemarl Baker be UK's best shooter?

T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst
Cats Illustrated

He wasn't a five-star recruit and that can often leave a player feeling overlooked at Kentucky, but not Jemarl Baker. John Calipari said he may be UK's best shooter, but well else will he bring to the table?

He spoke with Cats Illustrated about his expectations, why he picked Kentucky and why he thinks UK will be a good shooting team this season.



Under Armour/Kelly Kline

On his commitment to Kentucky: It was a week after my state championship game after I had decommitted from California. It's just a dream come true for a player that's been working hard his entire life to get to this point.

On his reaction when UK reached out: It was my dad. One of the assistant coaches, I don't remember exactly which one because it was a couple months ago, but it was just a great feeling for me. I was just working hard and to be able to get that call as a player that's what you want. You want to try and be at the biggest stage.

On how long it took for him to know he wanted to go to UK: It wasn't until after I met with Coach Cal. He talked to me. My dad always pushes me to be great every day and pushes me hard to be the best I can be. Coach Cal in the meeting told me that's what he was going to do as well and that's all I needed to hear.

On why he thought UK wanted him so late in the process: Definitely that I can shoot. That's pretty much what the team needed, but everyone can shoot honestly. Everyone can knockdown shots but I can do more than just shoot but that's definitely the best part of my game.

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On his initial reaction to UK being interested: Like I said, it's a blessing. This is one of the best college basketball programs in the whole country. Just working hard in high school and waking up and driving an hour to workout before school and every thing like that, for them to call is great.

On what he's learned about UK that he didn't know before getting to campus: Well, just seeing all the banners and all the little posters of the NBA guys is something that we work for. Coach Cal and all the other coaches are going to push you to be, the best you can be and the best version of your self. That's what you want as a player. Just in doing all that and working hard, that's what you get, you get the championships and the posters.

On if he's used to being noticed in public: Yeah, where I grew up I've known a lot of these guys but I didn't know them personally. I've been to the same camps. I've known the guys but on the court we've been getting to know each other on and off the court. Being at Kentucky we go anywhere, the mall or out to eat anywhere, it's just great to see the support we have.

On if there's anything crazy: Just being a player, a four-star player, it doesn't matter anymore, but not being asked for autographs and pictures and stuff like that to being out here and going to Kentucky and going anywhere and people ask for autographs. I'm sure they've been through it before but for a new guy it's very different for me.

On if he has a plan for his time at UK: I haven't had a plan since my high school and middle school. It's just to work as hard as I can and be as good as I can be and everything falls into place and God rewards you.


On if he's worried about being recruited over at UK: Not at all. I just have to work hard. You can only control things you can control. Whether they bring in the player or anything, you have to have a team. It doesn't bother me at all. You just have to work hard and I'm just excited to be with this group and work hard with this group. We want to be the best we can be as a unit.

On have a different mindset: All I'm concerned about is me reaching my best. What it takes for me to be my best. The coaches working me and pushing me to be as great as I can be and that everything is going to fall into place. I just worry about right now and being in the moment and whatever happens in the future will happen based on my workouts.

On standing out in pickup games: I don't know. I just work hard and defend. I just play my game pretty much and I try to compete.

On how well he's been shooting in pickup games: Well, that's what I do best. I work hard towards it. That's what I've always had confidence in myself to try and hit every shot that I take. It's been pretty good.

On percentage he wants to shoot from deep: Of course we have goals. I want to actually shoot 50 percent from three-point line. You gotta have goals in your head and you have to have goals and strive towards them.

On if he's looked into any UK history: I haven't looked at any of that stuff. I've watched a lot of UK players from the past like Jamal Murray, and just a lot of players that ever since Coach Cal has started coaching here I've looked at a lot of UK basketball. I haven't researched any records but I'm just gonna work hard to be the best I can be.

On UK fans worrying that shooting could be a weakness this year for the team: It's definitely a better shooting team than people believe. A lot of people on this team can shoot and knockdown open shots and contested shots. It's definitely inaccurate to me.

On one player that is shooting well from deep: Everybody. P.J. can knockdown shots. Jarred. Hamidou. Shai. Quade. Kevin. Everybody can knockdown shots.

On the biggest adjustments: Everything is so much different but being able to get to know guys from different places is great.

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