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Three Potential Factors Behind Baker’s Transfer

On Wednesday, Jemarl Baker informed Kentucky he will be leaving for other opportunities. The decision to explore other options for his college basketball career came as a surprise to many, but the tea leaves were there along.

I see three major factors leading to his exit:

Homesickness: Going back several months, there were whispers that Baker missed his family and the West Coast. After all, he moved from Riverside, California, just outside Los Angeles, to a city 2,000 miles away with the most inconsistent weather on the planet (and most important, no In-N-Out). I don’t think he was actually like miserable with homesickness, but kept in the back of his mind that he would like to be a little closer to home if a situation popped up. On top of that, while most of his teammates’ parents were able to attend almost every home game, that’s impossible to ask of Baker’s family. I can’t believe Tyler Herro’s dad was able to visit as often as he did from Milwaukee. Imagine being the Baker family trying to make it to Lexington to take their son out to dinner after a game on a random Tuesday night in January without knowing if he’d even play in the game at all. Throw in being a couple thousand miles away from your friends and family and the only home life you know while coming back from multiple injuries, and it is completely understandable if he got a little lonely at times.

Playing Time: Jemarl Baker likely would’ve contributed to next year’s team, but he wouldn’t have been certain of that. No minutes would be promised. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley are already ahead of him in the rotation and the two of them announced they will return for their sophomore years. Then there will be a newcomer in the backcourt, Tyrese Maxey, who is expected to log several minutes and be one of the better scorers on the team. Maxey is a top-10 player in the incoming class and expectations are high for him at Kentucky. So maybe Baker would’ve played more on the wing? The problem there is two more new faces entering the fold in Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks. Whitney is a true small forward, the top-ranked one in the class, and he too has high expectations in his freshman season. Brooks also needs minutes in that spot. Baker is good in his own right, but who’s to say he wouldn’t be limited to only eight or nine minutes a game again?

Calipari’s Short Leash (The Auburn Game): Look, I am in no way aware of a rift between Calipari and Baker, nor am I even suggesting there is one whatsoever, so don’t misread my uninformed speculation here. In fact, each of their comments today suggest they are still on very good terms and I genuinely believe Cal will be rooting for Baker and will always be there for him in the future, as he said in the release. (But I’m going to be a But guy real quick.) But we saw Cal sit Baker in the final game of the season over one mistake. Baker made one bonehead play, a foul on a three-pointer in the first half, and he was sent to the bench for the rest of the game. He played only three minutes in the Elite Eight, when other players were making their share of costly mistakes and were allowed to play through them. Cal had just raved about Baker’s defense earlier in the tournament; why not give him another go when Auburn’s guards started gutting Kentucky’s defense? Condemning him to the bench for the entire game wasn’t exactly encouraging to Baker and his future, and it was kind of what Baker dealt with all season. Get beat, you’re out. Miss a three, you’re out. Every year it seems there is one player with a shorter leash and this past year it was Baker. Again, I’m only speculating here, but it’s hard to blame the kid if he felt he was the victim of a little bit of favoritism or that Cal didn’t have as much faith in him. Then with another loaded backcourt next season, who can blame him for wanting to see what else is out there?


Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right. Probably a little bit of both. Only Jemarl Baker knows why he is leaving. Whatever the case, he is a good player who has gone through a lot and deserves the right opportunity before it is too late. Good luck, Jemarl.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

59 Comments for Three Potential Factors Behind Baker’s Transfer

  1. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    3:06 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I wanted to be wrong but had the feeling that Baker would eventually transfer from the moment he signed. Unless a player is from KY or the general area it is hard to see them coming and sticking around 4-5 years. Unfortunately many guys believe that coming to UK puts them on the fast track to the NBA instead of what it actually is, which is giving them a chance at the NBA. Not saying this was Baker’s mentality but these non-local four or lower five star guys have not stuck around. Lee, Wiltjer, Matthews, Wynard, Baker…I wish him the absolute best and hope it is worth sitting out an additional year.

    • bigblue98
      3:16 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Good post – agree with every point you made.

    • makeitstop
      3:22 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Yea, Drew, that looks like pretty solid tea leaf reading to me.

    • nocode96
      3:24 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Good points

    • syrin23
      3:29 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      This is an annual trend. Guys who have marginal NBA talent declare for the draft after under performing in the tournament, and the guys with clearly no NBA talent transfer. Hard to build a winning team with this formula.

    • kcanant
      3:55 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Jemarl seems to be a fantastic young man. From the moment I first “met” him (playing CAT) with Rex, I liked him. His transfer decision certainly does not change that. I hope he goes on to have terrific success and perfect health. I will always be rooting for him.

    • J. Did
      4:28 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Didn’t he have an injury and was forced to sit one year with rehab? So he’d been at KENTUCKY for 2+ years. I’d have like to have seen the Jemarlboro Man play more as well. It’s unfortunate. CAL will admit he did not coach well in the AUB Elite 8 defeat. Auburn’s guards played well as did their bigs. Ours folded. As was pointed out, kids declaring for the NBA prematurely – or prepared – plus Transfers out seem to be the annual norm at KENTUCKY.

    • Willis Wolf Tattoo
      4:33 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Add Wenyen and Isaac to your list. They both should have stayed an additional year or two.

  2. henderblue
    3:10 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I think it’s a case of all of the above Drew. And I too, wish him the best. I wonder though, how good he might have been without the knee injury? I hope he does well wherever he ends up

    • DelrayCat
      4:59 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      That’s it. Overall, he’s a pretty good player. But his lateral quickness was quite poor, even though he was a decent body-up defender. His shot always seemed too slow to me, and I just don’t think he ever would have been more than the 9th or 10th man in a rotation at a school like UK. Maybe he can go to Cal-Berkeley like Marcus Lee, get that piece of paper from a little more affluent school with higher academic credentials..and maybe make it one day in Greece or Spain.

    • DelrayCat
      5:02 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      One year playing for Cal is enough to make some guys realize they don’t have what it take to be at the highest level.

    • Nugget01
      5:09 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Don’t know how good he would’ve been either, but he was touted as a shooter from day 1 and it’s hard to believe with that shooting form of his that he was ever as good as they said. No way that mess was producing the kind of results we heard about.

  3. Larkin123
    3:11 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Looks like a backup at two and three spot in that rotation, that could be good minutes. Look, even if we get a good consistent freshman shooter in the new guys, consider Monk Murray Herro verses lamb in tournament. Id like an article on Their Shooting percentage in the NCAA tournament and the game we lost those years. I don’t think you can trust many freshmen shooters no matter how good they are in the regular season. This is actually my main complaint. It appears to me they shoot worse. Cals offense is much better with more shooters Especially if you consider we are not getting the top five guys anymore….

  4. Ridge Runner
    3:15 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Wish him luck for sure. His “shot” never really came for us when we needed it. Especially after hearing a few including SGA saying he lit it up in practice.

    • Cokely53
      3:27 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      I think that’s part of the answer. Dude was brought in to be a shooter and his shot never fell. Doesn’t matter how good his defense is when he doesn’t bring offense and when he was in it meant a scorer was out and if he played alongside hagans it meant 2 non scoring guys at guard and it’s hard to get offense that way. Still think he would’ve been a great help down the line but with only 1 year in we didn’t get what we had hoped for

    • Nugget01
      5:11 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      He released his shot from his intestines. That doesn’t work at this level.

  5. 4everUKblue
    3:25 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Best of luck Jemarl! Wish you had stayed.

  6. StillBP
    3:30 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    He originally committed to U Cal and then backed out to play for Coach Cal. Sounds like maybe he should have stuck w U Cal.

    • StillBP
      3:33 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Surely he goes back West and doesn’t go to the coach he originally committed to…Cuonzo.

  7. Big Sexy
    3:41 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Cal says he takes talent over experience every time. Hard to blame Baker when he is going to continually be recruited over the rest of his career. One of Cal’s flaws, he’s not developing talent. Guys that can potentially be very good JRs and SRs have to leave to get a chance to play. Who wouldn’t want Charles Matthews on this team the last year or two? He likely would’ve never got the chance to play much had he stayed at UK. We win a lot of games but it’s harder to win in the tournament. I think after 10 years we have a large enough sample size to determine that.

    • secrick
      3:58 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Did Michigan go farther in the trnt than Ky did or did Ky? Looks like Cal did a good job on developing P.J. and if Matthews had stayed he would have done the same with him.

    • ktelectricatfan
      6:15 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Absolutely! You can’t develop the guys if they don’t stay. Some take longer than others. He wasn’t as talented as the rest so it was gonna take 3-4 yrs.

    • mashburnfan1
      8:16 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      secrick…Cal did not develop anyone. You use PJ I will use Briscoe, POY, Goodwin, SKJ, Twins, Gabriel and list goes on of guys that would have been high picks from High School that “developed” {as you st} under Cal a year or 3 and were much worse in terms of draft status. Cau used to get the recruits who were most NBA ready, that is how he got all the NBA players. I guess you would say K really develops guys, he will have 3 of top 10 this year. NO he did nothing but recruit NBA ready players {well I don’t think Cam is very good}. No coach develops a player in the 8 months they have them. I guess every High School player should go to Murray St, look what that coach did with Morant right.

    • Big Sexy
      1:39 am April 18, 2019 Permalink

      secrick, that’s the dumbest logic I’ve heard in a while. By your logic Zion would’ve done us any good because Kentucky and Duke both were eliminated in the same round. Of the players Cal has recruited I think only two from outside KY have really been big contributors, Poythress and Cauley-Stein…arguably Lee. Had the others not been from KY and it been a dream to play there they may have left. Cal is going to need to start getting guys to stay 3-4 years or it’s going to be that much harder to win in March.

  8. dballrb
    3:44 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Baker was on the team last year?Damn,I guess I missed him…

    3:49 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    He sure isn’t getting recruited over. He would be more steady than then next crew if unreliable not quite one and done but leave anyway. Next year is no different. Start slow, look better toward the end, disappoint. You need experience mixed with super stars if you want to win thses days. I honestly think next year will be a bubble team. Not a single impact player coming in, no one left but a came to college too early turnover machine, a big slow big ten type transfer, and a skinny center with bricks for hands. Never thought I’d say thank God for football.

    • henderblue
      4:17 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Thank you Lord, for not giving me the pessimistic outlook of RICKSVD. Football doesn’t start until August. Hope you can keep it together to then..

    • 4everUKblue
      4:32 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Agreed henderblue, I don’t know how people like this even get through one day, life must be hell of these people.

      4:45 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Your welcome, but I’m mealry a prophet. And it is not hell at all when you don’t have to get high hopes and then be let down every year. I feel sorry for you f#ckers who felt like shit for days because you actually got suckered in again.

    • mashburnfan1
      8:21 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Next year could be bubble, could be title. Will depend on 2 things. 1. Do Hagans and Quickly get quite a bit better on offense and 2. must have at least 2 of the FR play like lottery picks all season. This is going by roster as it sits, obviously a very good transfer will slightly change it. Sad thing is we never know what we have till about December with this factory line Cal has made UK.

    • CATandMONKEY
      1:28 am April 18, 2019 Permalink

      The mentally deficient are out en masse tonight.

  10. dballrb
    3:52 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I do like his game though. If given more PT,I think he could’ve done a lot No one had much film on his style of play and toughness. Some players just have that natural sense of being on the court, like Herro has it)…Wish him the best.Hooe he does a Matthews and tears it up somewhere else.

  11. secrick
    3:59 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Drew it doesn’t matter if Cal and Barker got along or not, after your post people will say they didn’t.

  12. Le Docteur
    4:00 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I remember coaches used to say that a scholarship was just a one-year contract. Well, more and more, that’s going both ways. This is what true free agency looks like. Good luck Jemarl. And I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to coin the phrase “good 3-point shooting range; bad 3-point making range.”

    • 4everUKblue
      4:33 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Thank you Le Docteur for not being my doctor, seeing you on even an annual basis would really suck.

  13. JT55
    4:00 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Part of the problem is the culture at UK. Everyone wants to be a one and done. Whem they’re not, they leave anyways. Hard to build a roster this way.

  14. tdub
    4:08 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Drew, I agree. Good points

  15. BluemanGreen
    4:12 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink


  16. maildad
    4:28 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    He wasn’t the only one on a short leash. Many games him, EJ, Richards and sometimes quickley all had short leashes. It’s like cal forgets sometimes he has a bench at all. Last game against auburn I feel like the starting 5 must have been dead tired to end the game, they barely got a breather in the second half

    • BluemanGreen
      5:11 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Exactly maildad. Cal HAS to quit freaking out and actually use his bench. His utilization of Nick this season was just pathetic. No matter if it looks pretty or not he was our only shot blocker and a great lob outlet for drivers and could make shots. All things we couldve used. But no, he would make a mistake and sit out the rest of the game…while Ashton was allowed to make 5plus turnovers per game time and time again. Couldve used more shooting…but same thing with Baker. Hell didnt Nick have a game this year with 6 blocks in 8 minutes or something ridiculous?? and STILL couldnt stay on the floor! Baker only playing 3 minutes against Auburn was STUPID. They are known for their guards and speed…so keep fresh guys in! Its not that hard Cal. And now you are running players off because of it. Love 99% of what Cal has done but this frustrates me to no end about him

    • Memphis UK Cat
      8:07 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      I agree 100 percent. Cal choked wearing the starters out. I could not believe he did not play the bench more. I sat right behind the bench in INDY and they were not happy.

    • mashburnfan1
      8:23 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      You are thinking Cal will actually coach, hahahahahaha. Did same thing in Wisconsin game with twins. UConn game, WVU game and so many more HE lost us. Yes he wins alot of games but the big ones that matter he, like alot of FR, chokes. Trouble is he is not a FR.

  17. BigBlue4Three
    4:31 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Glad somebody else recognizes the fact that Cal has a whipping boy every year. This year he had 2 in Baker and Richards, any time there was a mistake made, Baker or Richards was surely coming out and being sent to the end of the bench. Don’t blame him for leaving at all. Just means Cal will have to double down on Richards or find a new whipping boy for next year.

  18. Cmart0907
    4:43 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Baker isn’t on anybody NBA radar that’s why. Cal shows favoritism and everybody knows it.

    • BluemanGreen
      5:11 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      at least we dont have 3 good players and a bunch of white boys like Puke…Cal just has to use them more or we will end up that way!

  19. DirtyDave
    5:12 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    He’s not leaving because he wasn’t a one and done…. not knocking the kid at all, however he was billed as a knockdown shooter and that didn’t really come to fruition. Kid had his opportunity and when the lights came on it just didn’t prove our. He was rightly frustrated and maybe a tad impatient along with being home sick. He will probably find success elsewhere and we should ALL just wish him the best!

    • mashburnfan1
      8:26 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      If you see my comments when he came out of High School I said he would never be a great shooter. Had a weird looking shot {I know Delk did as well and it worked for him} and was not a great maker in High School. His 3 point % was not good but just because kids shoot so many they are going to make some and people say they are great shooters. I would rather recruit great makers, give us the kids that make 40-50%, not make 40-50 of the 250 they shoot.

  20. TB112162
    5:21 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Drew I think you should be a coach?

  21. JATR4
    6:02 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I am a Baker fan but his foul on the three pointer. Stupid! I also hate stupid.

  22. AllBall
    7:39 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Barker’s defense in the Wofford game was fantastic. Major reason we won actually. For those questioning his NBA stock or the fact he didn’t become a knock down shooter, try playing the game w/o mins to prove yourself. Next yr when we are abysmal from 3 and need a perimeter threat, added depth, and defense remember what you said.

    • Memphis UK Cat
      8:08 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Exactly and then he see just a few minutes. I am pissed about losing Baker.

    • notFromhere
      9:42 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Me too. It’s frustrating to watch a team unable to develop and really use more than 7 people. I’m finally to the point where I think we’d have a title or two more if Cal could manage a bench and develop more. He just eliminates that potential for a guy to come off the bench and have a great game. Certainly easier to manage expectations if he does

    • notFromhere
      9:44 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

      But I don’t see practice. I don’t coach basketball. Doesnt matter what I think

  23. AllBall
    7:41 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    Furthermore, for those throwing shade about a foul or shooting. I recall Hagans having 7 to’s and Tyler Herro shooting 16.5% from 3 during the NCAA tournament. It’s all about perspective.

  24. Kat4Life
    9:33 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    I think it was playing time more than anything…..he could see the handwriting on the wall. He probably sees himself as a potential “go-to guy” at a smaller program, and that appeals to him. Hard to fault that. I wish him the best.

  25. notFromhere
    9:34 pm April 17, 2019 Permalink

    It’s weird how the some of the samefanbase who think Stoops doesn’t give Hoak a chance usually has no problem with Cal yanking a guy after one mistake, while the wheels are coming off for 3-5 other guys on the team. Just an observation

  26. Glock
    12:14 am April 18, 2019 Permalink

    I never thought hed be anything but a backup at best….hope he goes back to Cali and finds the right fit for him and his family. Best of luck to him

  27. TBW3011
    9:59 am April 18, 2019 Permalink

    Sucks we can’t keep guys like this. Nice player.