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California Dreamin’

BY LARRY VAUGHT

Jemarl Baker Sr. has not made the trip from California to Kentucky to see his son, redshirt freshman Jemarl Baker, play since the preseason Blue-White Game. However, he’s making the trip to Lexington Jan. 26 to see the Cats host Kansas. 

“We are very excited about that game for sure,” Baker Sr. said.

That excitement elevated when his son finally got healthy enough to play. He did not play in the first eight games after the knee issue that forced him to redshirt flared up. However, he’s now not only playing, but impressing coach John Calipari with his overall play that has proven he’s more than just a shooter.

“All he wants to do is win,” Baker’s father said. “That’s the way he was raised. He gets just as much enjoyment out of a pass or defense as he does scoring. He just plays. If you need him to score, he’ll score. He will give you ball movement if you need that. If you need him to shut down a player, he can do whatever.

“I always knew he needed to be a point guard who could shoot like a two guard. He plays the point but the goal was to always him shoot like a two at the same time. But he has really good court vision, too, and is a good passer as people are seeing.”

His struggle to overcome his high school knee injury led the family to wondering at times if he would ever be able to play again.

“He always wanted to make sure he was as positive as possible with his team. He’s really a positive kid and I was really proud of his approach when he couldn’t play,” Baker Sr. said. “Was he frustrated? Of course he was. There was a time we knew he might not be back out there. We didn’t believe it, but we also knew it was possible. To see him out there now for one minute or two minutes, we are happy. To get 13 minutes (like he got against Texas A&M), we were ecstatic.”

Still, Baker Sr. knows he could face one major problem when he comes to the UK-Kansas game.

“I am a California kid and Jemarl tells me it might be 10 degrees that day,” Baker Sr. said. “Mid-60’s is a bad day for us. I am in a jacket when it is that cold. If it is 10, I will be freezing. I got to get a heavy coat, hat and some stuff. This California kid can’t take that kind of cold.”

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