By LARRY VAUGHT
His defensive play was something Kentucky really needed in its win over Wofford in the NCAA Tournament last weekend, but don’t forget that redshirt freshman guard Jemarl Baker also scored a combined 15 points in the two NCAA wins.
“I just want to come out and bring energy and make an impact on the game. I just want to come in and play hard and do what I can,” Baker said.
Kentucky could need him to do that and more Friday night when it plays Houston in Kansas City in the Midwest Region semifinals.
“I just go out and play my game and whatever people think, that’s fine,” Baker said.
He came to UK regarded as a 3-point shooting specialist. He can shoot but he always insisted he could also do more, including playing defense like he has this season.
“I have always been a good defender. My dad stressed it growing up from a young age. I have gotten better and for sure have room to get better but I have been defending all my life,” Baker said.
One thing that never changes is his personality. He’s always smiling and encouraging others no matter what.
“Just a great supporting cast around me. I love my family, I love my friends. They just help me get through every tough situation, every good situation and keep me even,” Baker said.
He went through a stretch this season where he had trouble making shots. If it bothered him, it never showed.
“You figure the next one is going in but you also get in the gym and work harder and put up more shots so your mind is more comfortable and you are more confident as well,” Baker said. “We are all in the gym. Everybody is in the gym. It is not just like me. Everybody does it.
“We have great chemistry on the court and off. I love playing with the freshmen, but then again I love playing with everybody.”