Jemarl Baker Jr. slumped in the second half of the 2019-20 season, but it makes a whole lot of sense now. Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller told Brian Jeffries that Baker played “at about 80 percent” in his first season at the UA due to an injured knee.
“He was healthy enough to not further damage his knee but I don’t know if he ever hit his stride where physically he was right there tip-top shape for the stretch run of our season,” Miller said. “And we’re hoping we can get him to that as he’s been with us for a year, having a great offseason.”
Injuries unfortunately have been a theme of Baker’s college career to this point. He also missed his entire freshman season at Kentucky with a torn meniscus, was limited by that same knee as a redshirt freshman, and then suffered a hip injury soon after arriving at Arizona, causing him to miss half of UA’s early-season practices.
Nonetheless, Baker got off to a scintillating start with the Wildcats, averaging 8.7 points per game over his first six games while shooting 55 percent from 3 and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 23:2.
But he shot 27 percent from the field over his final 12 games, eventually finishing with an underwhelming shooting line of .362/.343/.826.
It’s probably fair to expect more from him next season and he could get more time off-the-ball now that Arizona has more ball handlers like James Akinjo, Kerr Kriisa, Terrell Brown, Dalen Terry and Brandon Williams.
“Jemarl shoots the ball really well. He now knows our system,” Miller said. “As you know, we played him at both the point guard and the two a year ago. I keep bringing up three guards. He’s somebody that can play in any one of those three-guard positions that I’m talking about. And again, somebody who’s been through a number of experiences that will really help our team and certainly like Ira (Lee) be one of our team’s leaders.”