The offseason used to never seem long enough for Jemarl Baker Jr. Now it feels like it will never end.
“I honestly hate the uncertainty,” Baker said Wednesday via Zoom from his bedroom in Menifee, Calif., where he’s been holed up since March when his first season with the Arizona Wildcats was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. “The uncertainty is killing me. I’m trying to just stay ready, get myself ready, so whenever the date comes, whenever we’re able to start get going that I’ll be ready for my opportunity.”
Emphasis on whenever. Baker said he and his teammates have no set date as to when they are expected to return to the UA campus. The original plan was for he and the rest of the Wildcats to start showing up on July 6, but after the school paused its athlete re-entry plan in late June that date went out the window.
“We’re hoping for August, that’s what they’ve been telling us,” Baker said. “Sometime in mid-August. Right now we have no idea. Whenever they tell me (to come) I’m not too far, I’m only a 6-hour drive (away).”
Baker said he normally would spend only about a month at home between seasons. This home visit has lasted around four months and counting.
And while the oft-injured guard considers the extra time at home a blessing, he knows that the tradeoff is not having as close a connection with his teammates, the majority of whom he’s yet to meet in person. Arizona has seven incoming freshmen, plus graduate transfer Terrell Brown, that to this point he’s only interacted with virtually.
“I haven’t met up with any of them, but I talk to them often,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Ira (Lee). We’ve been having team Zoom meetings and we talk to everybody. B-Will is one of my friends. I talk to him often. I was actually playing a (video) game with him last night. I talk to James (Akinjo) every once in a while, just talking to everybody seeing how they’re doing and we’re all looking forward to getting back to campus whenever that would be.”
Baker said he has complete confidence in those who will decide when he and his teammates can come back to Tucson. The same applies to how the school decides to conduct classes, whether it be in person or virtually.
Baker said that, if given a choice, he would prefer to do his coursework online in order to better plan out his day between school, practice and workouts.
“I’m not somebody that really needs to go places to hang out with a lot of people or anything like that,” he said. “I’m completely comfortable if I’m if I’m at home and be able to talk to people on the phone or play a video game with people and have somewhere to work out. If that’s the case for me, I’ll be good.”