With sophomore point guard Quade Green transferring out during the midst of Kentucky’s season, the “next man up” mentality turned towards Jemarl Baker.
True freshman Immanuel Quickley was assumed to receive a sizable portion of what were Green’s minutes, but instead, both Baker and Quickley played the same amount (15) of minutes against North Carolina.
The redshirt freshman guard actually ended up playing more in the second (8 minutes) than Quickley (5) and was even getting crunch time minutes.
Neither did much offensively on Saturday, as Baker was held scoreless and Quickley tacked on two lone free throws. However, against Utah a week before, Baker received some run late in the game that flashed his ability to catch and shoot behind the arc.
Baker came into the game for a mere two minutes and immediately made his presence felt, hitting both of his three-point attempts.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming after Baker put up huge numbers at UK’s Pro Day in October. According to ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony, Baker led the team in lane agility and ¾-court sprint times. His 10.24-second lane agility time ranked among the top-20 all-time in ESPN’s database.
We saw that put to use on Saturday as Baker was tasked with keeping up with the Tar Heels’ up-tempo pace that led to a lot of transition attempts. Overall, Baker did a good job of staying with his man and not getting beat on defense, which will only help his cause going forward.
As the seasons moves along, a battle between Baker and Quickley for Green’s old minutes wouldn’t come as a surprise. Both players bring something different to the table, which is a feature that head coach John Calipari should exercise.
Quickley boasts excellent speed and play-making ability (see the Bahamas), and it’s known that Baker is certainly a talented shooter when on the hardwood. Once Baker becomes fully healthy, though, don’t be surprised if Quickley begins to take a partial back seat.