The last time we saw Jemarl Baker Jr. was on the court in Las Vegas helping Arizona move past the first round of the Pac-12 tournament with a 77-70 victory over Washington.
That was a little more than four months ago. It was also the last time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that Arizona and Baker competed on the hardwood.
Since then, a lot has happened with Arizona basketball, from signing a top-five recruiting class filled with international talent, to adding former Wildcat and NBA player Jason Terry to the coaching staff.
Arizona as an athletic department has seen its reentry plan for athletes put on pause due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases statewide.
According to a press release last week, the athletic department administered 366 COVID-19 tests for the 83 football players training on campus. Only three positive tests came back.
That is a low number compared to other universities, who are into the double digits.
Wednesday was the first time Baker was able to be interviewed since everything got shut down. Here are the top three things Baker said from his press conference interview:
1. On his health and healing during this long unexpected break:
“Last season, it was pretty hard because I feel like I was at about 70 percent. I messed up my hip right before the season, and that kind of trickled down to my knee being aggravated as well, and that hurt me defensively, I felt like I couldn’t move at times. This time has helped me a lot. It’s helped me get healthy. I feel really good right now. Being healthy gives you another sense of confidence in yourself in what you can do.”
2. On the addition of Jason Terry to the coaching staff:
“It’s extremely exciting just having someone that’s been there. He’s won a national championship here, he played in the NBA for a long time, and that’s something I want to do as well. So to have his presence around when we get to campus is going to be great for me and all of the other players to learn from him every day. I know I’m going to pick his brain, I’m just really excited to build a relationship with him and work with him, and hopefully, he can help me get to where I want to be in basketball.”
3. On all the uncertainty surrounding the world and if/when the season will be played:
“I honestly hate the uncertainty. The time has been beneficial to my body, but I feel like I’m healthy now. I feel like I’m ready to go. So, the uncertainty has been killing me. I’m trying to stay ready so that whenever the day comes when ever we are able to start to get going that I’ll be ready for the opportunity. The longer we wait, the more opportunity for me to continue work every day and get better, so whenever that day comes, I’ll be ready.”
The full press conference with Baker includes his thoughts on the international recruiting class and his first season in Tucson.