A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keldon Johnson will stay in NBA Draft, ending collegiate career; Jemarl Baker to transfer

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Keldon Johnson is following in the footsteps of Tyler Herro and PJ Washington.

Nearly a week after declaring for the next level, Johnson announced his plans to stay in the NBA Draft, ending his collegiate career. Johnson started 36 games last season and averaged 13.5 points per game. He averaged 5.9 rebounds per game and was third on the team in both categories.

Keldon Johnson

“Big Blue Nation, thank you for my time here at Kentucky,” Johnson said. “I really enjoyed it. I had a wonderful experience. You guys made for the best year I could ever have. I really appreciate you guys taking me in as family and one of your own and supporting me through the thick and thin of the season and supporting this team. I want to thank my coaches: coach (John Calipari),  coach (Tony) Barbee, coach (John) Robic, Coach Joel (Justus) and coach (Kenny Payne) for just always being there for me and having my back. I want to thank my family and my friends back in South Hill (Virginia) for always being there for me when I need a hand.”

Calipari supported Johnson’s decision and said the Kentucky guard “has a game that will translate well to the next level.”

“Of all the players in this draft, he could have one of the best transitions physically and athletically,” Calipari said. “He has all the tools you look for in a player in that league, and what makes him special is his joy for the game and his passion to get better. He improved in all phases of his game this year and will continue to grow in the NBA. I’ll miss seeing that smile he brought to the gym every day but I’m happy for Keldon as he pursues his dream.”

The NBA Combine is set for May 15-19 in Chicago and the NBA Draft will be June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York.


Jemarl Baker has decided to transfer and finish his career elsewhere.

The redshirt freshman guard entered the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday and can transfer to another program without any restrictions. Baker becomes the third player to leave the program this week. Herro and Johnson opted to remain in the NBA Draft and declaring last week.

After consulting with his family, John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff, Baker decided “it’s in my best interest to continue my academic and basketball career elsewhere.”

“I’ve made life-long relationships with my brothers and the staff at Kentucky and have improved so much as a player,” Baker said. “I’m thankful for the opportunities it’s given me to be a part of this historic program. … I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for supporting me during my two years at Kentucky,” Baker said. “You are truly the best fans in the country and I’ve enjoyed my time here wearing the Blue and White.”

Calipari offered to help Baker land on his feet.

“We haven’t had many players leave us but in all cases, we stay in touch and continue to try to help,” Calipari said. “In Jemarl’s case, his injury in his first year and even the early part of this year set him back a little bit, but I still believe he’s an impact player who can score and defend. He’s a better defender than people give him credit for, and we knew we could play him this season in any situation because we knew he was always going to defend. I appreciate everything he did for this program. Like any kid that leaves us, I’ll be watching his career from afar. We’ll always be here for him.”

Baker sat out his freshman season because of a knee injury but played in 28 games for the Wildcats last year. He missed the first eight games, but appeared in 28 games and tallied eight points in a win over Wofford in the NCAA Tournament. He finished his Kentucky career with 64 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists, and 13 3-pointers.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment