Assessing Arizona’s scholarship situation after adding Jemarl Baker

So much talent, so few scholarships.

Such is the first-world problem facing the Arizona Wildcats with Tuesday’s news that former Kentucky guard Jemarl Baker Jr. picked them as his transfer destination.

The former 4-star recruit won’t be eligible until the 2020-21 season, but Baker’s arrival will impact next year’s team because he will occupy one of the 13 allotted scholarship slots available to Division I men’s basketball teams. This was also the case when Chase Jeter transferred from Duke and sat out the 2017-18 season and when Dylan Smith sat out the 2016-17 campaign following his transfer from UNC-Asheville.

But the difference between those seasons and this one is that, as it stands right now, Arizona technically has 16 scholarship players on its 2019-20 roster:

Suffice it to say, it won’t stay that way. Arizona has to clear out three spots over the summer, though one is a given: DesJardins, who was a walk-on for his first two years in the program, will go back to paying his own way after making the most of an open scholarship in 2018-19.

After that it gets a little more complicated.

One spot could open up if Randolph, who declared for the NBA Draft, opts to remain in the draft. He has until May 29 to make that decision and retain his college eligibility, though he could also withdraw and choose to transfer to another school. Considering the overabundance of guards on the roster, Randolph is far from assured to retain his starting spot and could struggle to get meaningful minutes.

The same goes for guards Smith, Barcello and Doutrive, with Smith figuring to be the most likely to look elsewhere since he’s on track to graduate this summer and would be eligible to play immediately.

Another scholarship could open if one of the incoming freshmen asks for his release, and many (internet) signs point to that being Armstrong. The 4-star signee has removed all mentions of Arizona from his Twitter and Instagram pages, and the Michigan native’s two most recent tweets could be interpreted as him looking to play in his home state:

Then again, they could just mean he’s excited to visit his old stomping grounds after graduating from Bella Vista Prep in Phoenix.

Whatever the case, Arizona finds itself in a situation almost completely opposite of last season, when it began with a shorthanded roster that only got thinner as freshman Omar Thielemans departed in the preseason and Emmanuel Akot left the team in January. That made injuries to Jeter, Williams and seniors Justin Coleman and Ryan Luther even more pronounced than they’d have been had Arizona had a full compliment of 13 scholarship players at its disposal all season.