Vanderbilt feels ready for college basketball


Freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt drives the lane during the game against Florida on Jan. 20, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Hunter Mitchell | Staff

When an athlete is injured, their physical ability is limited to where they cannot play or practice. What does that say, then, about the preparation of Big Blue Nation’s newest beacon of hope?

Jarred Vanderbilt, the 6-9 forward for UK basketball, excelled in his first game with the team in a loss at South Carolina. He sat out for over three months with an injury to his left foot, suffered during training camp.

Against the Gamecocks, Vanderbilt notched six points, five rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes during the 68-76 loss.

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said that Vanderbilt “changes the DNA of this team,” but how much was he able to stay in shape during his extended period away from basketball?

“I went through rehab, I listened to everything the doctors and the physical therapists had me doing, and I tried to trust the process,” Vanderbilt said. “Just worked every day. There were different types of ways (to do cardio). We have a pool, workout in the pool, zero-gravity (treadmill). Mainly just working out, that’s pretty much it.”

Vanderbilt also hadn’t practiced much with the team, which left his offensive capabilities limited. In one of their most recent games against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt shot 1-7 from the floor, missing the rim entirely on several of his shots. Only two teammates shot more than Vanderbilt that game, but only one teammate scored less than him.

After the team’s home loss to Florida, head coach John Calipari said that Vanderbilt could only run three or four plays on offense, and that he would look to the bench for direction on offense because of his limited experience.

About his offensive shortcomings, Calipari said after the Mississippi State win: “I’m going to meet with him and just say ‘What do you want me to do to get you involved offensively? What are you comfortable doing?’ Because he had seven rebounds in 11 minutes. Guys, he’s got to play.”

Before his first appearance against the Gamecocks, Vanderbilt had reportedly participated in only one scrimmage to that point, a number which has since significantly increased.

Vanderbilt also mentioned that he learned about the pace and style of college basketball simply by sitting and observing, but Calipari called it “almost hysterical” how Vanderbilt struggled to run the floor the first time he entered against South Carolina.

“[Vanderbilt] lasted about 30 seconds, but that’s as much anxiety as it is conditioning. And it’s normal stuff,” Calipari said.

The talented passer will look to mesh with the team as they head quickly toward the postseason.