UK gains two skill sets in the debut of one Jarred Vanderbilt


Kentucky freshman guard Hamidou Diallo and freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt cheer from the bench after a three pointer during the Kentucky Cares Classic charity game against Morehead State at Rupp Arena on Monday, October 30, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 92 to 67. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Chase Campbell

In a 68-76 loss to South Carolina, UK’s Jarred Vanderbilt made his debut, and he played a very promising game.

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He finished with six points, five rebounds, three assists and a block in 14 minutes. In the current official fantasy basketball format, his stat line would’ve earned him a respectable 17.5 fantasy points in his limited minutes.

“I thought he was pretty good for the first time out,” head coach John Calipari said. He revealed to media after the game that the team hasn’t scrimmaged much in practice with Vanderbilt on the floor.

This is far from the worst Vanderbilt could’ve done. In fact, one could argue this was an extremely promising game for Vanderbilt and his growth within the team. Standing 6-9, he played extended minutes at point guard while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sat with foul trouble and Quade Green was out with injury.

For this reason, the Cats have gained two players in Vanderbilt’s return from injury: Vanderbilt the guard and Vanderbilt the forward.

Vanderbilt the guard is the most talented passer on UK’s roster. He can use quick between-the-legs and behind-the-back dribbles to get around defenders while keeping his head up, looking for the open man. He can take the ball up the floor with ease and throw bullet passes all over the court. He’s not a scorer, but he can get the offense moving.

“[Vanderbilt]’s a great ball-handler,” said UK forward Kevin Knox. “He has a good feel for the game and good passing skills, so he can definitely help us handling the ball sometimes.”

Vanderbilt the forward needs a lot of work. He’s a good rebounder, but has difficulty finishing near the basket and matching up against larger players. He does, however, possess a decent array of hooks and floaters that he can use to score.

While sometimes listed as a center, he doesn’t have the presence under the basket to match up with a player like South Carolina’s Chris Silva (27 points, eight rebounds). He has extremely long arms and stays away from excessive fouling.

It is just one game, but Vanderbilt may be what the Cats need. He doesn’t hold on to the ball too long, he’s physical and he’s a capable ball-handler. It’ll take time for the Texas native to get into the swing of the college game, but he’s a player that UK desperately needed in his debut game, which saw 74 free throw attempts.

Only time will tell if both versions of Vanderbilt can become one NBA-caliber player.