After Jarred Vanderbilt gave fans hope for his debut with an Instagram post earlier this week, we expected a major update regarding his status from John Calipari’s Friday press conference. Turns out, it was more of the same from Calipari, who said he will not play Vanderbilt unless it benefits Vanderbilt.
“I’ll just say it again: He’s not playing to help us win; we’re not going to do that,” Calipari said. “If I don’t think that he’s capable of playing to the level he needs to play, I won’t play him; whether he begs me to go in — I’m not. We’re not just trying to put a guy in that’s going to damage him, to win more games. I just don’t do that. He’s going to have to prove to me that he’s going to be able to go. I’m not saying, you know, he’s 107 percent — I’m just saying he can go and compete at a high level and not damage himself.”
To me, this says Calipari is protecting Vanderbilt long term and it’s almost identical to the Hamidou Diallo situation last year, although Vanderbilt’s is injury related. Last year fans were dying to see Diallo play, but Calipari knew the late arrival had Diallo behind everyone else, and he would risk being exposed by playing too soon. I think it’s the same for Vanderbilt once he is fully healthy and ready to go. Vanderbilt is already so far behind, he could look terrible if he were to play too soon, which would have a major impact on his long term goal. Cal wants to know Vanderbilt is ready to play at a “high level,” as he said, before throwing him into the fire when he’s at a disadvantage by missing many months of important practices and game experience.
If this goes on another two or three weeks, I don’t think we see Jarred Vanderbilt all season, and maybe ever if he decides to roll the dice in the NBA draft.