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In UK Debut, Jarred Vanderbilt Proves He’s The Player Kentucky Needed

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Jarred Vanderbilt is the catalyst John Calipari’s 2018 Kentucky Wildcats have been looking for.  He did not post an extravagant stat line.  He did not dominate the game in any one particular way.  That’s what makes him perfect for this team.

Vanderbilt’s surprise debut at South Carolina began with a flurry of frantic play all over the court.  A wild missed four-footer barely hit the rim.  An interior pass was thrown ten times too strong.  He picked up a quick foul.  He did everything you expect a kid to do in the first two minutes of his first college game.

Once Vanderbilt shook off the jitters, he plugged holes in UK’s sinking life-boat.

Without Quade Green for the third straight game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finally found himself on the bench in foul trouble.  Hamidou Diallo was sitting right next to him on the bench, leaving Brad Calipari as the only guard available.  Vanderbilt was prepared to fill the hole.

The 6’9″ small forward seamlessly turned into a point forward.  The operator of the offense found Calipari for an open three.  He turned an offensive rebound into an assist, an And One to Sacha Killeya-Jones.  Even if the possession did not end in points, it ended with a good look that Vanderbilt created in the midst a choppy, physical game that had zero offensive flow.  That was just while he was running point in the half-court.

On the other end of the court Vanderbilt played exceptional help defense, recovering in time to deny Chris Silva a dunk.  If he cleaned the defensive glass, he was leading the Kentucky fast break.  Once while running the floor, he turned one sloppy transition pass into a bucket for a teammate. Against South Carolina’s zone defense, he picked it apart from the middle with a finesse UK fans had not seen in 2018.

We’ve seen all of Vanderbilt’s teammates do all of those things to become a 14-win team, but as the final score indicated, putting a consistent product on the floor is a problem for this team.  Vando can solve that problem by picking up the slack.

Kentucky’s newest player finished his first game with 6 points (2-5 FG), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a block, 2 turnovers and a +7, second only to Sacha Killeya-Jones.

Vanderbilt did a little bit of everything that everybody else couldn’t do tonight.  The only problem is that he only did it in 14 minutes.  Out of playing shape, Vanderbilt scored Kentucky’s final field goal with 6:33 to play, but Calipari could not keep the gassed athlete on the court much longer.

The UK debut of Jarred Vanderbilt ended sourly but provided plenty of promise.  Is it unfair to extrapolate a debut into exceptionally high expectations?  Of course; just ask Morakinyo Williams.

What makes Vanderbilt different than others is how he will help this team.  He does not need to score to be an impact player.  Tonight he proved he can do all of the little things to make sure Kentucky is clicking whenever they take the court.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

15 Comments for In UK Debut, Jarred Vanderbilt Proves He’s The Player Kentucky Needed

  1. number9RoyHobbs
    12:13 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    Magic. Johnson.

  2. Eazy
    12:14 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    I actually feel better about our chances after tonight. He is legit. We will be really good by March with Green and JV starting.

    • Bleedblueky
      7:24 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

      LOVE HIS ENERGY & GREAT EFFORT and we’ll be scary GOOD in March 🙂

  3. CatesDuncan
    12:21 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    When all of the players are back and fresh, I’ll be exited to see what they can do

  4. number9RoyHobbs
    12:24 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    But for real, here’s my point on saying JV looks like a young magic Johnson. Before getting the ball, it seems as though he knows where the next pass should go. Look at that little tip pass he made to Richards that Richards didn’t even begin to think was coming his way. He’s also able to see passing lanes that others can’t and get the ball into the hands of his teammates in places that that look impossible. Dude is legit. He’s one step ahead and I think he may be what catapults UK to the next level. Watch Magic Johnson: Art of the Pass and tell me I’m lying with that comparison

    • Aar
      7:31 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

      Take us to church!

      I hope he can give us 20 minutes per game at that intensity by the end of the season, sub himself when he gets gassed AND he gets more integrated with the team’s on court chemistry.

      I like this team’s ceiling is that happens.

      Gotta say that I liked the progress from Richards last night. Need more of that.

  5. KYcats11
    12:25 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    He looked crazy good tonight. I was selfishly hoping Cal would put him in late in the game.

  6. Bluebloodtoo
    1:46 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    Vando?! Pleaseno!

  7. wyatts1
    2:15 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    Now we can get our true team chemistry lined up and as Coach Cal would say “let’s ball” or something like that. Kids the real deal and I’m glad all my complaining on KSR about him playing was taken under advisement 😎

  8. kentuck1
    8:44 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    18 games in, we need a starting five. And it doesn’t necessarily have to include the big guys. After all, we did all right with Rupp’s Runts. The five best players should be on the floor most of the time. It does not bode well to be shuffling line-ups at this time of the season. Basketball is still a team sport, and as Dick Vitale said, paraphrasing, guarding the basketball is more important than guarding your man when it is headed toward the basket. Just my opinion.

    However, we should note that we have a very short bench with all the injuries. But we should not use that as an excuse.

  9. Rain1940
    9:25 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

    Roush is as loose with the facts on basketball as he is on football. Calipari didn’t hit a three point shot, didn’t score at all. If you are going to be a writer, at least get your facts straight. Vanderbilt did show great potential on a team that desperately needs him, maybe to put Diallo on the bench.

    • Booby Petrino
      9:38 am January 17, 2018 Permalink

      Settle down, there rain. You are the one who doesn’t understand here. He never said Calipari HIT and open three. He said Venderbilt found him for a wide open three (meaning the shot). He was talking about Venderbilt’s ability to pass the ball. Lighten up, grumpster.

    • Luether
      3:18 pm January 17, 2018 Permalink

      Calipari couldn’t hit the ocean if his Dad put him on the beach…