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Jarred Vanderbilt’s strength is in his versatility, but Kentucky just hasn’t quite figured out how to use it yet

After months of anticipation, Jarred Vanderbilt has returned from his mysterious foot injury and is finally beginning to make a real impact on the court. And although he hasn’t completely lived up to the (ridiculously-high) expectations of hopeful fans thus far, he has changed the dynamic of the team. In the South Carolina game – his first college matchup – he gave us six reasons to be really excited for his season. But the brightest news surrounding the 6-foot-9 forward stems from his versatility.

In just three short games, he’s emerged as one of (if not the) best passer on the team; he’s showed us he can guard the perimeter; he’s most definitely showed us he can provide a much-needed energy boost and a sense of urgency. Along with Wenyen Gabriel, Vanderbilt is slowly but surely becoming the motor of this team.

“Jarred can do anything. I mean, he’s a facilitator,” PJ Washington said. “He can play the one-through-five. He’s strong; he can rebound. He rebounds pretty well, obviously. And he can definitely shoot the ball. He’s just a great player. It’s just hard for him to find his niche right now.”

Where he’s still searching is in learning how to get comfortable taking balanced, quality shots. In last night’s win over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt recorded seven rebounds in just 11 minutes, proving why Kentucky, a team that desperately needs guys who can step up and secure rebounds, needs him on the court. But on the other end of the ball, he struggled, finishing the night with 1-7 shooting from the field.

We haven’t figured him out yet,” Calipari said after the game. “But I’m going to meet with him and spend some time with him and try to get better at what I’m doing to get him involved offensively so he can stay on the court.”

And Kentucky needs him on the court. When foul trouble hits or when Quade Green is having an off-night, the Cats need a go-getter who can do exactly that: go get it done.

“I think he’ll be a guy that gives great energy off the bench,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander responded when asked where Vanderbilt could be by the end of the season. “I think he’ll be a playmaker. Sometimes he could probably give me and Quade [Green] a break because he can run the one. He has to get more comfortable in the offense – he’s still so new to it. But I think he’ll be good in multiple ways.”

Now, I’m not suggesting Vanderbilt is this team’s best player… yet. The guy’s only competed in three collegiate games, and he’s averaging under 14 minutes in each. But if this is what Vanderbilt can do after training on zero-gravity treadmills and shallow pools for several months, it’s safe to say he could begin to really establish his dominance in the upcoming games as he gets more and more comfortable on the floor.

Just in time.


Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

19 Comments for Jarred Vanderbilt’s strength is in his versatility, but Kentucky just hasn’t quite figured out how to use it yet

  1. JATR4
    2:11 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    In three games and only 38 minutes of action, Vanderbilt gas 18 rebounds!

  2. unbridled
    2:28 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    We are seeing just the tip of the iceberg with Vanderbilt. When he gets his “game legs” and continuity with the team….look out. The guy is dynamic. Scoring be damned, the kid is a game changer.

  3. jduff32
    2:30 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    I think he’s better when we brings the ball up the floor. He sees the entire court. He did that against SC. Use him while you got him. In the last two games he’s always looking back for the ball in transition.

  4. jonthes
    2:30 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    He needs to be posted at the foul line against zones – or anything else and either screen for Shai’s drives, screen for Kevin’s threes or pass to him and let him lob it to the big guys. You can see he’s coming on.

    • FACTS
      3:14 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink


    • KentuckyBoy
      4:29 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      Exactly what I think. Run the offense through him at the foul line. This team is going to be alright. They have had to adapt to adversity all year. If everyone stays healthy, come March – they are a tough out in the tourney. I wouldn’t want to play us. We will probably be the toughest 7-8 seed out there.

  5. dbake
    2:56 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    You can see the rust falling off him every game. Once he is in game shape he will be the best player on the roster. On a different note, can anyone explain to me why Nick Richards starts these games. He is by far the rawest player on the team. Jones or Gabriel, even Vanderbilt needs the start over him. Richards needs to come off the bench with limited minutes

    • Ukgrad2006
      3:13 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      couldn’t agree more

    • FACTS
      3:15 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink


    • henderblue
      4:27 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      I don’t know why he starts but other guys are getting his minutes. And rightfully so at this point

    • unbridled
      8:54 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      I agree. I don’t get it.

    • Aar
      10:33 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      Richards is starting because he’s pretty good at the jump ball. Not Boogie or Ant good but prolly best on this team. He’s getting minutes because of his reputed work ethic. Some times he has really good rotations and he may get consistent by the end of the season. The only way to find out is to keep giving him minutes.

  6. Willis talkin bout....
    3:15 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    I’ll just be glad when he doesn’t get cotton mouth anymore! Dude needs some gum or something. Once this kids nerves get settled and he gets in better condition. He is going to be special!

  7. DelrayCat
    3:18 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    Not trying to be negative nancy here….but, can he shoot?
    I have yet to see him have anything remotedly close to a jump shot.
    Hope I’m wrong.

    • crazycatfan65
      3:24 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      He’s got a nice stoke. I think he is just struggling with nerves and pressing a bit to much.

    • DelrayCat
      3:40 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      No doubt, JV has a great skill-set. Big guys that can pass well, bring the ball up, and basically run the offense from the forward position are rare, so his NBA potential doesn’t necessarily depend on him being a polished shooter (aka Ben Simmons, Michael Kidd-Gilcrest)…. But he does need to get over the nervy jitters sooner rather than later and start with becoming a better finisher around the rim.

    • Drogon
      4:51 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      You are not wrong in asking if he can shoot. The answer is No. He’s a horrible shooter. Arguably the worst shooter Cal has brought in. He does a lot of things really well though and his shot will get better with age and work, but right now he’s a finisher around the rim. He’s not a mid-range or 3 point shooter.

    • unbridled
      8:57 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

      I don’t think it matters if he’s a pure shooter. The kids game is such that I think this team will drastically improve when he can remain on the floor for longer periods of time. Defense, rebounding, passing, offensive put backs….he changes the team.

  8. bbnZach
    9:08 pm January 24, 2018 Permalink

    He’s the best player on the team when he settles in.