By LARRY VAUGHT
It was about a year ago that I talked to Houston Victory Prep standout Jarred Vanderbilt in person for the first time. I was impressed with his size, character, humble attitude and maturity. On the court, I was impressed by almost everything about him.
I also remember after watching him play at the McCracken County Mustang Madness and was impressed by his ability at 6-8 to play “position-less” basketball. He could pass, handle the ball, rebound and score.
I thought then he would be a perfect fit at Kentucky and got the sense he liked the UK program a lot.
Today the Houston player verbally committed to Kentucky during a ceremony ESPNU and on social media.
“He just decided a couple of days ago to go ahead and get this done and get ready for the next level,” his father, Robert Vanderbilt, said today. “We appreciate all the love and support we are getting from Kentucky fans. Now it is done and we can move forward.
“We prayed a lot as a family and individually about this. We had good visits around the country, but just felt this was the right spot for him and where he was most comfortable and the type of team he wanted to be part of. That was the key.”
He joins a loaded 2017 recruiting class for coach John Calipari. Philadelphia point guard Quade Green, Chattanooga guard Shai Alexander, Las Vegas power forward P.J. Washington and New Jersey center Nick Richard all signed with UK in November. Alexander is a four-star player, the others are all five-star recruits. All are top 50 players and Vanderbilt is consensus top 15.
Vanderbilt chose the Wildcats over North Carolina, TCU and Oregon.
“I prayed. I’ve talked to my family,” Jarred Vanderbilt said during the announcement. “Just after evaluating, we came to the conclusion this was the best possible fit for me. … I just felt like (Kentucky) had a family atmosphere when I went out there.”
He took his official visit to UK in October along with his parents, who both played college basketball. He cited the way Calipari develops players “on and off the court” as a big reason he picked UK.
Robert Vanderbilt said they talked to Calipari and his staff about how they would utilize Jarred and liked what they heard.
“The visibility you get playing for a program like Kentucky is very important, too,” Robert Vanderbilt said.
The Vanderbilts know Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox, who is from Houston and played on the same AAU team — Houston Hoops — with Jarred Vanderbilt.
“They are pretty tight. They have kept in touch and on our visit he came by and hung out and took Jared around,” Robert Vanderbilt said. “I am sure De’Aaron had some impact on Jarred. He is like part of our family and we know his family well.
“We see what he has done there as a freshman and the way coach Cal has used his talent and see he can utilize Jarred’s talent the same way. De’Aaron is a good kid. I have always told him we were going to follow his footsteps because he is such a good example. And now we are doing just that coming to Kentucky.”