By LARRY VAUGHT
Will Jarred Vanderbilt play at South Carolina Tuesday night? Will he play against Florida Saturday? Will he play at all this season?
No one seems to know — or if they know they are not saying.
That’s why sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones might have put it best today when asked about UK’s freshman forward who has yet to play this year because of a preseason foot/leg injury?
“It’s good that we don’t know what he is, nobody knows what he is. He doesn’t know what he is. We’re going to see what it is,” Killeya-Jones said.
Killeya-Jones said the 6-9 Vanderbilt has practiced both with guards and forwards. He called him a “really good combo player” even if Killeya-Jones does not know what his best position is or will be if he plays.
“He’s a great player. He’s physical and everything. He’s still trying to come back from his injury, so he’s obviously not what he’s even going to be, which is great. But he’s definitely helped us in practice, even lining up the teams. It’s been really competitive. It’s been good,” Killeya-Jones said.
Kentucky associate coach Kenny Payne said Monday that Vanderbilt’s speed has been “unbelievable” since he started practicing recently.
“At 6-9 and whatever he weighs, he can really move. His ball handling is exceptional. His ability to make plays for other people, really, really good,” Payne said. “He is literally like a point forward. He’s tough, he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s good defensively. He rebounds the ball. He’s going to add a dimension to this team that is going to enhance what we do when he is ready to play.”
So when will he be ready?
“We’re leaving it up to him. First of all, I think when you talk about a kid that’s coming off an injury and getting healthy, there’s a mental thing there he has to get over. It’s been a long time since he’s played basketball,” Payne said. “He’s going to have some aches and pains.
“He has to be able to practice and get through those aches and pains and feel comfortable. He’s getting to that point. I don’t know if he’s there yet. Coach Cal doesn’t know if he’s there yet. But I do know that he’s getting to the point where he’s feeling more comfortable. Hopefully it’s soon.”
Payne had a little advice for those believing Calipari should demand that Vanderbilt play now.
“It’s wrong for adults to force a kid to do anything when they don’t feel like they are ready yet. Coach is never going to do that to a kid. We don’t do that here,” Payne said.
Calipari said after last week’s home win over Texas A&M that Vanderbilt’s first game back probably should be in Rupp Arena where fans could show him some “love” in his UK debut.
Payne said he’s not sure when the first game will be.
“I think that depends on Jarred and where he is mentally,” Payne said. “That depends on how he feels. As he says ‘I’m a goon.’ Which means I’m a tough dude, I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior. Then it doesn’t matter where I start at. That’s out of his mouth.”