By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky won the Southeastern Conference Tournament without Jarred Vanderbilt. Now it likely will have to win without Vanderbilt to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament.
The freshman forward injured his ankle in practice Tuesday and was not in uniform for any of UK’s three SEC tourney win. Kentucky coach John Calipari didn’t make it sound Monday like Vanderbilt would play Thursday when UK takes on Davidson in Boise, Idaho, or even Saturday if Kentucky advances to play either Arizona or Buffalo.
“He knows if he is not able to go full bore I am not playing him,” Calipari said Monday.
The coach said he wouldn’t see Vanderbilt until Tuesday because the team had Monday off.
“Anyone who steps on the court and can’t bring it … these tournament games are life and death,” Calipari said. “He wants to play but I just don’t see it right now, putting him in there and being comfortable about it.”
Vanderbilt missed UK’s first 17 games with a foot injury. He’s been a rebounding machine since his return but the sprained ankle has stopped him and Calipari said last week it would be up to the player when he returned. The coach had a different theme Monday when he said Vanderbilt apparently wanted to play but the coach was not on board yet.
“My guess would be hard this weekend (for him to play),” Calipari said.
The 6-9 freshman is averaging eight rebounds per game in just 17 minutes per game.