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What the heck is going on with John Calipari and Jarred Vanderbilt?

Jarred Vanderbilt, center, was all smiles Saturday even if John Calipari might have forgotten his name. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Do you really believe that John Calipari doesn’t know when or if a player is going to play and doesn’t even bother to ask the player or the medical staff?

That’s the spin that Kentucky coach is putting on injuries to Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green.

With Green, the freshman point guard, he’s missed the last two games with a back injury of some kind that he suffered in the loss to Tennessee.

Vanderbilt’s situation is a lot more perplexing. The freshman forward has yet to play after some kind of preseason leg injury. He also missed parts of his final two high school seasons with different leg injuries.

Jarred Vanderbilt was in uniform for Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt in Nashville that UK won 74-67 to go to 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play. That’s the first time this season he had been in uniform during a game.

Calipari said on his pregame comments on the UK Radio Network that he didn’t know if Vanderbilt was playing or not. He said the same thing again after the game after he didn’t play.

“I didn’t even ask him. I didn’t know if Jarred was going to play before the game. I’m just acting like he’s not here and if he is, they are they are. The problem with being injured when you’re on my teams, I really spend no time with you,” Caliipari said.

Spend no time with you? What does that mean? But it gets more interesting — or maybe challenging.

“Sometimes I forget names. Like I forget who he is. Because I’ve gotta focus on the guys I’m coaching right now. They’ve gotta get healthy and be ready to come back and be ready to go. Jarred’s the same,” Calipari said.

Forget names of a McDonald’s All-American like Vanderbilt? I’m not buying that — and neither are you.

Calipari said several days ago he thought Vanderbilt’s first game probably needed to be at home so he could get “love” from the UK fans.

So what does the freshman have to tell him before a game to led him know he’s ready to play?

“I’d like for him to give me more than what I would’ve gotten today because I didn’t see him all day. I don’t push kids. They know their pain. They also know their bodies,” Calipari said.

“I’m going to tell you what happens when you’re injured. It’s not physically, it’s as much mentally. And then conditioning. Those are the two things you’re missing. When he’s ready he’ll be here with us.”

Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, UK’s best player the last month, feels Jarred Vanderbilt is close to being back.

“He’s making steps every day, but I think we’re all just ready for him to come back and we can’t wait,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

I think Kentucky fans feel the same way. They are ready for him to come back — and ready to hear something a little more encouraging from Caipari. The way it is now, fans feel Calipari believes Vanderbilt has been ready to play but has refused to play.

“We know it’s going to be exciting playing with him. He’s going to bring a whole ‘nother element to the team and we just can’t wait,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

 

7 comments

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  1. You know Larry I have been wondering the same thing.

    1. Can’t help by wonder UKFMLY

  2. I have been feeling for weeks that JV is getting way too much pub and exposure for really being a non contributor on the team or on the floor. He has probably been more of a distraction for all to contend with. The last thing we need now is one more person out on the floor that is not mentally prepared to compete.

    1. Don’t think he has been a distraction Mike but I do worry that way too much is being expected out of him

  3. I think what Cal is saying is he believes these kids can play, but they will have to want to do so, and be willing to play through some pain. Calipari is still old school, and sees a difference between playing through pain, and playing when there is an injury or elevated risk of injury. However, Cal also understands that if he pushes a kid and the kid either actually does sustain an injury, or believes he has sustained or worsened an injury as a result of being “forced” to play, Cal runs a huge risk on many levels. In my view, Cal has decided to take a more prudent path for these reasons, leaving the decision entirely to the kids and his “camp”

    I fully understand why Cal would take such a posture, and I fully understand why this frustrates him so much. The press will continue to ask him about the availability of Green, Vanderbilt, etc. which means he will occasionally let his frustrations boil up into public view, like he did yesterday.

    1. Cal, “old school?” I don’t think so. His system is certainly not. Coach Frank Martin is old school. I think Calipari is doing more harm to the kid by not giving a clearer explanation as to what the situation really is unless it is a motivational problem. This leaving everything a mystery as to Vanderbilt’s health is hurting the kid’s future IMO. He just remarked the other day as I recall how Vanderbilt had made a recent practice more physical, which is exactly what this bunch needs big time. So which is it is my question? if he can be physical in practice, why couldn’t he get some game mins. and give the Cats more much needed depth? Has the medical staff cleared Vanderbilt, etc. If not, why not say that upfront? There is more to this. That to me is the only reasonable conclusion.

  4. Cal is as much old school as Martin.

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