By LARRY VAUGHT
ST. LOUIS — Kentucky apparently will be without freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt Friday when it plays Georgia in the SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt injured an ankle in practice Tuesday and apparently did not go through any workouts with the team the last two days.
After Georgia held off Missouri 62-60 Thursday to advance to the quarterfinal game against Kentucky, coach John Calipari revealed the news about Vanderbilt, who missed the first three months of the season
“I doubt seriously if Jarred will play. I don’t see it. He’s still limping, so I doubt tomorrow he will play. Hopefully at some point he tries to see what he can do, but I don’t think it’s tomorrow,” Calipari said.
If that doesn’t worry UK fans enough, consider the answer Calipari gave when asked if he remains hopeful will at least play in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
“He’s gotta make that decision, and last time it took time to do it, but it’s not going to be me making it. It’ll be him. Him and the doctors to make sure he’d be OK,” Calipari said.
Vanderbilt missed 17 games with a left foot injury — a problem he also had his junior and senior seasons in high school. He’s played in 14 games and has averaged 7.9 rebounds per game in less than 18 minutes per game.
Calipari said other players have to make up for Vanderbilt’s rebounding with their play.
“It gives Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Nick (Richards) a chance to play more. It gives us a chance to put Wenyen (Gabriel) at five. That makes us a different kind of team,” Calipari said. “What we have to do is make up for his energy. Someone’s gotta come in and it’s not one. Let’s all pick it up five percent.
“We’ve gotta pick up nine rebounds. So where are we going to get those nine? And those nine need to come from a couple … a couple from PJ (Washington), a couple from Wenyen, a couple from Kevin Knox, guards get a couple. Sacha, you and Nick together get a couple more than you’ve been getting. But he’s also active. We’ll miss him. It’ll be harder to play without him.”
One reason is because Vanderbilt and Washington, childhood buddies, play so well together. When they clicked, Kentucky became a much, much better team.
“They played buddy basketball. They both knew where each other were and they created new opportunities for each other. We’re gonna have to see if that can be Wenyen,” Calipari said. “Can that be him? How can we do this?”
Calipari has shown he can push the right buttons to inspire players in March to lead Kentucky to unexpected success. Can he do that again, especially with Vanderbilt’s status uncertain?
“Well, I’ve kind of been talking to –- in front of the team –- talking to Quade because he’s really, off the court, more disciplined in what he’s doing. Now you watch him on the court, more disciplined in what he’s doing,” Calipari said about his freshman point guard.
“He’s trying to play the way we’re asking him to play and you’re seeing him start to blossom. My guess is he’s going to be one of those guys that he could step out and make plays and do some stuff for us. Because guys gotta make basketball plays. What we’re trying to do is how good can we become as a team. Let’s do this game to game and let’s see if we can improve and get our mindset where it needs to be.”