LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky men’s basketball freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt will forego his remaining eligibility at UK and remain in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Wildcats’ leader in rebounding average in 2017-18 will join teammates Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Wenyen Gabriel and Kevin Knox in the draft. Earlier Wednesday, PJ Washington announced that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season while Gabriel indicated that he will remain in the draft.
“Being a professional basketball player has always been a dream of mine,” Vanderbilt said. “From the moment I first picked up a basketball when I was 4 years old, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. These past couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for me. With everything I went through this past season, I’ve had a lot to think about and what’s best for me and my future. Through it all, I’ve become a better man on and off the court.
“First off, I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity because without Him, none of this would be possible. I also want to thank all of the people in my life who have supported me throughout this entire process – from my family, to my teammates, to the coaches and UK staff, and most importantly the fans. The relationships I’ve built here will last a lifetime and I will cherish the memories I’ve made here forever.
“After going through the process, I was able to get some positive feedback that confirmed what I had hoped: that my time is now. It is going to be tough to leave this place, but I’ve decided to remain in the NBA Draft and pursue my dreams now.”
Using NCAA rules that allow players to “test the waters’ and go through the NBA Draft process, Vanderbilt received feedback from NBA teams but remained eligible because he didn’t hire an agent. Vanderbilt received an NBA Draft Combine invite but elected not to attend.
But after a strong – albeit shortened season – in which Vanderbilt showed his potential, athleticism and versatility, he elected Wednesday to remain in the draft.
“Although I didn’t get to play a complete season like I initially intended, I’m still thankful for the opportunity I had to put a Kentucky uniform on and play for my dream school.
“I am very grateful I was able to play in front of the greatest fans in the world. I want to thank you for giving me support as I went through this process. You guys supported me throughout the year as I went through my injury and welcomed me with open arms when I got back on the court. This place is very special to me because of you all. Thank you for helping make Kentucky a second home for me. Big Blue Nation, I’ll forever bleed blue with you guys.”
The NBA Draft will be held June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“Jarred had a difficult decision to make,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I know he has been pulled in two different directions. On one hand he wants to show our fans what he can do in a full season and compete for a championship. I know he feels like he got that taken away from him this year. On the other hand, he’s seen how quickly this can be taken away. I completely understand and support his decision to get healthy and pursue his dreams now. As I said before, we’ve only seen a small part of his game because of the adversity he faced this season, but he’s got the motor and skill set that will serve him well at the next level.”
Vanderbilt was limited to 14 games in 2017-18 because of a left foot injury that sidelined him the first 17 games of the season and then a left leg injury that kept him out of the postseason. When Vanderbilt was on the floor, he was a problem for opposing teams.
Once cleared, he was thrown right into the mix at South Carolina and immediately showcased his ability to rebound and distribute the basketball. In addition to posting six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes, the 6-foot-9 forward took over “point forward” responsibilities in his first career game and dished out three assists.
Vanderbilt would go on to grab at least five rebounds in his first four games, including 11 key boards in the 17-point comeback victory at No. 7/7 West Virginia.
As Vanderbilt knocked off the rust and figured out his role with the team, his minutes went up. He flirted with a double-double (eight points, 10 rebounds) at Missouri and nearly had three straight double-doubles vs. Alabama (11 points, nine rebounds), at Arkansas (11 points, nine rebounds) and at home vs. Mizzou (11 points, career-high 15 boards). He was tabbed Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after the first two of that three-game stretch.
Vanderbilt grabbed 10 or more rebounds in five of his last six games and led UK in rebounding average with 7.9 boards per game. He also averaged 5.9 points per game. As a senior at Victory Prep Academy, Vanderbilt averaged 28.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists a game.