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Kentucky basketball: John Calipari updates NCAA Tournament status for Jarred Vanderbilt

Jarred Vanderbilt missed Kentucky’s three SEC Tournament games with an ankle sprain, and the freshman forward isn’t likely to play during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Coach John Calipari provided an injury update Monday on the SEC teleconference.

“My guess would be hard this weekend,” Calipari said. “He wants to play, but I just don’t see it right now, putting him in there and being comfortable about it.”

Calipari said he won’t see Vanderbilt until Tuesday.

“He knows if he’s not able to go full bore, I’m not playing him — for him or for us,” Calipari said. “If he’s at 85-90 percent, I don’t think I play him. He’s proven who he is as a player, but more importantly, anyone that steps on that court that can’t bring it, these tournament games are life and death and the other team is gonna bring it.”

Vanderbilt missed Kentucky’s first 17 games of the season as he recovered from a foot injury. The ankle sprain is thought to be unrelated.

The 6-foot-9 freshman has been an elite rebounder for Kentucky — averaging 8 rebounds per game in just 17 minutes played per game. He’s averaging 6 points per game and is shooting 43 percent from the floor.

Kentucky managed to win the SEC Tournament without Vanderbilt, but the Wildcats are stronger with him.

“He’s definitely a big part to our team, and we definitely need him out there,” guard Hamidou Diallo said.

No. 5 seed Kentucky and No. 12 seed Davidson play at 7:10 p.m. ET on Thursday in Boise, Idaho.

If the Wildcats make it out of Boise with two wins, could Vanderbilt be ready for the Sweet 16 in Atlanta?

“Maybe,” Calipari said.

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