LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari said Thursday he still doesn’t know whether 5-star freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt will play this season for the Wildcats.
“It’s not going to be my call,” Calipari said. “It will be his. But he’s doing individual work right now. He’s not started practicing. So we’ll let it play out, and if he thinks it’s good for him to play, then he will play.”
Vanderbilt twice injured his left foot in high school and injured it again in September, on the eve of Kentucky’s first practice of the season. The initial plan was to have surgery, three months of rehabilitation and return in January.
But Vanderbilt saw a specialist and determined that he didn’t need to go under the knife, news that brought a renewed since of optimism that he would be on the court for the Wildcats sooner than later. Earlier this month, Calipari said he hoped Vanderbilt would begin practicing with the team by the end of November.
That obviously hasn’t happened, despite the fact that Vanderbilt has been doing light shooting drills with the team before every home game at Rupp Arena. Last week, he stepped out almost to the 3-point line for some of those shots and lifted almost off his tip-toes — an improvement from flat-footed shooting in previous appearances.
Progress Report: Jarred Vanderbilt has moved back and is almost getting airborne on these pregame shots now. pic.twitter.com/qXr7ake1Bu
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) November 26, 2017
One question posed to Calipari on Thursday: Could Vanderbilt practice right now if he felt comfortable testing his foot?
“Probably could if he were in the kind of shape he needed to be in,” the coach said, “but you go a step at a time with this stuff. You don’t just throw him in and say, ‘Start.’ ”
So while the Wildcats could use Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American who has been called the most versatile player on the roster, it seems there will be no rushing his return.