ST. LOUIS — Kentucky could be without its energizer on Friday as the Wildcats open play against Georgia in the SEC Tournament. Freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt is doubtful, coach John Calipari said in a news conference Thursday night.
Vanderbilt is dealing with an ankle injury he suffered Tuesday in practice, the coach confirmed. The new injury isn’t related to prior injury issues with his left foot.
“I doubt tomorrow he will play,” Calipari said. “Hopefully at some point he tries to see what he can do. But I don’t think it’s tomorrow.”
We’re told Vanderbilt hobbled out of a 2-on-2 drill in practice Tuesday and did not return. He was taken for evaluation, per SEC Country sources.
In 14 games this season — after he missed Keuntucky’s first 17 with a third injury to his left foot since high school — Vanderbilt has averaged 7.9 rebounds per game in just 17 minutes. The Wildcats will have to compensate for his energy on the glass.
“It 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 5 percent. We’ve gotta pick up 9 rebounds, so where are we gonna get those 9?
Vanderbilt and fellow freshman forward PJ Washington had been spark plugs off Kentucky’s bench. Calipari said he was concerned where Vanderbilt’s absence could leave Washington.
“And I mentioned that to the group,” Calipari said. “What they became was 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 [Gabriel].”
Gabriel, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, likely will get some time at center in Vanderbilt’s absence. Calipari also said Thursday that however long Vanderbilt is out, freshman 7-footer Nick Richards and 6-10 sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones will have bigger opportunities. Both former McDonald’s All-Americans have seen their playing time plummet since Vanderbilt’s debut in mid-January.
Kentucky and Georgia play at 3:30 p.m. ET in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. It’s not clear whether Vanderbilt will play at any point in the SEC tourney, or whether he’ll be ready for the NCAA Tournament next week.
“He’s gonna make that decision,” Calipari said. “The last time it took time to do it. It’s not gonna be me making it. It’ll be him and the doctors to make sure.”