LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky fans immediately feared the worst upon learning that 5-star freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt had suffered yet another injury in practice Tuesday. But is this latest setback, just days before the Wildcats begin play in the SEC Tournament, worthy of a full-blown freakout?
SEC Country sources say: probably not.
Multiple sources close to the program indicated Wednesday that Vanderbilt’s injury, which has been confirmed but not specified by UK officials, is not in the left foot that he injured twice in high school and then again last September. He missed the first 17 games of the season because of that setback.
Rather, this injury is believed to be an ankle sprain. We’re told Vanderbilt hobbled out of a 2-on-2 drill in practice Tuesday and did not return. He was taken for evaluation and, per SEC Country sources, those results did not have coach John Calipari overly worried Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean Vanderbilt will play this week at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. In fact, it might be wise to rest him for the start of the NCAA Tournament next week. Kentucky fans surely would be fine with that, because the Cats (21-10) will need him as healthy as possible to have any realistic shot at reaching their fifth Final Four in nine years.
In 14 games since returning from his latest foot injury, Vanderbilt has averaged 13.8 points and 18.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s seen his role increase steadily, averaging 21.6 minutes over the last seven games. And if he’d played enough to qualify, the 6-foot-9 former McDonald’s All-American would lead the nation in rebound percentage, snagging an estimated 25.4 percent of all available boards when he’s on the floor.
Officially, Vanderbilt is listed “day to day” by Kentucky and was not expected to practice Wednesday.