LEXINGTON, Ky. — Remember that thing about how maybe Kentucky basketball hasn’t yet landed a one-and-done caliber player in the Class of 2017? Turns out, maybe the Wildcats have.
Chad Ford, ESPN’s NBA Draft guru, released an early list of his top 10 prospects for the 2018 draft on Monday, and there was a surprise name: forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who is committed to Kentucky. While he’s a 5-star, top-20 prospect in his recruiting class and a McDonald’s All-American, hype about Vanderbilt has been muted in part because of some untimely injuries.
Healthy now, he is beginning to turn heads. Vanderbilt posted 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals in a Team USA win over the World Team in Saturday’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore. He also measured at 6 feet, 9 inches with a 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Ford was in Portland and his list is informed by conversations there with NBA scouts about which incoming college freshmen and international prospects most impressed them. Vanderbilt, who checks in at No. 10, is “a unique forward who can initiate offense, score at the rim, rebound, block shots and provide a lot of energy,” Ford wrote. “His jumper needs work, but if he gets that going, he could become a big-time draft prospect.”
That should be encouraging for a Kentucky team that is likely losing its top seven scorers from last season and will need some new star power. Also notable: Mohamed Bamba, a 7-footer with a 7-9 wingspan who the Wildcats remain the favorite to land, is Ford’s No. 4 NBA Draft prospect for 2018.
And in addition to his top 10, Ford offered up 11 “others to watch,” and that group includes Kentucky signees P.J. Washington (forward) and Nick Richards (center) and redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo (guard). In other words, the Cats are going to be pretty good again.