ATLANTA — Jarred Vanderbilt is still hobbled by the left-ankle injury that has cost him the last five games, but there is an increasing possibility he’ll try to “give it a go” for Kentucky at some point during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, a source close to the program told SEC Country on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt participated in practice Tuesday in some capacity, per another source, and while he “isn’t close to game speed,” he could at least be in uniform and available for the Wildcats in an emergency situation. Fifth-seeded Kentucky (26-10) plays ninth-seeded Kansas State (24-11) in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.
Vanderbilt missed the Cats’ first 17 games this season with a left foot injury, then played 14 games to close the regular season and averaged more than 18 rebounds per 40 minutes off the bench. His rebound percentage would’ve led the nation if he’d played enough to qualify — so obviously Kentucky would like to have him back despite winning the SEC Tournament and two NCAA Tournament games without him.
Calipari said on his radio show Monday night that he was eager to see Vanderbilt this week and determine his status, because that extra body would be quite a luxury as the Cats make a push for the Final Four. Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American, would be a nice safety net in case of foul trouble to the other big men.
We should know more about Vanderbilt’s status shortly, as Kentucky will meet with the media here in Atlanta starting around 2:15 p.m. ET and will have 15 minutes of open practice around 2:50. This story will be updated.