We tackle the best question asked by Kentucky fans every day. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet to Kyle Tucker here and Joe Mussatto here. Look for the Question of the Day every Monday through Friday.
Local scholar Yung Pizza Slice asks: Is Jarred Vanderbilt poised to return to the team?
This feels like a question you’ve asked and we’ve answered repeatedly for months — but it’s different this time! I assume the reason Yung Slice is asking again is because of Vanderbilt’s latest Instagram post. (Isn’t it fun to hang on two-word captions of the photos posted online by teenagers?)
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On Thursday, Vanderbilt shared a preseason picture of him in uniform with fellow 5-star freshmen Nick Richards, Kevin Knox and PJ Washington. With it, he wrote, “Stay tuned,” alongside emojis of a timepiece and eyeballs.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?!
As of Monday night, when coach John Calipari gave an update on his call-in radio show, Vanderbilt had not practiced with the team at all this season because of a left foot injury. But Vanderbilt’s latest cryptic message sure seems like a sign pointing to progress.
“He’s beginning to work out,” Calipari said Monday. “He’s had a couple of workouts with coach [Kenny] Payne, but he’s not in practice yet. So he’s got to get to where he can go really hard on the floor individually and then he’s got to get in some practices and get comfortable.”
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Vanderbilt, who has widely been described by teammates and coaches as the team’s most versatile player, injured the same foot twice before coming to Kentucky and injuring it again a third time the day before practice began in September. He may very well be the key to the Wildcats’ Final Four hopes this season, but still …
“I’m not going to push him,” Calipari said. “You guys know that’s not how I am. And I wouldn’t want to put him in a situation that wasn’t beneficial for him. I’m not going to play a guy [because], ‘Well, we could use him for eight minutes a game.’ No, I don’t do that to the kid.
“You have to worry more about the kid’s healthy and his ability to go perform, for him and for us — and if not, you just gotta let him sit.”
To answer Young Pizza Slice’s question, though, it sure does seem like things are trending toward a return. Soon? I don’t know about that. But I’m more optimistic he’ll actually play for Kentucky this season.