Not long ago the University of Kentucky's men's basketball program announced that five-star freshman wing and forward Jarred Vanderbilt, the most "positionless" player on the team according to John Calipari, wouldn't be able to play until January because of an ankle injury.
The Cats Illustrated staff discusses the impact of the news.
T.J. Walker, Basketball Recruiting Analyst: It's awful news about Jarred Vanderbilt but it's not a significant blow. What it changes is how much pressure it will put on some of the other wings, specifically sophomore Wenyen Gabriel. It was likely that Vanderbilt would have been coming off the bench and this just allows John Calipari to narrow in on his rotation earlier, which actually may help Kentucky during the SEC grind come January and February. UK will still likely start Green, Diallo, Knox, Washington and Richards, with Alexander, Gabriel and Killeya-Jones first off the bench.
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It's still crappy for Vanderbilt. He's had injury problems over the last three years and it seems he will be labeled injury prone when he eventually heads to the NBA Draft. The big question will be, does this push him closer to leaving after one year or make it more likely he comes back? That depends on if he wants to cash in instantly, or come back and show NBA teams he can stay healthy.
Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor: It’s fairly significant simply due to his talent level and versatility but the main thing is the time he’ll miss and how that impacts his learning curve and the team’s cohesion. We’ve all seen how challenging it is for freshmen, no matter how talented they are. This opens up a window of opportunity for guys like Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones, though. Cal’s big challenge if one of both of them play well will be reintegrating Vanderbilt into the rotation in mid-January.
Warren Taylor, Staff Writer: It's huge but more so for Vanderbilt. The Cats have talent on the wings in fellow freshman Kevin Knox and returning sophomore Wenyen Gabriel. Knox and Gabriel will have had time to solidify their spots in the rotation by the time Vanderbilt returns. It will be difficult for him to leapfrog either of the tremendously talented duo. In addition, Vanderbilt will be behind on conditioning and game experience; which could be other factors preventing him from getting playing time.
Justin Rowland, Publisher: So often in the John Calipari era something has happened and the immediate impulse is to rush and label it as bad, only for time to prove that it wasn't all that bad. This could be one of those situations if Vanderbilt ultimately returns for a sophomore season at Kentucky. Obviously that wouldn't be completely ideal for him, as his best case scenario would be a light's out first year and a high draft pick.
I'm inclined to think this won't impact Kentucky all that much early in the season. There will be growing pains with such a young team, but Vanderbilt is part of that massive youth wave so there would be growing pains with or without him. I agree with those who think it will be mostly significant in terms of how Vanderbilt becomes acclimated with his teammates in rotations and roles on the court after everyone else has been playing games together for a couple of months. But in the long run I do expect him to make Kentucky better on both ends of the court.