LEXINGTON, Ky. – Using NCAA rules that allow players to “test the waters” and go through the NBA Draft process, freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt (pictured) will enter his name in the 2018 NBA Draft but does not plan to hire an agent at this time. So long as Vanderbilt does not hire an agent, he will have until May 30 (10 days after the NBA Draft Combine) to make a final decision as to whether he wishes to remain in the draft or return to Kentucky.
“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “God works in mysterious ways and presented me with a number of challenges to overcome. I believe I became a better man and player because of them, but it’s also made me think about my future and what’s best for me. At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA. I knew Coach Cal and the staff would challenge me and prepare me to make that step better than anyone else.
“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school. With that said, I’m entering my name in the 2018 NBA Draft and testing the waters. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I want to use this process to get an evaluation from the NBA and see where I’m at. I appreciate the support of the staff and the Big Blue Nation while I work through this.”
Vanderbilt is the sixth underclassman from the 2017-18 Wildcats to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Freshmen Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox have all declared for the draft and plan to sign with agents, ending their collegiate careers. Freshman forward PJ Washington and sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel have also entered their names in the draft but have not hired agents at this time, opening up the possibility of a return to school.
“Jarred is in a unique situation because of the time he missed on the court this season,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I truly believe we only saw a small part of Jarred’s game because he had to figure out how to play with us and we had to figure out how to play with him. What we did see was a player with an unbelievable motor who will grab every ball, get his teammates involved and fight like heck. We would certainly welcome Jarred back with open arms and I would love the opportunity to coach him for a full season, but I know he needs to go through this process and see where he’s at. He has the type of skills and talent that NBA teams love; now we have to figure out if now is the time or if he needs another season. Either way, Jarred’s best days are ahead of him and I can’t wait to see him back on the court.”
Vanderbilt was limited to 14 games this season because of a left foot injury that sidelined him the first 17 games of the season and then a left leg injury that kept him out of the postseason. When Vanderbilt was on the floor, he was a problem for opposing teams.
Once cleared, he was thrown right into the mix at South Carolina and immediately showcased his ability to rebound and distribute the basketball. In addition to posting six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes, the 6-foot-9 forward took over “point forward” responsibilities in his first career game and dished out three assists.
Vanderbilt would go on to grab at least five rebounds in his first four games, including 11 key boards in the 17-point comeback victory at No. 7/7 West Virginia.
As Vanderbilt knocked off the rust and figured out his role with the team, his minutes went up. He flirted with a double-double (eight points, 10 rebounds) at Missouri and nearly had three straight double-doubles vs. Alabama (11 points, nine rebounds), at Arkansas (11 points, nine rebounds) and at home vs. Mizzou (11 points, career-high 15 boards). He was tabbed Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after the first two of that three-game stretch.
Vanderbilt grabbed 10 or more rebounds in five of his last six games and led UK in rebounding average with 7.9 boards per game. He also averaged 5.9 points per game. As a senior at Victory Prep Academy, Vanderbilt averaged 28.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists a game.
The 2018 NBA Draft Combine will take place May 16-20 in Chicago.
Since Calipari joined the Wildcat program for the 2009-10 season, UK has produced 31 NBA Draft picks over eight seasons, 14 more than the next closest school (Duke). Included in the 31 are 24 first-round selections, three No. 1 overall picks, 12 top-10 selections and 17 lottery picks.
Of the 21 players in the Calipari era who declared for the NBA Draft after one season at Kentucky heading into this season, all 21 were drafted in the first round.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught