In what was almost a throwaway line at the very end of the SEC Network’s televised coverage of Kentucky’s Pro Day practice in front of NBA scouts, John Calipari (who was mic’d) addressed the scouts at the conclusion of the practice and said something that may put a smile on the faces of Wildcat fans.
While Sean Farnham continued to talk and wind down the program, Calipari explained to the scouts in attendance that with Tai Wynyard cramping they bypassed the 5-on-5 session, Jemarl Baker sat because of a minor knee injury, and that five-star freshman Jarred Vanderbilt was out with a foot “which looks like less than we thought.”
Many watching may have missed this, as he said it just before the TV crew turned their attention over to him.
On September 30 it was announced that Vanderbilt would miss part of his season with a foot injury. The university said he’d have surgery and miss several months, set to return in January. He had previously suffered a recent ankle sprain in the final minutes of the Jordan Brand Classic, which took place on April 14 earlier this year.
A speedy recovery for Vanderbilt could mean a lot for his career and for this year’s Kentucky team. Having missed a chunk of his senior season of high school to a stress fracture in his left foot, Vanderbilt (in his own words) is ready to put this behind him for good. NBA types will be wary of his injury history and want to see him come back and contribute immediately if he is to be a one-and-done player.
For Kentucky, a quick return would mean more time him to be integrated into the rotation and figure out how to best play with his teammates before March. The sooner he’s back (and fully healthy), the better the odds of Kentucky coming together for deep tournament run.
Cal’s offhand comment also indicates that Vanderbilt returning in January wouldn’t require a “rushing along” or anything that would jeopardize his long-term outlook. If the injury is as minor as indicated, Kentucky might be able to avoid a Harry Giles/Duke situation, where the injury was more serious than initially thought and he wasn’t quite his old self upon returning to the floor.
Let’s hope first and foremost that he recovers fully and at a healthy pace. If he plays in January as was the original plan, great. But if there’s a chance Vanderbilt returns earlier than expected, Kentucky fans might be surprised with a nice gift this holiday season.