Kentucky 5-star recruit Jarred Vanderbilt has been putting in hours of extra time every day working on his jump shot and his ball-handling. Listed as a power forward, he claims to be a position-less player. If the Wildcats plan on chasing title No. 9 next year, he may have to be.
In the next few weeks, it is very possible that the Kentucky coaching staff will find out they are losing every member of this season’s backcourt rotation. Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder have both graduated. De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe are all expected to declare for the draft.
Which Kentucky Wildcats will leave this offseason? https://t.co/mNHElo5f6Y— Jeremy Chisenhall (@JSChisenhall) March 27, 2017
As of right now, there are only three scholarship guards on next season’s roster: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. While Coach John Calipari has extended a couple more offers this week (Mark Smith and Jemarl Baker), and several commits are baking cookies for Kevin Knox, there is a scary lack of depth in the backcourt. I mean, how many minutes for Brad Calipari will Big Blue Nation be okay with?
Fortunately, Vanderbilt’s game is really starting to look less like a 4 and more like a tall, long forward that could be the best at the 3 we have seen since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
If Jarred Vanderbilt is doing stuff like this ... pic.twitter.com/8LKOSHkDtM— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) March 28, 2017
The 6’8” Vanderbilt was never known for his shooting abilities. In fact, he was shooting less than 20% from the 3-point line last summer before spending a great deal of time sidelined with a foot injury.
“I’ve put a lot of work in my jumper, and obviously some of the shots are falling,” Vanderbilt said. “I’ve been living in the gym. Before school. After school. Even go late nights sometimes. I’ve been sacrificing a lot just to get that right. And it seems like it’s been paying off so far. … It’s just great to see all the hard work pay off.”
In early footage from the McDonald’s All-Star Game practices, Vanderbilt is running the court and draining 3’s alongside the best guards in the country. He looks fast, skilled, and composed with the ball in his hands.
There has never been a good fit, offensively or defensively, at the 3 position on any Kentucky team in the Cal era besides MKG. I realize that MKG was never a great shooter, but since 2012 Coach Cal has often been forced to play a smaller guard or an undersized power forward at the 3 spot.
If Vanderbilt continues to develop and can slide into that spot, it makes it a bit less urgent for Cal to get multiple other commitments from guards that may or may not perform. However, it also changes everything that Cal could do with these lineups in a rare recruiting class where bigs are more abundant than guards.
Tune in tonight to check out Vanderbilt (along with UK commits Quade Green, Nick Richards, and P.J. Washington) in tonight’s McDonald’s All-American Game at 6 p.m. on ESPN.