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UK Wildcats Basketball: Odd twist emerges in Jarred Vanderbilt injury saga

Jarred Vanderbilt didn’t play in Nashville, but John Calipari wasn’t sure what would happen.

NCAA Basketball: IUPU - Ft. Wayne at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats were once again shorthanded when they took on the Vanderbilt Commodores.

We already knew Quade Green was out with a back injury. Another player whose status remained a mystery was Jarred Vanderbilt. He has yet to play for the team this season, but he’s finally started practicing. That made some believe he might actually play in Nashville.

Heck, even John Calipari wasn’t even sure if Jarred would play. But despite going through full pregame warmups, Jarred sat out today, and the team never actually ruled Jarred him for this game like they did for Green.

Instead, the game tipped off with no word on Jarred’s status, then ended with him never playing in a 74-67 UK win. After the game, Calipari admitted he wasn’t sure if Jarred was going to play, which sounds really odd.

“I didn’t know if Jarred was going to play before the game,” said Calipari. “I was doing the board and just acting like he’s not here. If he is, he is. If they are, they are.”

Calipari also reiterated that he’s not going to push Jarred to play before he’s 100-percent healed and mentally ready to play.

“I don’t push kids. They know their pain. They also know their bodies,” said Calipari. “I’ll tell you what also happens when you’re injured; it’s not physically, it’s as much mentally. And conditioning. Those are the two things that get you. When he’s ready, he’ll be here with us.”

Jarred’s slow return shouldn’t come as a surprise with Cal’s comments all along. Even if he would’ve played in today’s game, he was expected to come off the bench with a heavy minute’s restriction tied to his return.

The freshman forward is considered by most to be the missing link to this Kentucky team. Adding his game to the group would be a huge advantage for them. He was a McDonald’s All-American guard in the class of 2017. His wide range of abilities make him one of Kentucky’s most versatile players.You can imagine why seeing him on the court would make Kentucky teammates and fans as excited as they are.

UK big man Tai Wynyard also missed this game due to a lingering back injury. He missed the previous two games against Tennessee and Texas A&M as well, which makes not having Jarred an even bigger hit to UK’s depth.

Alas, we’re still left with uncertainty as to when Quade and Tai will return, as well as when Jarred will make his debut.