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More positive vibes for UK keeping Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel

You could argue this is the best-case scenario for UK.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Draft Combine having passed, we’ll soon learn which Kentucky Wildcats are staying and leaving for the pros.

Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have all signed with agents, so there is no mystery with them.

However, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel have not signed with agents just yet, thus giving them a chance to return to UK.

At various points during the pre-draft prospects, it’s appeared all three of them were either likely to leave for the pros or return to school. That’s still the case with just over a week until the deadline to withdraw from the draft, but the buzz is building that UK will keep two of them.

KSR’s TJ Walker just put out his Monday Insider Notes, and he thinks UK loses Washington but keeps Gabriel and Vanderbilt based on what he’s hearing.

While it’s not a done deal, it’s the latest buzz that UK will lose Washington but manage to keep the other two talented forwards.

You could make a good case that keeping Gabriel/Vanderbilt and losing Washington is the best-case scenario, assuming there’s no real chance of keeping all three.

While Gabriel has the lowest upside of the three, there’s no denying the heart and effort he brings to this team at a level few can match. Gabriel would also be a junior, and UK sorely missed upperclassmen leadership during their struggles last season.

Having a talented veteran like Gabriel has been a rarity under John Calipari, but when UK has had them, they’ve had their best seasons.

And while Vanderbilt is injury prone, I don’t think there’s any question he has the highest upside of the three. In the brief spurts we saw him as a freshman, he was arguably the team’s best defender and one of the best rebounders in college basketball.

If he can stay healthy and have a good offseason, Vanderbilt could be in for as big of a sophomore jump as we’ve seen from any Calipari-coached player.

I think UK will be able to keep two of those guys, though it seems keeping three is out of the question. Assuming two of them return, they would join EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards in a loaded frontcourt.

It feels like if Washington and Vanderbilt return, they are going to get more minutes than Gabriel, so while he may be the least likely to make the NBA, he may feel like the odd man out when it’s all said and done.

But if one of Vanderbilt and Washington stay in the draft, that makes it easier for Gabriel to stay. That’s why I believe all three could make their decisions next week, possibly on May 30th, the last day to withdraw from the draft.

All three players will likely get more workouts between now and then, though Washington did say at the combine that he has just two meetings left. Perhaps his decision will come later this week.

Who do you think passes on the 2018 NBA Draft and returns to UK?