Jarred Vanderbilt is living the NBA dream now with the Denver Nuggets.
Amid what’s been a wild summer, Vanderbilt was able to travel back to Lexington for John Calipari’s Draft Academy this week. While in town, Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader was able to speak with Vanderbilt, who had an interesting revelation about his NBA Draft decision.
While it looked like Vanderbilt was set to bypass on the draft and return to Kentucky, he made the surprising decision to stay in the draft. Turns out, Calipari played a part in that.
“He gave me the assurance because I initially didn’t know whether I wanted to make that leap or come back,” said Vanderbilt. “But him being by my side and, you know, edging me that I should do that gave me the assurance that I should do it. I was really thankful for that.”
“I told him what I wanted to do. That I was 50-50. I didn’t know which way to go. But he supported me and supported my decision. He was saying with my injuries, (entering the draft) might be the best and smartest move.”
It makes sense now that Vanderbilt has been drafted and signed a three-year, $4 million contract. He was initially selected by the Magic in Round 2 of the 2018 NBA Draft, going 41st overall, but he was quickly traded to the Nuggets.
Vanderbilt had a shortened freshman year with UK last year, but he was effective in the 14 games he played by leading the team in rebounds with nearly eight boards per game, despite only averaging 17 minutes per game.
Per 40 minutes, that comes out to 18.5 rebounds per game, making him arguably the best rebounder in college basketball. He also averaged six points per contest but did score 11 points three times in his final five games. He shot 42.6 percent from the field but just 63 percent from the free-throw line.
Combined with multiple lower-leg injuries, it seemed like a smart play for Vanderbilt to return to school. As it turned out, staying in the draft and getting that first NBA contract worked out for him, and Calipari helped make it happen.