If there’s one word that describes Jarred Vanderbilt since he made his debut last month, it’s energetic. The versatile forward may be rusty but he always hustles, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. This afternoon, Tony Barbee said he can see the game slowing down for Vanderbilt, but it’s going to take some time.
“Every game you see him getting more and more comfortable. The game is starting to really slow down for him. Those first couple of games, I think the game was going a million miles an hour for Jarred. When you watched him have the ball in his hands, he was flying. So everything he’s doing right now – defensively he’s getting more comfortable with our concepts and how we want our defense to look and the position that he’s playing. He’s getting more comfortable in the offense, but every day it’s going to be a work in progress trying to figure out how we insert him, how he helps his team going forward.”
Barbee also likened Vanderbilt to Ben Simmons and Lamar Odom in terms of versatility. We’ve heard those comparisons before, but after seeing him move effortlessly with the ball through five games, it certainly fits.
“He handles the ball like a point guard. He visually sees the game like a point guard. He just happens to be 6-foot-10, 245 pounds or whatever that is and you project him out as a Lamar Odom type or Ben Simmons type (of player) – a 6-foot-10 guy, who’s multi-faceted in his skill level. The guys like that, you can use them to your advantage in any offense. You can put high on the ball and let him be the point. You can post him up if they put a small on him. If they have bigs on him, then you can put him in pick-and-rolls where he’s handling the ball, or he can be the pick-and-pop guy in a ball screen. So his versatility has done nothing but boost our team and add to it.”
Vanderbilt is averaging only 3.2 points through five games, but he told reporters he’s not worried about points right now; he’s only focused on effort.
“I think I’ve played good. A lot of people want to look at the offense, but I can really care less about the offense right now. I’m just trying to do everything else I can to help my team win and just to be successful, because like I said, baskets will come. Just try to bring a spark off the bench and be an energy guy.”
So far, so good, according to Barbee.
“His energy is incredible. He’s a guy who doesn’t need the ball to impact the game, and when he does have the ball in his hands, he can impact the game as well because he doesn’t need to shoot it and score it to impact it. He’s a great passer. He’s got a great feel for the game, but a lot like Wenyen (Gabriel): playing hard and energy levels and output levels is also a skill and it’s one of his strengths. His skill level is how hard he plays, how hard he competes, that becomes contagious.”
Something else the staff hopes is contagious? Vanderbilt’s tendency to “fail fast” and move on to the next play. The staff is really focusing on body language right now, specifically, encouraging players not to get too frustrated after missing a shot. When asked if Vanderbilt sets a good example, Barbee joked that it’s because he doesn’t know any better.
“Because he has no idea what he’s doing out there,” Barbee quipped. “So he doesn’t know what to hang on to. He just moves on to the next play because he’s just out there trying to figure things out on the run, but it is a good example to watch Jarred just kind of play as hard as he possibly can every possession until he dies (gets exhausted). Then we get him out of the game. But no, Jarred’s been great, and he’s only getting better.”