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Prediction: Jarred Vanderbilt is Hamidou Diallo all over again

Drew Franklin01/04/18


Article written by:On3 imageDrew Franklin


Jarred Vanderbilt still hasn't practiced. And that's a problem. At this point, I am of the very strong belief that Vanderbilt will not contribute at all this season. If he started practicing today, he would still be months behind his teammates and even further behind the competition. Remember how out of shape the Cats were in the beginning of the season? Calipari said, "There’s nobody that can play more than 20 minutes right now.” Well, he said that about guys who had been working out non-stop since the beginning of the summer. Now imagine Vanderbilt, who hasn't gone full speed since mid-September, trying to play catch up in the middle of SEC play. The conditioning alone would be tough to overcome; the inexperience would be a completely different challenge. Take P.J. Washington for instance. He is just now learning his role, 14 games into a season in which he's averaged 26 minutes per game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needed nine games to find his groove, and Nick Richards is still trying to find his after starting in every game this season. As a team, Kentucky is only scratching the surface, and it's already January. So to expect Vanderbilt to make any contribution at all in the coming months, is not only unfair to him, but it's very unrealistic. Let's say he practices today for the first time. At best, he's playing in a month. What good would that do? Kentucky should already have its identity and rotation, and throwing Vanderbilt into the fire to learn on the go could only mess things up. Or maybe I'm wrong and Vanderbilt is the second coming of LeBron James, and he can overcome being out of shape and out of action, while returning from a significant foot injury, immediately. That sure would be nice, but none of Calipari's stars have hit the ground running without hurdles. So forgive me for thinking Vanderbilt will need time to learn, too. https://twitter.com/JVando/status/940713970599710722 Now for my prediction, which is based solely on my uniformed opinion (with maybe a little inside scoop): This is the Hamidou Diallo situation all over again. Diallo arrived on campus last January with fans clamoring for him to join the team. Like Vanderbilt, Diallo was months behind his teammates and opponents, only Diallo's was due to his late arrival and not an injury. Then as the season progressed with positive buzz about Diallo in practices, Calipari made the decision that a completely healthy Diallo would only hurt himself by playing, and that Diallo couldn't make a significant impact on the season by playing in February and March. And though many fans hate it, the decision to sit was made with Diallo's future and the NBA Draft in mind. I think the same goes for Vanderbilt. At this point, the likelihood of him hurting his own future is far greater than anything he can do for Kentucky's season. To me, the two situations are identical, and we're on the same path toward Vanderbilt making a last-minute decision about his future. Like Diallo, he will go through the draft process without any college game film on him; and like Diallo, his decision will rely on the feedback he receives from the league. Does it sound crazy that Vanderbilt could possibly get drafted? Yes, but this is the NBA we're talking about here. They'll draft anyone with a fraction of potential, and Vanderbilt fits that mold. There might be a team or two out there that would take a chance on a Lamar Odom clone who was projected as a lottery pick last summer, even without any tape to go by. Silly, yes, but not out of the realm of possibility. That is why I think we're looking at the Diallo situation all over again. Fans are seeing a talented, prized freshman on the bench who looks like he should be able to help, but he is way too behind everyone else and has to keep his best interests in mind. Diallo 2.0. My guess is we get to May, Jarred Vanderbilt has never played a minute at Kentucky, and he has to decide if he wants to take a chance in the draft or return to Lexington to play one season. What happens then, who knows. Until then, I have tossed out any and all expectations for Vanderbilt in 2017-18. If he plays, great. If he doesn't, we probably should've known all along. With all that said, he'll probably start Saturday and score 30 points because I wrote all of this. Go Cats.

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