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Pulled in two different directions, UK’s Jarred Vanderbilt remains in NBA Draft

Jarred Vanderbilt opted to remain in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt was hindered by injuries and played in just 14 games for the Wildcats last season. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Jarred Vanderbilt is staying in the NBA Draft.

The freshman forward waited until the last minute to make his decision known after enduring a roller-coaster ride in his first and only season with the Wildcats.

“Being a professional basketball player has always been a dream of mine,” Vanderbilt said. “From the moment I first picked up a basketball when I was 4 years old, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. These past couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for me. With everything I went through this past season, I’ve had a lot to think about and what’s best for me and my future. Through it all, I’ve become a better man on and off the court.

“First off, I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity because, without Him, none of this would be possible. I also want to thank all of the people in my life who have supported me throughout this entire process – from my family to my teammates, to the coaches and UK staff, and most importantly the fans. The relationships I’ve built here will last a lifetime and I will cherish the memories I’ve made here forever. After going through the process, I was able to get some positive feedback that confirmed what I had hoped: that my time is now. It is going to be tough to leave this place, but I’ve decided to remain in the NBA Draft and pursue my dreams now.”

Vanderbilt played in just 14 games last season and missed the first 17 games because of a leg injury. Vanderbilt grabbed at least five rebounds in his first four games, including 11 in a comeback win over West Virginia, Vanderbilt grabbed 10 or more rebounds in five of his last six games and averaged 7.9 boards per game during his time on the court. He also was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” he said last month. “God works in mysterious ways and presented me with a number of challenges to overcome. I believe I became a better man and player because of them, but it’s also made me think about my future and what’s best for me. At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA. I knew coach (John Calipari) and the staff would challenge me and prepare me to make that step better than anyone else.”

Calipari said Vanderbilt “had a very difficult decision to make.”

“I know he has been pulled in two different directions,” Calipari said. “On one hand he wants to show our fans what he can do in a full season and compete for a championship. I know he feels like he got that taken away from him this year. On the other hand, he’s seen how quickly this can be taken away. I completely understand and support his decision to get healthy and pursue his dreams now. As I said before, we’ve only seen a small part of his game because of the adversity he faced this season, but he’s got the motor and skill set that will serve him well at the next level.”

The decision by Vanderbilt could clear the way for Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis, who has reportedly narrowed his college choices down to Kentucky and Villanova. Travis withdrew from the NBA Draft on Wednesday and announced his plans to transfer.

Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Cardinal last season.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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