LEXINGTON — Jarred Vanderbilt has decided to test the waters.
The University of Kentucky freshman forward declared for the NBA Draft Friday but has opted against hiring an agent and could possibly return next season.
Vanderbilt is the sixth underclassman to declare for the NBA Draft, set for June 21 at the Barclays Center in New York. He joins PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel as the three of six players who could return next year and all three players have until May 30 — 10 days after the NBA Combine — to return to campus or remain in the draft.
“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school. With that said, I’m entering my name in the 2018 NBA Draft and testing the waters. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I want to use this process to get an evaluation from the NBA and see where I’m at. I appreciate the support of the staff and the Big Blue Nation while I work through this.”
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,” Vanderbilt said. “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 is in a “unique situation because of the time he missed on the court.”
“I truly believe we only saw a small part of Jarred’s game because he had to figure out how to play with us and we had to figure out how to play with him,” he said. “What we did see was a player with an unbelievable motor who will grab every ball, get his teammates involved and fight like heck. We would certainly welcome Jarred back with open arms and I would love the opportunity to coach him for a full season, but I know he needs to go through this process and see where he’s at.
“He has the type of skills and talent that NBA teams love; now we have to figure out if now is the time or if he needs another season. Either way, Jarred’s best days are ahead of him and I can’t wait to see him back on the court.”
The NBA Combine is set for May 16-20 in Chicago.