After a summer and senior season riddled with injuries, UK basketball commitment Jarred Vanderbilt is having a stellar showing on the all-star circuit.
Vanderbilt — a 6-foot-9 forward from Texas — scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds (both game highs) in Friday night’s Nike Hoop Summit on Portland, Ore., leading his Team USA squad to a 98-87 victory over the World Select Team.
Vanderbilt, who committed to UK in December and will officially sign with the Wildcats next week, was back in a Team USA uniform after missing last summer’s activities with a broken foot, an injury that prevented him from playing on the national U17 squad that won a gold medal in Spain.
“It motivated me a lot,” Vanderbilt said. “I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder, considering that I didn’t get to play last (summer). Just being able to step back on the court with USA Basketball across my chest is a great feeling. It’s a very prestigious game, and I’m just thankful to be here.”
That foot injury also kept him sidelined for the summer basketball schedule — he showed up to the Nike Peach Jam in July on crutches — and he suffered another injury early in the high school season that prevented him from playing at 100 percent.
Now, he looks better than ever.
Vanderbilt’s Hoop Summit performance came a week after he dazzled in the practices leading up to the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.
He’s going to be like a point forward type in transition. I imagine they’re going to let him go with it.
Jerry Meyer, 247Sports national analyst
247Sports analyst Jerry Meyer — asked by the Herald-Leader a few days ago to pick a UK recruit who he was especially impressed by during McDonald’s week — quickly pointed to Vanderbilt.
“I thought he really looked good physically,” Meyer said. “I loved his energy and his activity. He has a really good basketball IQ. Maybe scouts like me have been a little too hung up on his shooting, although shooting is very, very important. But maybe he’s a little better shooter than we thought. Or, at least, it’s really improving, because I thought it looked a lot better.”
Vanderbilt was particularly effective from long range in the practice the day before the McDonald’s Game, and he told the Herald-Leader that improving his outside shot has been his main focus over the past few months.
Rebounding — Vanderbilt has a 7-1 wingspan and great athleticism — has always been one of his strengths.
“He’s going to bring a dimension to Kentucky that’s really going to be fun to watch, because he can really rebound,” Meyer said. “He has a great feel for rebounding. He’s instinctual about it. And the way he can bust out on the break with his ball handling — he can really push the ball and he can pass it. So that’s going to be fun to watch. He’s going to be like a point forward type in transition. I imagine they’re going to let him go with it.”
Meyer said he’s also been impressed with Vanderbilt’s ability to create offense and space the floor from that “point forward” position. He noted that UK has been targeting more shooters to fill out its 2017 class — Jemarl Baker, Cameron Johnson and Mark Smith are all on the Cats’ radar — and players like that should get plenty of open shots with Vanderbilt on the court to disrupt defenses.
“If Vanderbilt plays around some shooters, he can really be dangerous,” Meyer said.
UK targets Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox were teammates of Vanderbilt on Friday night. Bamba had seven points, five rebounds and four blocks. Knox, who visits Missouri this weekend, had four points and two rebounds.
UK signee Nick Richards was the starting center for the World Select Team. The Jamaica native had 12 points and three rebounds. Fellow UK signee Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — a native of Canada — had 11 points, two assists and made seven of 10 free throws for the world team.
UK signee Quade Green did not play Friday night after suffering a concussion during one of the practices leading up to the game.