By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky player Jarred Vanderbilt recently signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team he was traded to late last season. That was a major upgrade from the three-year, $13 million deal he has now.
Vanderbilt averaged 28.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game his senior year in high school in Texas but had to overcome leg injuries that plagued him his only year at Kentucky too.
“Coming to college, you’re obviously ready to play, and then one of our first practices I popped my foot. Second practice. I’m sick,” Vanderbilt said on Tidal League’s Run Your Race Podcast recently.
But he also revealed that North Carolina actually was his college choice before he was overruled by his mother and that he had his best visit to UNC.
“UNC was a good set up,” he said.
However, he admitted Kentucky had everything in place to help him get to the NBA and his family was thinking the same thing.
“My momma made the decision. She honestly thought I’d have too much fun at UNC. She was like, ‘I don’t know if you are going to make it over there,’” Vanderbilt said. “It was like the opposite at Kentucky. They got separate (basketball) dorms. She said that is where you probably need to go. That was really the deciding factor to be honest.”
Vanderbilt had a stress fracture in his left foot in 2016 before re-injuring his left foot before his senior year of high school started. He injured his right leg during the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic and then another injury once he got to UK forced him to miss the first 17 games.
“It’s tough dealing with injuries, especially at that age. Now you can accept them a little bit better, but when you’re that young, mentally, it’s hard,” Vanderbilt said on the podcast. “I was out for the first, like, 20 games. I missed the combine (Pro Day), then the first 20 games. Didn’t let it derail me, but it was an adversity. It was tough, definitely a tough time.”
However, he never lost faith in his ability and averaged a career-high 8.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 2022-23. He became a defensive stopper who normally had to guard the opposing team’s best player after he joined the Lakers and made the same type of hustle plays he did at UK once he returned to action before being hurt again late in the season.
“I came in (at Kentucky) as this point forward, going to bring the ball down, stuff like that. It didn’t happen because of adversity, injuries, all that s***,” Vanderbilt said . “Me being able to adjust is the reason I’m still around. You just have to adjust and adapt.
“That’s what it’s about, being a pro. A lot of dudes are talented, but they couldn’t adapt to that role. You come from being a McDonald’s All-American, averaging 20 or 30 points. Now you’re confined to a role or a niche. But if you find that, you’re going to last long in the league.”