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Kenny Payne Believes Kentucky’s Success Depends on PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt

Photo by Keyli Chisesi (Go Big Blue Country)


Freshmen forwards PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt are an important duo to Kentucky’s success and it’s no secret that when they both play well, the Wildcats win and if they struggle, things don’t come as easy for the team.


Assistant coach Kenny Payne reiterated that during the Paul Miller Ford John Calipari show tonight, as he was filling in for the final 30 minutes of the show to allow Calipari to hit the road to recruit.


“In order for us to be the team that we have to be, those two have to be really good,” said Payne. “They are winning basketball players. Now, they’re so young they don’t know it yet but when they’re at their best, we should not lose a game.”

Both Washington and Vanderbilt struggled in Saturday’s 80-67 loss, mostly due to foul trouble. At one point, the Wildcats had a total of 10 fouls and seven were against the freshmen duo. In all, they totaled 17 points and 13 rebounds, not enough for Kentucky to beat quality opponents.


“I blamed them for the game (Florida loss), just sorta teasing them a little bit,” said Payne. “Simply,  because I know what they are, coach Cal knows what they are, and our coaching staff knows what they are.”


Washington and Vanderbilt have chemistry on the court, something that goes back to early high school. Washington was one of the first commitments for the 2017 class and even after he committed, he continued to ask about Vanderbilt.

“That chemistry started when they were like ninth graders. They have been really, really close over the last three to four years. When we recruited PJ, he committed a little earlier than most. All while we was recruiting him, he was asking about Jarred. When the play together, when they’re together, they’re literally like brothers.”


Payne is one of the best coaches at working with big men and he’s doing his best to get Washington and Vanderbilt to play the way they need to play in order for the Wildcats to be successful. He’s even labeled them with nicknames.


“I call them the Ghost and the Darkness. The two lions from the movie The Ghost and the Darkness.”

 Payne says that both are so talented at both ends of the floor that Kentucky should be able to overcome Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander not playing well and as far as Vanderbilt not being able to shoot, the UK assistant says that shouldn’t stop him.


“You may say that Jarred can’t shoot but I’m here to tell you he’s faster than Shai and Quade. Jarred Vanderbilt is faster than both of them with the ball and without the ball.”


Let’s hope Ghost and Darkness wreak havoc in St. Louis this week.

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