Thursday, May 1, 2008

Taylor makes it official

Forward Jeff Taylor made it official Wednesday, signing his National Letter of Intent to play basketball for Vanderbilt beginning this fall.

"We are extremely excited to add Jeffery Taylor to our program," said coach Kevin Stallings in a statement on the school's website. "He is an outstanding young man who comes from a great family. He had an excellent senior season and led his team to a state championship. Jeffery is a versatile player with great athleticism and I am anxious for him to join Lance Goulbourne and Steve Tchiengang in our incoming freshmen class."

Taylor is ranked No. 52 in the Class of 2008, according to The 6'7 forward from Norrkoping, Sweden, averaged 30 points per game while leading Hobbs (N.M.) High School to the 5A state championship.

Taylor joins Steve Tchiengang and Lance Goulbourne in the 2008 Commodore signing class. Both Tchiengang (87) and Goulbourne (72) are also ranked in the top 100 in the Recruiting Class of 2008. He chose Vanderbilt over Texas, and had also considered Gonzaga, UNLV and Nebraska.

"Let's face it, if you toe the line with Texas for a player, you're swinging in the right neighborhood," Dave Telep, national basketball recruiting analyst for, told the Nashville City Paper. "I've said it before: Coach [Kevin] Stallings and his staff are amongst the tops in the nation at targeting, locking in and adding players that fit their profile and style. This is a strong addition."

Vanderbilt hopes to add one more player to its already strong recruting class. Guard Brad Tinsley (No. 94) will decide between Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, which he visited last weekend.

"It was a lot of the same kind of thing (as Vanderbilt)," he told "I ate a lot, played with the guys and got a chance to see what the coaches had to offer. It was hard to get that all in just two days and it was a lot of information, but we pulled it all in.

"With Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, both have beautiful campuses and the academics at both schools are up there, too. Both head coaches are great guys and down to earth guys, too. Both teams have great guys and I really connected with the players and I seem to fit in with both schools too. Both styles of play both fit me."

Three members of the Vanderbilt coaching staff went to visit Tinsley this week, but the guard said he still needs more time to make a decision, according to a source close to the program.

Without Tinsley, here's a breakdown of Vanderbilt's 2008-09 roster:

Jermaine Beal (JR)
Jamie Graham (SO)
Analysis: With Alex Gordon graduating, Keegan Bell off to UT-Chattanooga and Graham expected to make significant contributions on the gridiron, the Commodores could potentially start the season with just one true point guard in Beal, making Brad Tinsley's decision that much more important. While Beal should be one of the premier point guards in the SEC, Vandy will be in trouble without a true back-up.

George Drake (Redshirt JR)
Charles Hinkle (Redshirt FR)
Jordan Smart (FR walk-on)
Elliott Cole (SO walk-on)
Analysis: Wing production is going to be the hardest for the Commodores to replace. Without Gordon and SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster, Vandy will need contributions from Drake and Hinkle. In addition, coach Kevin Stallings will have the option of "going big" by playing either Walker or Goulbourne at the 2. If Tinsley signs, he and Beal could play alongside one another in the backcourt, as well.

Andre Walker (SO)
Lance Goulbourne (FR)
Analysis: I expcect Walker to make "the leap" in year two. He showed flashes as a freshman and with a year of experience under his belt, Walker should be more confident and assertive. The swingman has all the tools to be a solid SEC player and he'll definitely be given the opportunity to prove it next season. Goulbourne, meanwhile, projects as a prototypical small forward, and should thrive in transition.

Darshawn McClellan (SO)
Steve Tchiengang (FR)
Joe Duffy (SO walk-on)
Analysis: McClellan may never be a star, but he's the type of player that every team needs. Without Ross Neltner, McClellan should have an expanded role next season. It's hard to predict how much Tchiengang will be able to contribute right away, but I'd imagine 15-20 minutes per game isn't out of the question.

A.J. Ogilvy (SO)
Festus Ezeli (Redshirt FR)
Analysis: The Commodores will need Ogilvy to dominate in year two as the offense will unquestionably go through him. If Ogilvy can pass well out of the double teams that he is sure to draw, it will make Vandy that much more difficult to defend. Ezeli, meanwhile, could be the X-factor. Players said that he was an absolute monster of the defensive end in practice and while he is still limited offensively, there's no question that Ezeli will be able to contribute next season. How much is yet to be determined.

Potential line-ups

PG Beal
SG Drake
SF Walker
PF McClellan
C Ogilvy

PG Beal
SG Walker
SF Taylor
PF Ogilvy
C Ezeli

PG Beal
SG Goulbourne
SF Taylor
PF Tchiengang
C Ogilvy

PG Beal
SG Drake/Walker/Hinkle
SF Taylor/Walker/Goulbourne
PF McClellan/Tchiengang
C Ogilvy/Ezeli

A few thoughts:
  • The Commodores could be very crowded on the wing with Drake, Hinkle, Taylor, Walker and Goulbourne essentially fighting for time at two positions. With that said, Walker and Taylor could be versatile enough to play the 4 if Vandy decides to go small.
  • There shouldn't be much of a difference between the 2 and the 3 as both will be wing players.
  • Beal and Ogilvy should be prepared to play 30-35 minutes per game.
  • I'd imagine that this squad will play a lot of zone with so many long and athletic (and young) players.
  • I don't know how well they'd play together, but that "big" lineup could be fun to watch.
  • Young teams tend to struggle in the halfcourt, which means Vandy will need to excel in transition to have success.
  • The Commodores desperately need a back-up point guard, especially since Jamie Graham will not be able to join until after the football season. (That means you, Mr. Tinsley).


Aram Hanessian said...

You left Taylor out of the roster analysis part, he's gonna need to start at the 2, Drake is garbage. Also theres no way AJ can go 30-35 a night, he'll likely be in the 25-30 range again and we'll really struggle to score when he's out.

Anonymous said...

your comment proves the point that AJ needs to play 30-35 minutes a night. If the team will struggle without him, its only logical to keep him in there as much as possible. he will play 30-35 if he stays out of foul trouble.

Aram Hanessian said...

We might need him to, that doesn't mean he can do it effectively, which I find unlikely.

David Shochat said...

Beal, Taylor, Lance, Ogilvy and either Festus or Steve should be the starters unless Walker really improves. I know that that is three freshmen starters but i think that all of them are going to better than what we have. I really wasn't impressed that much with the freshmen last year besides Ogilvy. Darshawn and Andre will provide great bench minutes but i think that the three freshmen will have more talent.

Jarred Amato said...

Shochat, think about what you are saying:

"Darshawn and Andre will provide great bench minutes but i think that the three freshmen will have more talent."

While I am as excited as anyone to see these guys in the black and gold, none of us have ever seen them play (other than some youtube highlights). It's important that with any freshman, you take a wait-and-see approach. To appoint them starters at this point makes no sense.

I don't think you comprehend the jump from high school to college. Sure, they may be 4-star recruits, but to succeed at the college, and particularly SEC, level, it takes more than skill. What guys like Darshawn and Andre learned this year is invaluable and I expect them to be significantly better as sophomores.

Guys like Taylor and Goulbourne may ranked higher than Walker coming out of HS, but I'd imagine that Walker is further advanced than either of them at this point.

With that said, give these talented freshmen some time to learn from our coaches and play against SEC competition and pretty soon they could be starting. But, again, that's going to take time. How much is yet to be determined, which is why, as Aram stated so well in his post above, we can't expect too much from these freshmen.