Sunday, June 29, 2008

Q & A with Festus Ezeli

Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli admits that he is still getting used to the spotlight. The 6-11, 245-pound center began playing basketball just three years ago and redshirted in 2007-08. Ezeli caught the attention of college recruiters last summer while playing AAU basketball for the Sacramento Pharaohs, and chose the Commodores over several teams, including Florida, Connecticut and West Virginia.

While Ezeli said he still needs to learn a lot about the game, the Nigerian native nonetheless made great strides this season, earning Vanderbilt's Most Improved Player award at the team banquet.

In between class and workouts, Ezeli recently took some time to answer some questions from The Sports VU about a number of topics, including what it's like to guard A.J. Ogilvy, a funny story about Kevin Stallings and his strengths and weaknesses as a player.

Sports VU: How are excited are you get on the court and contribute next year?
Festus Ezeli: I am excited to be able to help out the team and help push them past previous achievements. It's still just surreal to me. I don't think it has hit me yet that I'm going to be playing. I'm just really excited.

SV: I'm sure it must have been frustrating to sit out an entire season. What was it like?
FE: Yes, it really was. To put in all that work in practice, you want to go out and show what you've learned and pretty much just help out, especially during the post season.

SV: How would you describe your game? What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?
FE: Well, I think I'm an explosive big man. I try to be a big presence inside on both sides of the floor. Getting stronger has helped improve my game. I can rebound, block shots, and I'm starting to get a hang of the post game. Problem is I am still new to the game so my knowledge of it is still not as refined as most college athletes.

SV: What are you up to this summer?
FE: June and July we're back in school for summer classes. We have to workout also. This is the best time for that because now we can build our individual talents.

SV: What was it like going up against A.J. in practice every day? I feel like if you can guard him, you can pretty much guard any big man in the league.
FE: I mean you guys have seen play. I don't have to tell you that he is a really good player. In order for my team not to lose everyday in practice, I had to do a better job of guarding A.J. and it really improved my defensive game. I'm looking forward to guarding the other big men.

SV: What impresses you the most about A.J.'s game? What makes him hard to defend?
FE: He has great hands, quick feet and those things I'm still working on. He is such a smart player also. This combination makes him tough to guard.

SV: How honored were you to receive the team's most improved player award this season?
FE: That was my first athletic award so I was very honored. My mom arrived the day of the ceremony and she was very proud. This just fueled me to want to win it again next year.

When did you start playing basketball?
FE: I first started playing about three summers ago. Played AAU in Las Vegas. Stopped playing for a while and then started again two summers ago when I realized that I loved the game.

SV: Talk about the differences between Nigeria and the U.S.
FE: There's a lot of differences. but the main thing for me is that life out here is more organized and I feel like there are more opportunities available.

What made you pick Vanderbilt?
FE: Great coach, really cool teammates, crazy nice and energetic fans, awesome school. What more can you ask for?

SV: What's it like to play for Coach Stallings? Any funny stories you can share about him?
FE: Coach stallings is the best. He challenges you to make the best of your potentials and he's really smart that I just feel privileged to play for him.
Haha umm... there was the one time he told everyone to get in the key while we were playing one practice and I stood at the free-throw line. He got really hot and cursed me out haha. I got made fun of by the guys about that.

SV: Who's the funniest player on the team?
FE: We got a lotta funny guys but i think George Drake's the funniest. Just the mix of jokes and the country accent haha.

Have you gotten a chance to play with any of the recruits before? If so, what are their games like?
FE: We play pickup right now with Lance (Goulbourne) and Steve (Tchiengang). Steve is a shooting and rebounding big man that can play good defense. Lance is a really athletic and big body wing. They're good players. Played with Brad (Tinsley) on his visit and he is a really good passer and a good shooting point guard. Haven't seen Jeff play.

SV: How would you rate your first-year at Vanderbilt -- the classes, the city, the fans, parties, etc.?
SV: It's been great. Much different than I thought. It's been really fun.

SV: What's something most fans wouldn't know about you?
FE: That I'm kind of shy, still getting used to the spotlight.

Not so fast: Foster still faces uphill climb

Shan Foster came one step closer to fulfilling his dream when he was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft (No. 51 overall) by the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday. Still, the 2008 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer knows there is more work to be done.

Just ask Derrick Byars, the 2007 SEC Player of the Year who went No. 42 overall in last year's draft. Byars was drafted by Portland and immediately traded to Philadelphia before being waived in late October. He ended up playing overseas in Germany and then in France for defending French League champion Chorale-Roanne.

For every second-round success story (think Gilbert Arenas, Manu Ginoboli or Carlos Boozer), there are countless more like Byars. Put simply, the odds of making an NBA roster for a second-round pick are not good. The last four players drafted 51st overall are JameSon Curry, Chiekh Samb, Robert Whaley and Vassilis Spanoulis. Who? Exactly.

However, the 51st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft? None other than sweet-shooting Kyle Korver, a senior from Creighton, which brings us back to Foster. What exactly are his chances of sticking in the NBA?

First, here's what Dallas' owner, president of team operations, head coach and fans had to say about Foster.

The Mavs were very pleased that Foster fell to them at No. 51 as they look for shooters to play alongside point guard Jason Kidd.

"Coach Carlisle felt like shooting was the hole in this team and wanted to get a shooter to put around Jason," Mavericks president of team operations Donnie Nelson said. "We feel very fortunate Shan fell to us this late in the draft." [Dallas Morning News]

“He could earn some time because you’re always looking for shooting,” Nelson said. “That’s usually something that transfers from college.” []

Owner Mark Cuban said the Mavs turned down $500,000 for their pick because "we really, really like Shan."

"All you have to do is look at his YouTube tape where he had nine 3s against Mississippi State. It's incredible the range he has. [ESPN analyst] Jay Bilas said Shan couldn't hit the NBA 3, but he never even takes a college 3. I think we got a steal, but we'll see. Everybody's a hero on draft day." [DMN]

Coach Rich Carlisle is also a fan.

“We’re very happy with the guy we got. We had a list of ‘A’ candidates, ‘Bs’ and ‘Cs’ and Shan Foster was the last ‘A’ on our list.” []

Carlisle said the Mavs need someone with Foster's perimeter shooting ability. He also likes the fact that Foster was a four-year college player and praised his maturity and basketball IQ.

"He'll have a chance," Carlisle said. "He'll have to earn it, but there's opportunity here." [Mavs Blog DMN]

Finally, Dallas fans seem to be pleased with pick, judging from their comments on a Mavs blog post. A few examples:

Rodney in Atlanta:
"I'm just glad that Avery's not here anymore because this poor guy would get buried by the edge of the bench and we'd never get to see what his potential is. Like I said before. I watched this guy play many times and he has intangibles that you just can't teach. He's a very good shooter and a great feel for the game. If brought along properly, he will contribute to this team."

"And one more thing. The guy's a good player and he's smart. Vanderbilt is not for dummys. He doesn't sing half bad either."

"foster is fantastic, that was a great great pick at 51!! real good point by G, hopefully its just like Josh (Howard) where he is a conference player of the year, 4 year senior, and slips...right to the Mavs to scoop him up. the SEC Player of the year at 51, 2nd team all-american, 47% from 3 as a senior, filling a position of need for the Mavs is a tremendous pickup."

Now, let's take a look at who Foster will be competing against to make the squad:

The Mavs' 2007 second-round picks, Reyshawn Terry (6'8 SF, UNC) and Renaldas Seibutis (6'6 SG, Lithuania), played in Europe last season and Nelson said they will have a chance to make the team next season.

Joining Foster, Terry and Seibutis on the summer league team are: Keith McLeod, Aaron Miles, Derrick Low, Reggie Williams, Richie Frahm, JaJuan Smith, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Yaroslav Korolev, Charles Rhodes, James Singleton and Pape Sow.

McLeod, Miles and Smith play point guard, while Low, at just 6'2, will probably have to as well. Frahm is a journeyman SG, while Mensah-Bonsu, Korolev, Sow and Mississippi State's Charles Rhodes are forwards. However, Foster could be competing against Williams, a 6'5 SG/SF from VMI and the nation's No. 1 scorer, and Singleton, a 6'8 forward who has played for the Clippers.

And we haven't even taken a look at the Mavs' current roster, which includes:

Point guard
Jason Kidd
Tyronn Lue
Jose Barea

Shooting guard
Jason Terry


Josh Howard
Jerry Stackhouse
Devean George
Eddie Jones
Antoine Wright

UPDATE: The Mavs signed G/F Gerald Green to a one-year deal.
Dirk Nowitzki
Malik Allen
Brandon Bass
Juwan Howard


Erick Dampier
Jamaal Magloire

It's important to note that Allen, Barea, George, Juwan Howard, Lue, Magloire and Wright are all free agents. DMN's Eddie Sefko expects either Barea or Lue and Wright to return, while adding that Jones could retire if the Mavs buy out the remaining year on his contract. Dallas could also sign a couple of free agents.

Therefore, Foster will be looking for playing time at the SG and SF positions behind Terry, Howard, Stackhouse and Wright, a former first-round pick out of Texas A&M who played two and a half seasons with New Jersey before coming over to Dallas in the Jason Kidd trade last year. Wright, a 6'7 SG, is a career 42 percent shooter, including 28 percent from 3-point range.


On the positive side, the Mavs genuinely seem to like Foster, who fills a need for them. They are desperately looking for shooters, which is Foster's strength. If he shoots well this summer, it will be hard for Dallas not to keep him. None of the Mavs' current players or summer league players like Terry, Seibutis, Williams and Singleton compare to Foster as a perimeter shooter.

On the negative side, Foster is pretty one-dimensional. Terry and Seibutis have had a year to develop their skills and to get faster and stronger, which means they may have a leg up on Foster this summer. If Foster struggles to catch fire from the outside, the Mavs will have a hard time finding a spot for him on the roster.

There's going to be a lot of pressure on Foster to perform this summer, but then again, no one said making it to the NBA would be easy.

Photo: []

Vandy announces first Hall of Fame class

Vanderbilt has finally created an Athletic Hall of Fame to recognize many of the school's outstanding individuals and celebrate its rich sporting history. Individuals were nominated based on three sets of criteria:

A) Commodore Great - Letterwinners/Athletes who have brought recognition and prominence to the University and themselves by their athletic accomplishments as an undergraduate. (Criteria to be considered: All-American, All-SEC, exceptional leadership as witnessed by teammates and/or coaches.)

B) Distinguished Letterwinners - Letterwinners/athletes who have made major contributions to the University athletic program through personal time, effort, interest and through many years of continued service and/or have distinguished themselves

C) Life Time Achievement - Individuals, coaches, athletic officials, staff members and other University officials, who were not letterwinners/athletes at Vanderbilt University, yet have rendered outstanding service to the intercollegiate athletics program through personal time, effort, interest and through many years of continued service.

Individuals are not eligible until four years after they last participated in intercollegiate athletics, which means athletes like Jay Cutler, David Price, Shan Foster, Pedro Alvarez, Earl Bennett and Chris Williams (man, I've been privileged to cover a lot of truly great players) will have to wait.

A 16-member panel of Vanderbilt athletic officials, led by Kevin Colon, a director of sport operations, reviewed hundreds of nominations before choosing the inaugural class of 12 very worthy individuals. Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams said as many as 12 people will be inducted into the Hall for perhaps the next three years, and a new class will be introduced each fall, according to Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

There will be a special Hall of Fame weekend on September 12-13, highlighted by the Induction Banquet Friday evening and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's football game against Rice. And so, without further ado...


Chantelle Anderson, women's basketball player from 1999-2003. Two-time All-American and the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,604 points. SEC Player of the Year in 2002. No. 2 player picked in 2003 WNBA Draft.

Peggy Harmon Brady, golfer from 1968-72. Paved the way for her female athletes such as her daughter Chris, who later became an All-American at Vanderbilt. Only mother-daughter All-Americans in school history.

John Hall, football player from 1951-54. First academic All-American in school history. Later became Chairman and CEO of Ashland, Inc., and president of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust.

Roy Kramer
, athletics director from 1978-90. Rebuilt Vanderbilt Stadium, renovated McGugin Center, merged men's and women's athletic department. Later became SEC commissioner and was regarded as one of the most powerful and influential leaders in collegiate athletics. Highlights include expansion of the league from 10 to 12 members, creation of the SEC Football Championship, creator of the Bowl Championship Series, unprecedented league success, $1 billion network television contract.

Clyde Lee, basketball player from 1963-66. "Colossal Clyde" played 11 seasons in the NBA after twice being named SEC Player of the Year at Vanderbilt. All-America pick in 1966, averaged school-record 15.5 rebounds per game over his career. Old-timers call Memorial Gym's second and third tiers "the balconies that Clyde built." First VU student-athlete to have his number retired and one of only three.

Dan McGugin
, head football coach from 1904-34. Winningest football coach in school history with overall record of 197-55-19. Ranks No. 20 in all-time NCAA victories and No. 22 in winning percentage. Elected to National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1951. Died in 1936.

John Rich
, football and baseball player from 1945-51. Joined VU Board of Trust in 1988 and has helped oversee the expansion and construction of several key athletics facilities.

Fred Russell
, former Nashville Banner writer (1929-98) and VU baseball player (1925-26). One of the greatest sports journalists of the 20th century. Press boxes at Vanderbilt’s football and baseball stadiums are named in his honor. Wrote an estimated 12,000 columns at the Banner, which ceased operation in 1998. Died in 2003.

June Stewart
, VU administration from 1973-91. One of the most influential women in the SEC. First female president of College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Inducted into Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (2004) and Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame (2007).

Ryan Tolbert Jackson, track and field star from 1994-98. The only Commodore to ever win an individual NCAA championship. Won the 1997 NCAA Outdoors 400 meters in 54.54, a record at that time. Holds seven outdoor and three indoor records.

Bill Wade
, football player from 1949-51. SEC Player of the Year and second-team All-American in 1951 as a quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1952 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Led Chicago Bears to 1963 World Championship.

Perry Wallace
, basketball player from 1966-1970. Would have become a premier HOF candidate even if he didn't make SEC history by becoming the league's first African-American basketball player. Star student-athlete who went on to an outstanding career in law and education. Named All-SEC as a senior. Jersey retired in 2004.

A few quick thoughts about the first HOF class:

-Wish I could have been at Memorial back in the 60's to watch Clyde Lee play. Sounds like he almost single-handedly changed the culture of Vanderbilt basketball.

-Would have loved to meet Mr. Russell, who I hear was as good as it gets.

-There are few individuals, if any, who are better representatives for this university than Perry Wallace. It took a very special and strong person to do what he did. And he was a pretty darn good basketball player too.

-I have to admit, I had never heard of Roy Kramer before this week. But, are his accomplishments impressive or what? Kramer served as SEC commissioner from 1990 to 2002 and created the BCS. You don't get much more influential than that.

-Dan McGugin is a baller. He is responsible for 197 of the football program's 546 victories (36 percent). No wonder they named a building after him.

Photo: [VU Commodores]

Friday, June 27, 2008

Shan Foster Now a Maverick

It took 51 tries, but Shan Foster, Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer, is now an official NBA draftee. The Dallas Mavericks, a perennial playoff team, used their only pick in the draft to take the 6'6'' scoring machine.

According to Dallas' website, it looks like Shan will vie for some serious playing time right off the bat, as he will be one of the only 3-point shooters on the team.

"We’re very happy with the guy we got," said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. Commodore Nation couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Minor makes USA baseball squad

Vanderbilt junior Mike Minor will play for the prestigious USA National Baseball team for the second straight summer after the 20-man roster was released today.

The Americans will compete next month in the Harlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands and at the FISU World Championships in the Czech Republic. Minor was 5-3 with a 2.08 ERA for the Americans in 2007, and joins David Price and Pedro Alvarez as other Commodores who have played two years for the National team. Ryan Flaherty and Casey Weathers each played once.

"Without a doubt, this is an outstanding collection of talent both on the mound and in the lineup," said head coach Rob Walton (Oral Roberts). "We have plus arms, solid defenders and a group of quality hitters with great makeup. We look forward to representing the United States in international competition with this team."

The National team begins competition Wednesday, opening a six-game series against the Chinese Taipei National Team in Greenville, S.C. (6:05 p.m. CT).

Is college baseball becoming a "country club" sport?

Seeing that we have had previous discussions on this site about race in baseball as well as the whole high school/college signability issue, it seems appropriate to stir some discussion with this Wall Street Journal article from James Wagner. Recent NCAA figures show that a surprisingly high 86% of college baseball players (across all 3 divisions) are white, begging the question of how this can be when one look at a Major League roster is evidence of the amount of talent outside the white community. Wagner points to a number of factors, but the most interesting to me is the way college scouts do business.

"What bugs many coaches most is that baseball, a sport that has a legacy of integration dating back to Jackie Robinson, has become at the college level a game for the privileged -- a country-club sport. To be noticed by college recruiters, they say, players must participate in travel leagues and showcase tournaments, attend camps and work with well-known trainers and coaches. Only the families of wealthy kids can afford this, coaches say."

The dearth of baseball interest in the African-American community has been well-documented, but could this supposed shift in the atmosphere of the game be partly to blame? I would suggest that the two are more likely complementary, with college coaches and recruiters focusing on such traveling tournaments and showcases where they have the best chance of finding a large pool of talent. The fact that baseball isn't being played as much in the inner-city understandably causes recruiters to look elsewhere, but its a cyclical process. It's tough to get excited when you don't think the system is giving you a chance.

Even more worrisome to me is the lack of Latin American players, as there is obviously both huge interest and huge talent in that community. Part of the onus is on them to accept scholarship offers when they receive them rather than go where they're drafted, but I can't really blame them for doing so in a lot of circumstances.

I guess it just seems unfortunate that in the light of all that has been written lately about the feel good story of Pedro Alvarez, there aren't more stories like that out there. He really is the perfect example of how college baseball can be a great experience for both sides, and I think everyone involved in Pedro's story would agree with that.

So here's to you, Pedro (yet again).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Video of the Day: Move over Usher, Shan Foster to go platinum

In his spare time, Shan Foster decided to write a song about the upcoming NBA Draft (Thursday at 7 p.m. CT). "The Truth" never ceases to amaze us.

Here are the lyrics to Foster's new hit single "I can't wait to play in the NBA"

I can't wait to play in the NBA (2X)

I'm waiting for the draft
working hard to improve to my craft
From New Orleans to Tennessee
I'm the best at shooting the three
I'll take you off the dribble, pass my man
I'm in the lane, now watch me slam

I can't wait to play in the NBA (2X)

Just as a kid, watching TV
Already knew what I want to be
Started off as just a dream
But my family believed in me
Played for Vandy, for USA
But now I'm headed to the NBA

I can't wait to play in the NBA (4X)

Man, I'm going to miss Shan Foster. He is projected to land in the second round (No. 54 by ESPN's Chad Ford). Listening to Foster perform, you realize that a) he has a pretty good back-up plan if this basketball thing doesn't work out and b) he really wants to play in the NBA. We're certainly pulling for him.

How great would it be if Foster performed this live on ESPN on draft night? "From New Orleans to Tennessee, I'm the best at shooting the three." It doesn't get much better than that.

Link: ESPN The Magazine

Around the SEC (6/23)

The football team won the Sugar Bowl. The basketball team came out of the doghouse to win the SEC Tournament. Now the SEC champion baseball team is on the cusp of a College World Series championship. It's certainly good to be a Georgia Bulldog right now. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Georgia and Florida's football teams are getting too much pre-season hype, while Mississippi State and LSU are being underestimated. [The Gainesville Sun]

Tennessee's new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is tight-lipped about what sort of attack the Volunteers will have this fall. [GoVolsXtra]

Alabama coach Nick Saban was inducted into the Independence Bowl Hall of Fame, which includes coaches Mack Brown and Frank Beamer, and players Brett Favre and Deuce McAllister. [Tuscaloosa News]

First overall pick David Price got promoted to Double-A Montgomery after yet another sparkling outing at Single-A Vero Beach. His new team name: The Biscuits. []

Vanderbilt incoming freshman Chelsea Stewart was honored by being named to the Canadian Under-20 National Soccer Team. []

Not SEC, but still close to home. Tennessee Titan defensive end Jevon Kearse was arrested on West End Avenue by Vanderbilt campus police when they noticed his Cadillac Escalade driving erratically. He was picked up for DUI and refusing the breathalyzer. [Nashville City Paper]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Around the SEC (6/21)

Want another reason to like Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo? The day after celebrating with his teammates at the championship parade, Rondo hopped on a 6 a.m. flight to Cincinnati to spend time with his fans at Camp Rondo at the Basketball Academy.

"I had to be here for this," he said. "I couldn't let the kids down." [The Courier-Journal]

Auburn hired College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski to lead its baseball program, and it looks like the Tigers got it right. [Tracking the Tigers]

LSU saw its magical run in the CWS come to an end last night against North Carolina, while Georgia plays Stanford today. [The Advocate, Dawg Sports]

Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom got a well-deserved raise. [Clarion-Ledger]

Former Gator slugger Matt LaPorta is a star in the making. [Gainesville Sun]

Top statistically returnees in the SEC by points, rebounds and assists. [UK Sidelines]

Not related to the SEC, but this was too good to pass up. Bruce Weber: "I think Indiana will suck." [Fanhouse]

Photo []

Friday, June 20, 2008

Q&A with Joey Manning

With a number of talented recruits heading to Nashville in the fall, it's easy to forget about the Commodores already waiting in the wings. Just a year ago fans and coaches were raving about the potential of outfielder Joey Manning.

"Joey is an Albert Pujols look-alike," said coach Tim Corbin before the season. "He's strong, can run and throw, and is a mature freshman. He's very driven to excel and is our future in the outfield."

However, the presence of seniors David Macias and Dominic de la Osa meant little playing time for Manning. He finished the season 2-for-7 with one RBI and two walks. This summer Manning is starting for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball. Through eight games, he is hitting .276 with two homers, a double and six RBI to go along with six walks.

After playing against Mike Minor and the rest of the Team USA squad Thursday night, Manning sat down with The Sports VU to discuss a number of topics, including his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter.

Sports VU: Talk about what the atmosphere is like here in Newport.
Joey Manning: It’s just like college. We get just as many fans here as we do back at school. The pitching is pretty good, the competition is pretty good.

SV: How exciting is it to be playing every day again?
JM: At school, it was a little bit frustrating this year having so many older guys in the outfield. It’s nice to come here and play every day. I had to prove myself at first when I got here. People were thinking, “OK, this guy didn’t play a lot at school; he’s probably not that good.” You realize how much talent’s at Vandy when you come here.

SV: While you obviously want to play, I’m sure you had to learn a lot from the older guys.
JM: It’s definitely humbling. You see what you have to do from the preparation stand point every day.

SV: What do you have to do to solidify a spot in the outfield next season?
JM: Just be more consistent.

SV: Do you have a host family here?
JM: Yeah, I’m staying with my best friend from back home, Jack Murphy, he goes to Princeton. We’re staying with Chuck Paiva, who’s actually the GM of the team.

SV: What’s a day like for you here in Newport?
JM: The first week we got here, we had to wake up early and read to elementary school kids every day. Now, it’s just wake up, lift weights, play a little basketball and come to the field.

SV: How did playing for Coach Corbin this year prepare you for this summer?
JM: You have to have great energy and preparation every day. I’ve done that here and it’s paid off for me.

SV: With six walks, looks like you’ve been pretty patient so far.
JM: I don’t get to see too many fastballs and they throw around me a little bit.

SV: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a hitter?
JM: I can hit the fastball, but I just have to learn to hit the slider a little better. I hit a curve ball out the other night, but I need to work on hitting the slider.

Photo [Goldy's Blog]

Q&A with Mike Minor

It seems like just yesterday Mike Minor was a freshman, pitching in relative anonymity behind David Price. Now, he's already a junior.

The left-hander went 7-3 with a 4.28 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 103 innings as a sophomore after going 9-1 with a 3.09 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 90.1 innings as a freshman. Despite the statistical dip, Minor said there is no question he is a better pitcher.

He is playing for Team USA for the second straight summer and took some time to answer some questions from The Sports VU after the Americans' 8-3 victory over Newport about a number of topics, including the reason for his struggles, the development of his third pitch, the dedication of pitching coach Derek Johnson and expectations for next season.

Sports VU: Describe the feeling of wearing that Team USA jersey.
Mike Minor: It’s always a lot of fun to put the USA jersey and representing wherever go, but especially in Newport, such a big town, on the coast. The ballpark in itself is just different – you never see fences this high all the way around, nowhere past 360, restaurant in right field. It’s a pretty cool place.

SV: What it’s like not having Pedro (Alvarez) and Flash (Ryan Flaherty) around this summer?
MM: I had to go with the guys and get to know everybody else instead of just lingering towards Pedro and Flash and having them create friends for me. I had to do it all on my own this year except for Goldy, and he’s with the coaches most of the time.

SV: It seems like you were a freshman. And now you’re about to be a junior. Can you believe it?
MM: I was actually thinking about that the other day. Next year – that’s the big year. It seemed like just the other day I was with Pedro and Flash and they were the big dogs and now I’m at the top, ready to go hopefully in the draft next year.

SV: How excited are you for next year?
MM: I think I’ll be better, be more experienced and I feel like I won’t make as many mistakes and I’ll be more of a leader for the younger guys.

SV: Have you had a chance to evaluate what you did well this season and what you can improve?
MM: I tried to be a leader out there and set the tone on Friday nights, but a lot of times I would get mad at myself if I made a bad pitch here or there. I was too hard on myself and that’s what I need to learn from and next year, just let it go by.

SV: Statistically, you may not have had as good a season as a sophomore, but I’d imagine that you are much better pitcher now than you were there then.
MM: Definitely. Last year I was right behind Price and they were like “let’s just focus on Price, Price, Price,” and then I would get out there and they were like “who’s this guy?” They really didn’t know who I was and now this year, everybody knew I had a changeup so everybody sat on my changeup and hit my changeup. I feel like I’m a better pitcher and developing my third pitch and throwing it more so people can sit on my changeup.

SV: What’s the third pitch?
MM: Slider, but I’m actually working on a curve over the next couple of weeks too so there might be four.

SV: Talk about what it’s like to play for DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson)?
MM: He’s so dedicated. We lost our last game in the Regional and everybody’s just looking ahead to summer ball and he’s already next year and what we need to work on. We had a meeting for two hours that night just talking about next year and the year just got over. That just shows you how dedicated he is.

SV: Looking ahead to next year, the pitching staff has a chance to be pretty good.
MM: I’m pretty excited about that because I’m a pitcher and don’t really care what the hitters do. You’ve got Sonny Gray and Navery Moore coming in and a lot of guys. Those are just the guys I know from close by. I’m pretty pumped to see what they’ve got and show them tips and have them lean on my shoulder.

SV: Is it tough to watch LSU and Georgia competing in Omaha, knowing it could be you guys?
MM: I feel like we can compete with them, but I guess this year we just couldn’t come together like we did the year before and there were just so many obstacles we would’ve had to overcome to get to Omaha.

How impressive has Kentrail Davis (Tennessee) been so far?
MM: Him and the other SEC guys, Hunter Morris (Auburn). They just light up in BP and in the games. It makes me feel pretty good because during the season they didn’t do much against me.

SV: Learn anything from the other pitchers out in the bullpen?
MM: I learned a couple new grips and new pitches. Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss) throws a crazy 12-6 knuckle-curve that I’ll never try because it looks too hard.

Around the SEC (6/20)

A few links to pass along on this lazy Friday. Once you stop staring at that photo, feel free to check them out.

The best part about signing Emmanuel Negedu? Tennessee now has the hottest fan in the SEC in Marisa Miller, who is only No. 1 on Maxim's Hot 100 List. (Sorry Ashley, but it's not even close). Negedu went to the same school as Miller's husband and is very close with both of them. You know Bruce Pearl is loving this. [Verno's Blog]

SI's Luke Winn discusses how the new 3-point line (from 19 feet, nine inches to 20 feet, nine inches) will affect the game next season. 33.4 percent of Vanderbilt's points came from 3-point range, the ninth-highest percentage in the nation, but don't expect the Commodores to as reliant next season without Shan Foster and Alex Gordon. []

Quarterback Stephen Garcia hopes to rejoin South Carolina this summer. [The State]

Billy Gillespie said he will comply with a recommendation from the National Association of Basketball Coaches that coaches stop recruiting eighth-graders. The best part about this story? The president of the NABC is none other than Tubby Smith. [Herald-Leader]

Florida guard Nick Calathes is going Greek. [Gainesville Sun]

Team USA 8 Newport 3

Had a chance to take in the game between the USA National Team and the Newport Gulls of the NECBL Thursday night, and came away very impressed.

Cardines Field in Newport, R.I., is a treat. The two dugouts are situated side-by-side along the first-base line and the two teams share a bullpen along the left-field line, while there is a 20-foot high fence all the way around and a restaurant in the right-field perch.

With 2,763 fans in attendance, the atmosphere was electric -- even better than the Cape League -- as the Gulls ran numerous promotions to keep the youngsters entertained. There were also a number of scouts seated behind home plate. I counted at least eight radar guns and San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta and Kansas City, among others, were on hand to watch Team USA win 8-3.

Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor did not pitch, but I had a chance to catch up with him after the game (you can read the interview here). Fellow Commodores Joey Manning and Chase Reid are off to good starts this summer, but both struggled last night.

Manning struck out twice against Missouri's Kyle Gibson, a hard-throwing right-hander from Missouri. Reid gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits with two walks and one strikeout in two innings of work.

Scouts are definitely intrigued by Gibson, who is 6'6'' and very projectable. He looked overpowering at times, striking out six in four innings of work. However, when Newport was able to sit on his fastball, Gibson paid. Gibson surrendered a leadoff homer and gave up back-to-back hard-hit doubles in the fourth. Still, Gibson has a devastating slider that, when thrown for strikes, makes him very difficult to hit. It will be interesting to see how Gibson fares the rest of the summer.

The most impressive performance of the night came from Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis, who I think is going to be a very special player. Davis is off to a torrid start this summer and Thursday night was no different. In the third, the freshman blasted his fourth homer to deep right field, turning on a fastball to clear the 20-foot high fence with ease. In the sixth, Davis added a long double off the wall in the right-centerfield gap after fouling off two tough two-strike pitches.

Davis led the Vols in batting average (.330), home runs (13) and RBI (44) as a freshman and has only elevated his play with Team USA. He stands at just 5’9’’, but weighs 198 pounds and is extremely strong with quick hands and a sweet left-handed stroke. Expect Davis to be a first-round pick in 2010. Until then, good luck to the college pitchers try to get him out.

Click here for my full Team USA breakdown on The College Baseball Blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Around the SEC (6/19)

I'm off to Rhode Island in a minute to play some golf with my dad and then catch the Team USA-Newport baseball game tonight, but here are a few links for the road.

Tennessee forward Wayne Chism walked out on his summer league game early. [Go Vols Extra]

School President Jay Gogue discusses the state of Auburn athletics. [The Birmingham News]

Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson, who A.J. Ogilvy said was the toughest player to guard, is well on his way to recovery after suffering an ankle injury late in the season. [Advocate-Messenger]

Auburn is still looking for a new baseball coach.[Track 'em Tigers]

Q&A with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. [Go Gamecocks]

LSU faces North Carolina in another do-or-die game today in the CWS. [The Advocate]

Enjoy the day, everyone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer baseball update

Summer baseball is in full swing and here's an update on how the Commodores are faring in the early going.

Team USA

Mike Minor is off to a terrific start in his second season with Team USA. The left-hander has won both starts, giving up seven hits while striking out six and walking none in eight scoreless innings.

Cape Cod Baseball League

Hyannis (2-2) -- Russell Brewer has already picked up two saves for the Mets, while catcher Curt Casali is 1-for-7 with a walk and run scored in two starts.

Brewster (1-1-1) -- Mark Lamm pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on Tuesday to pick up his first save, while Caleb Cotham has yet to make a start as of Tuesday night.

Wareham (1-2) -- Outfielder Steve Liddle is off to a good start, batting .300 (3-for-10) with one double and a RBI as of Tuesday night.

Harwich (3-0) -- Catcher/first baseman Andrew Giobbi is 2-for-14 with two doubles and five RBI as of Tuesday night.


Newport (6-2) -- Right-hander Chase Reid has been outstanding out of the bullpen, picking up a save and giving up just one hit and no walks while striking out seven in four scoreless innings. Outfielder Joey Manning is hitting .280 with two homers, one double, six RBI and a team-leading six walks (.419 OBP) and has a very respectable OPS of .969.

Keene (7-1) -- Lefty Sean Bierman is off to a great start, giving up one earned run on four hits while striking out 15 in just nine innings. Meanwhile, infielder Aaron Westlake has struggled (1-for-14, 4 walks, 4 errors) early on.

Holyoke (3-5) -- Outfielder Alex Hilliard is hitting .242 with a homer, two doubles and a team-best 5 RBI to go along with two stolen bases.

Sanford (4-5) -- Infielder Brian Harris is hitting .211 with one RBI and two stolen bases.


Saratoga (2-3) -- Outfielder Jordan Wormsley is 1-for-7 with a double in two starts, while lefty Kellen St. Luce gave up three earned runs to go along with four walks and five strikeouts in four innings.


Winchester (9-4) -- Taylor Hill is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts. He has given up 12 hits in 12.2 innings to go along with two walks and 14 strikeouts.

Staunton (6-7) -- Steven Schwartz gave up one earned run on five hits while walking three and striking out five in five innings.


Danville (5-4) -- Lefty reliever Richie Goodenow is 1-0 with 6.00 ERA after giving up four runs on six hits to go along with four walks and seven strikeouts in six innings of work.

Great Lakes

Stark County Terrier (4-1) -- Shortstop Gabe Ortiz is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with one double and two RBI in four starts. He has made one error.

A few other non-Vanderbilt thoughts:

-I took in the Hyannis-Chatham game Wednesday night and came away very impressed with right-hander Drew Muren of Cal St. Northridge. Muren gave up just one hit and struck out eight while walking one in four scoreless innings of relief for Hyannis.

Muren is 6'6, 185 pounds, and throws in the low 90s consistently, topping out at 93 mph on Wednesday. As a freshman, he was 3-5 with a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings and had just 25 strikeouts, which was surprisingly low for someone with his arm. He also played outfield and hit .270 with one homer and 14 RBI in 43 games.

-The starting pitcher for Hyannis was Matt Ridings of Western Kentucky, who pitched well with the exception of a five-run second inning. He struck out nine in five innings and gave up just two hits and fanned six and also picked off a runner in the final three frames. The Franklin, Tenn., native and BGA alum went 10-3 with a 3.88 ERA for the Hilltoppers this year.

-Two pitchers from Chatham were also impressive. Left-hander Sammy Solis (San Diego) had scouts talking after giving up two unearned runs on six hits while striking out eight and walking one in five innings. Solis went 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 49.1 innings as a freshman. He has good downward movement on his fastball and also throws a good breaking ball and changeup.

Also, hard-throwing Brad Boxberger (USC) struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his first save. Boxberger was ranked No. 24 by Baseball America on its CCBL prospect list last summer but the sophomore went 2-4 with a 6.12 ERA in 50 innings this year for the Trojans. He certainly has the stuff to be a a high-round draft pick in 2009 so it will be interesting to see how he performs this summer.

-I will be attending Thursday night's contest between the Newport Gulls and Team USA in Rhode Island. Should be a great take, and I'll be sure to file a report after the game.

Around the SEC (6/18)

Tennessee scored a big coup yesterday, landing prized recruit Emmanuel Negedu, a four-star forward ranked No. 40 overall by

A Nigerian native, Negedu (6-foot-8, 255) prepped at Brewster Academy (NH) and originally committed to Arizona but received a release after feeling uncomfortable with the Wildcats' coaching situation. He chose the Vols over Memphis, Indiana and Georgia Tech. [Tennessean]

CBS Sportsline's Gary Parrish broke the story and added this:
It not only solidifies Tennessee as a preseason top 10 team, but it's an example of Pearl -- aided by assistant Steve Forbes -- beating rival John Calipari and Memphis on a "national" recruit as the two programs continue to compete for supremacy in the state. [CBS Sportsline]

Alabama point guard got some advice from legendary coach Larry Brown before making his decision to return for his senior season. I'm surprised Brown didn't tell him to transfer. [Advocate-Messenger]

New South Carolina coach Darrin Horn is trying to build a pipeline to rebuild the program. [Go Gamecocks]

Those LSU Tigers did it again as Blake Dean's walk-off three-double lifted them to a 6-5 victory over Rice in a CWS elimination game. [Baseball America]

Vanderbilt pitcher Mike Minor pitched four scoreless innings to pick up his second victory for Team USA. [TCBB]

Jackonsville State players are excited about their new quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. [Birmingham News]

Which SEC teams have the best odds of winning the national championship? Florida and Georgia are 6-1, while LSU is 12-1. [Mr. SEC]

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings seems to be here for the long haul. [Nashville City Paper]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Around the SEC (6/17)

In case you missed yesterday's, Around the SEC will become a daily feature here at The Sports VU as we'll provide links to the top stories from blogs and newspapers across the South.

I'm starting with some startling news that should serve as an eye-opener for all the college students reading this blog.

A Georgia baseball player who did not accompany the team to Omaha for the College World Series is facing several alcohol-related charges after an accident resulted in serious injuries to a University of North Carolina player.

The two players - sophomore pitcher Ryan Woolley of Georgia and sophomore pitcher Brandon Dail of North Carolina - are competing in the Cape Cod summer league in Massachusetts.

According to a news report at, Dail sustained major injuries when he was pinned beneath a truck driven by Woolley. Dail reportedly had jumped onto the hood of Woolley's 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck as Woolley was moving the vehicle out of the driveway and onto the street. The two players were at the home of their host family in Brewster, Mass., the newspaper reported.

Dail was taken to Cape Cod Hospital, then flown by medical helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His condition was serious Monday night, a hospital spokeswoman told the Cape Cod News. He sustained injuries to his legs and head.

According to newspaper accounts, Woolley and Dail had been drinking beer and watching the CWS on television at the home of their host family. Police said Woolley failed field sobriety and alcohol breathalyzer tests he took at the scene and again at the Brewster Police Station. An 18-pack of beer was found in his truck, police said.

We hear it all the time -- don't drink and drive -- and yet far too many people (young and old) continue to do it. Maybe, just maybe, after reading this story that will change. [AJC]

In other news, Georgia beat Stanford 4-3 to move within one game of the College World Series final. [AJC]

UT football coach Phillip Fulmer is not going anywhere for a while. He is on the verge of getting a big raise. He's also going to sign a seven-year extension, which means that you can expect Fulmer to be here at least eight to 10 more years. [Tennessean]

While Fulmer's contract will average more than $3 million annually, Bruce Pearl will also get a new six-year deal worth more than $2 million annually. He's now paid more than Vanderbit's Kevin Stallings. Only Florida in the SEC will pay its football and men’s basketball coaches more in combined money than UT. [Mr. SEC]

Mr. SEC wanted to see if there was a real correlation between recruiting rankings and on-field performance. While there is no exact science, here's what they found:
The top five teams in recruiting from 2003 to 2007 just happened to be the only five teams in the SEC last year to post winning conference records.

Divide the conference into fourths and the recruiting rankings become even more telling. Teams one through four in recruiting (Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee) combined to post a 24-10 record in conference play. That’s a winning percentage of .705.

The teams ranked five through eight in recruiting (Auburn, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas) combined to finish 16-16 in conference play. That’s a .500 winning percentage.

And the teams that ranked nine through 12 in recruiting (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) finished 9-25 in league play. That’s a winning percentage of only .264.

The top four in recruiting won 75% of their games, the middle four in recruiting won 50% of their games and the bottom four in recruiting won just 25% of their games.

Nothing earth-shattering, but interesting nonetheless. [Mr. SEC]

The Alabama basketball team went 1-1 yesterday. Point guard Ronald Steele will return, while forward Richard Hendrix will leave early for the NBA. Looks like Steele and head coach Mark Gottfried might end up saving each other next season. [Birmingham News]

Former UK player Derrick Jasper is transferring to UNLV. [Herald-Leader]

A look inside Florida's 2008-09 athletic budget. Looks just like Vanderbilt's, doesn't it? [Orlando Sentinel]

For Vandy links, check out today's Commodore Banter.

Commodore Banter (6/17)

The news came and went without much attention, but don't underestimate the importance of Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson's decision to stay with Dores.

One of the nation's best pitching coaches, Johnson recently turned down an opportunity to take the same position at Mississippi State under new coach John Cohen, as reported by Brett Hait of The City Paper.

“He’s the best at what he does,” said coach Tim Corbin. “He’s at the top of his craft and people respect him in a large way.”

Johnson has done an incredible job developing pitchers. Two have already gone onto the majors (Jensen Lewis and Jeremy Sowers) and at least two more will be there soon (David Price and Casey Weathers). Perhaps more importantly, no pitcher has had significant injury under Johnson, who excels at strengthening and protecting their arms.

The Commodores will have arguably their deepest and most talented pitching staff next season, which is why it's even more significant that Johnson is here to stay.

“I don’t feel like there is another pitching job out there better than the one I have,” Johnson said. “Leaving for another job makes no sense. Vanderbilt has treated me very well financially. A lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side, when in fact it’s not.

“I like Nashville and like Vanderbilt. I think we can get the quality of pitcher here that I want to work with, and I think our track record proves that.”

In other news, junior shortstop Ryan Flaherty is off to Boise, Idaho, to play for the Class A Hawks of the Northwest League after signing with the Chicago Cubs. Baseball America reported that Flaherty received $900,000 signing bonus.

Vandy Pride has a great interview up with Jason Esposito, who turned down a $1.5 million contract to play for the Commodores next season. Here's a quick preview of the interview:

VP: How tempting was it to take the 1.5 million dollar signing bonus from the Royals and go pro?
JE: It was tempting, but I had to put the dollar amount aside and figure out whether I wanted to go off as a 17 year old and start working (literally) or come to school, get an education, and try and be apart of a first Vanderbilt team to go to Omaha. But my family was really supportive of the fact that I need an education and my 15 year old brother actually convinced me to come to school. Which was a real shock hearing that from him. He’s been there for everything I’ve done.

Great stuff, and welcome aboard, Jason.

In Cape Cod League action, Russell Brewer picked up his second save as the Hyannis Mets improved to 2-0. Catcher Curt Casali made his first start and caught up with The Sports VU for a Q&A afterward that you can read here. Wareham's Steve Liddle went 1-for-3 with a RBI and Harwich's Andrew Giobbi has two doubles through two games.

Also, it's worth mentioning that David Price could be promoted to Double-A Montgomery of the Southern League later in the week after making his fifth start.

He gave up one run in five innings and struck out the side in the first and third. On the season, Price (3-0, 1.27 ERA) has given up four earned runs on 23 hits to go along with 30 strikeouts and five walks in 28.1 innings.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Q & A with Curt Casali

In Cape Cod Baseball League action, the Hyannis Mets beat Falmouth 1-0 Monday night in a classic pitchers' duel to improve to 2-0. Vanderbilt reliever Russell Brewer shut down the door in the ninth to pick up his second save, and his battery mate was fellow Commodore Curt Casali.

After the game, Casali took some time to answer a number of questions from The Sports VU about a number of topics, including his early impressions of the league and Jason Esposito's decision to come to Vanderbilt, in addition to signing autographs and helping his teammates with some groundskeeping.

Sports VU: How exciting was it to make your Cape Cod Baseball League debut?
Curt Casali: It was a rush being out there again, just like my first college game. I definitely think I was more nervous for my first college game than I was for here, but there were some butterflies. By the first inning, (Andrew) Carraway (of Virginia) was throwing great and I had to do was stick up the glove.

SV: It must be a blast to play in such low-scoring, high-quality baseball games.
CC: It's a lot of fun and the wooden bats being used add another element that college baseball players just don't even realize when you're playing with metal all the time. It's definitely a pitchers' game. 4-3 our first game and 1-0 today. You go into the ninth with a 1-0 lead, you're feeling good about yourselvesf you're playing with metal, you're like, "We really need to get some extra runs to help us out here."

SV: I'm sure you're really confident in the ninth when Russell Brewer enters the game.
CC: Russ has definitely got his thing going on in the ninth inning. I know Coach Robinson loves him as a closer already and I feel fortunate enough to be in the ninth to catch him. It's a lot of fun.

SV: Talk about how gratifying it is to be playing such a prestigious league.
CC: I've been waiting for this my whole life. It's always been a life-long dream to play in the Cape League. It's close to home and hopefully a couple of my buddies will come up here eventually. So far so good. My host family is awesome. They've treated me like their own son and I couldn't be happier.

SV: What was Carraway doing well tonight?
CC: He was just painting the black. Maybe the umpire was giving him a few inches at the end, but he definitely earned everything he got.

SV: Is this your first time using wood?
CC: No, I've used it before since high school baseball players usually use wood in the summer now, but it's been a long year of using metal so I'm still trying to get back in the swing of things, although I did hit a couple hard tonight. It will come around as it will for anyone else who may be struggling in this league. I'm a firm believer in that.

SV: What is Coach Robinson like?
CC: He's intense, almost as intense as Coach Corbin, but he's a good guy. He's calling a good game behind the plate. After going to college at Vanderbilt with Coach Corbin, you get used to an intense style of play and a fast style of play, and that's exactly what he preaches. Hustling on and off the field and a quick pace of the game.

SV: Will it take you a while to establish a rapport with the pitchers?
CC: It took me a whole fall to get a hold of our pitching staff (at Vandy), but these guys are the cream of the crop and if they're up here, they're up here for a reason. They know what they're doing and I'm trusting their stuff and I'll do whatever it takes to react to it and catch it and help them succeed.

SV: From fall ball to winter workouts to a grueling four-month season and now to this, it's been a long year, but I imagine that you guys aren't complaining about this opportunity.
CC: You can't complain about it. Ask anybody in this league and they'll say it's been their lifelong dream to come up here. Yeah, it would be a nice to have a regular summer vacation like most students, but I'm not compaining whatsoever. This is so much fun.

SV: So Jason Esposito is finally coming.
CC: Thank god. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to him, tried to convince him Vanderbilt was the best place to come. He won't be disappointed. I can guarantee you that.

SV: Already excited about next year?
CC: It was fun being a freshman for a little bit, but then it took its tolls. It will be good to be one of the older guys and establish a leadership roll.

SV: How difficult will it be to replace Shea Robin?
CC: I have some big shoes to fill because I've never seen anybody block as well as Shea has, handle the pitching staff as well as he has and you can ask Coach Corbin about that. I'm a little nervous to take on the responsibility of taking care of the staff, but at the same time I'm really excited.

SV: How will playing in this league help prepare for next season?
CC: Any time you're using a wooden bat, it really strengthens your wrists and your hands and your swing as a whole. You can cheat sometimes with a metal bat and get away with some dinky hits. But if you get jammed here, you break a bat and it hurts too. Playing with the best players across the country, how can you not get better?

Gators are SEC's greatest

With the league celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, The Birmingham News created a formula to find the Southeastern Conference's all-time Greatest Athletic Program (GAP) and the Florida Gators are your winner. Read here to see how The News came up with the rankings.

1. Florida................414.50
2. Georgia................382.36
3. LSU....................321.34
4. Tennessee..............299.28
5. Kentucky...............194.79
6. Auburn.................190.13
7. Alabama................180.98
8. Arkansas...............166.65
9. South Carolina.........106.29
10. Vanderbilt............71.51
11. Ole Miss..............57.78
12. Miss. State...........46.85

What are your thoughts on the list? Anything jump out at you? How will this list look after 100 years?

I think it looks pretty good. Florida and Georgia deserve to be at the top and I don't see them slowing down any time soon. It's interesting to see how big of a gap there is between Tennessee and Kentucky and it shows how much the top four schools have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Kentucky is helped tremendously from basketball and Arkansas and South Carolina have some work to do as late arrivals to the SEC.

I'm not surprised that the Mississippi schools find themselves at the bottom, although I didn't expect both Alabama schools to be so mediocre. The fact that Alabama and Auburn are sixth and seventh respectively shows just how talented this league truly is.

As for Vanderbilt, 10th is respectable. I'd like to think that the Commodores will rise in the rankings by the 100th anniversary, but who will they pass? The only way Vanderbilt will be able to make up ground is by a) winning national championships (the best chance will be in baseball and non-revenue sports) and b) adding programs such as softball and volleyball.

Also, here are how the schools rank in the four major sports:

1. Alabama................20.71
2. Tennessee..............12.84
3. LSU....................12.22
T-4. Florida...............7.08
T-4. Georgia...............7.08
6. Ole Miss................4.83
7. Auburn..................4.03
8. Vanderbilt..............1.60
9. Arkansas................0.62
10. Kentucky ..............0.57
11. South Carolina.........0.11
12. Mississippi St........-0.69


1. Kentucky...............41.97
2. LSU.....................7.96
3. Florida.................6.96
4. Alabama.................5.41
5. Tennessee...............5.11
6. Arkansas................3.28
7. Vanderbilt..............3.12
8. Mississippi St..........2.97
9. Ole Miss............... 2.07
10. South Carolina.........1.13
11. Georgia................0.75
12. Auburn.................0.22

1. Tennessee..............49.97
2. Georgia................13.17
3. LSU.....................8.27
4. Auburn..................6.70
5. Ole Miss................3.37
6. Vanderbilt..............3.34
7. Florida.................3.13
8. Alabama.................2.74
9. Kentucky................2.02
10. Arkansas...............1.73
11. South Carolina.........1.32
12. Mississippi St.........1.20

1. LSU....................32.04
2. Mississippi St..........9.73
3. Florida.................9.34
4. Georgia.................9.04
5. Alabama.................8.52
6. Auburn..................6.72
7. Ole Miss................5.88
8. Tennessee...............5.79
9. S. Carolina.............4.16
10. Vanderbilt.............3.26
11. Kentucky...............2.78
12. Arkansas...............2.74

Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Around the SEC (6/16)

We're starting a new feature here at The Sports VU. Each morning we'll provide links to the top stories from blogs and newspapers across the South so let's get right to it.

The College World Series is in full swing and the SEC is well-represented. LSU is on the brink of elimination after falling to UNC 8-4. It was just the Tigers' second loss in 27 games. [Baseball America]

Georgia, meanwhile, upset top-ranked Miami over the weekend and says there will be no letdown when it plays Stanford tonight in a winner's bracket contest. [AJC]

Nobody knows who wrote it, but there is a hilarious (and well-researched) piece floating around the Internet called The SEC as the Middle East.

A couple of notables:

TENNESSEE: Iraq. Got a bunch of history but the country as a whole is going in the tank and they will kill themselves off before it is all over.

VANDERBILT: Israel. Just leave them alone for God’s sake. What did they ever do to you?

Definitely check it out. [Junkyard Blawg]

Alabama forward Richard Hendrix must decide by today whether to stay in the NBA Draft or return for his senior season. The Tide have a chance to win the SEC West if he returns, but it looks like Hendrix might roll the dice and hope that he lands late in the first round. [Huntsville Times]

ESPN's Chad Ford has a great breakdown of who's in/out and who's still on the fence. He said it's probable that Hendrix and Miss. State's Jamont Gordon stay in the draft. []

Former Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk is bitter, spiteful, juvenile, ridiculous and unbelievable. [Sun Herald]

Alabama has the fifth-wimpiest mascot in the nation. Guess who's No. 1? And no, it's not Big C if that's what you were thinking. [College OTR]

Kevin Stallings makes more money than Bruce Pearl. Stallings is the third-highest paid coach in the SEC behind two guys named Billy. [Razor Bloggers]

Where are they now? Former Wildcat player and Vanderbilt fan-favorite Patrick Sparks is out of basketball and getting DUIs. [Herald-Leader]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Snedeker finishes in tie for ninth at U.S. Open

After sinking another putt for the ages and letting out an emphatic double-fist pump, Tiger Woods will face off against Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff tomorrow. It never gets old, does it?

In other news, Vanderbilt grad and media darling Brandt Snedeker posted another top-10 finish in a major, tying for ninth thanks to rounds of 68 and 71 over the weekend.

Remember it wasn't too long ago that Snedeker broke down at Augusta after coming up short at the Masters. The 27-year-old, who's infectious smile and carefree demeanor have made him a fan-favorite on the PGA Tour, admitted this week that it took him a while to recover from the third-place finish. He placed 53rd, 55th and missed two cuts in the ensuing weeks.

"I was in a good frame of mind, I just didn't realize how tired I was, how much the week had taken out of me," Snedeker told the LA Times. "Trevor (Immelman) and I have talked about it; he had been through it before. Last week in Memphis was the first time I got my mind right."

Snedeker started off slow at Torrey Pines, shooting 76-73 to barely make the cut, but came back with a 3-under-68 on Saturday. Here's what columnist Chris Baldwin had to say about the round:

The result is one of the most wildly entertaining rounds you'll see in major golf - one eagle, four birdies, three bogeys and too many smiles to calculate. For both Snedeker and anyone who watches.

"Now that boy loves himself some golf!" a fan yells from along the 18th fairway. Snedeker just tips his cap, not the least bit offended that his 27-year-old multi-millionaire self is still being branded a kid.

That's some great stuff.

At Torrey Pines, Snedeker shows the U.S. Open joy that Mickelson's lost []
Snedeker has plenty to smile about at U.S. Open [LA Times]

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Liddle living the dream

Walking down Main Street on this picturesque day in mid-June, you realize how much this town has missed its ballplayers.

"It's been a long winter," says Bob Prophett, owner of Dawson Seafood. "We're ready for baseball."

Luckily for Prophett, the wait is finally over. In just a few hours, the Gatemen will square off against the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League season opener, which means summer has officially begun.

Outside the town fire station is a painted sign that reads "Gatemen home tonight 7:00 p.m." and team posters hang in store windows to remind everyone that the boys are back, as if they hadn't been counting down the days already. Sure, the players will be different, but what they represent is the same.

"I love their innocence," says Demetrios Kalkanis of Minerva Town Pizza, which has been open since 1969. "That's the greatness of it. It's pure baseball. Triple distilled, as they say."

Click here to the read the rest of my feature on Vanderbilt outfielder Steve Liddle and his experience in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Liddle is playing for the Wareham Gatemen, while Russell Brewer and Curt Casali are playing for Hyannis, Mark Lamm and Caleb Cotham are with Brewster and Andrew Giobbi is with Harwich. I'll be catching up with these guys throughout the summer so make sure to check back here often for updates.

Baseball receives great news

There's a reason they say it's hard for major league teams to pry recruits away from their Vanderbilt commitment.

Following in the footsteps of David Price and Pedro Alvarez, third baseman Jason Esposito turned down a contract offer to play for the Kansas City Royals and will enroll at Vanderbilt University this fall, according to the NH Register.

The Royals drafted Esposito in the seventh round of this year’s draft and offered the Gatorade Connecticut Baseball Player of the Year a whopping $1.5 million signing bonus over two seasons. Think about how much money that is -- just for playing baseball.

“I wanted to take it,” Esposito said. “But then emotions settled down and you put things into perspective. Do I want to go off and play professional baseball at 17 years old? This is the best possible situation. It will benefit me in long run.”

This is great news for the Commodores, who are looking to replace Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty on the left side of the infield. Esposito should start at shortstop from day one after fellow recruit Anthony Hewitt was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I love the program and what they have to offer,” Esposito said. “I’m not going to get any worse going there, I’m only going to get better.”

Thanks to New York Dore for sharing the link. On another note, I was in Wareham yesterday covering the Cape Cod Baseball League season opener and met a scout for Perfect Game, who coincidentally lives in Connecticut. He could not say enough good things about Esposito and actually thought that he was going to sign (like we all did).

He added that coach Tim Corbin took a trip to Connecticut earlier in the week to visit (or persuade) Esposito. Looks like it paid off.

Make sure to take a look at my 2009 projections, which will be updated soon since I had wrongly assumed that Esposito would sign after he told Connecticut Post that "Looks like I'm not going to school" after receiving a "life-changing amount" of money.

Something tells me Corbin showed Esposito the same spiral-bound booklet he gave Alvarez back in 2005.

[Perfect Game]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Keegan Bell hates robots

Let me preface this by saying that I'm a big fan of Keegan Bell and wish him nothing but the best at UT-Chattanooga. He has a passion for the game of basketball, a "gym rat" if you will, and I have no doubt that he will have a fine collegiate career.

Still, I couldn't help but laugh when I came across this article from The Huntsville Times. Let's try to attack this piece Fire Joe Morgan style (lines from the actual story in bold).

Unhappy with Vandy's 'robotic' style, he seeks freedom at new school.

Basically, coach Kevin Stallings is a big fan of The Jetsons and made his players watch old episodes instead of game film to become more like robots on the court. Also, he got a kick out of handcuffing Keegan to one of the baskets after practice so it's easy to understand why the point guard desperately wanted to be free.

Despite the allure of playing SEC basketball, point guard Keegan Bell needed a change.

Plus he really wanted to give the Dores an extra scholarship to sign point guard Brad Tinsley.

Though he was in line for a starting role with the Commodores next season, Bell didn't feel suited for Stallings' style of play.

"(The guards) became more robotic, more slow style," Bell said. "Fast-break and more up and down is what I want to do. I have a certain style of how I play."

Yeah, remember when Jermaine Beal was in the middle of executing a fast-break and stopped on a dime to do the robot? That was tight.

And what style is that exactly, Keegan? The one where you make 32 percent of your shots and hoist ill-advised 3-pointers? Or the one where you get beat so badly off the dribble that you force the team to play zone, which makes it harder for you guys to rebound and therefore fast-break?

And one more thing. I came across an old interview where you said, "And then the style of play, I really liked how they push it up." Except that you weren't talking about UT-C; you were talking about those robotic Dores. Weird.

After Stallings granted Bell his release, the transfer drew interest from Notre Dame, Oregon and Oklahoma State. But an April meeting with University of Tennessee-Chattanooga coach John Shulman won over Bell and convinced the Hazel Green High graduate that he could thrive at a mid-major.

Riiight. And besides, those other schools play like robots anyways.

"I mean, Keegan was a top-20 point guard in the nation, a starter on the varsity since eighth grade, and the big boys were after him," Shulman recalled. "He was like a high school folk hero."

Yup. Just like Tim Tebow. Only better.

Toward season's end, however, he felt Vandy's guards were given less freedom to create.

I always thought the reason for Vandy's struggles were because its guards couldn't defend, but what do I know?

"You can't argue with the success Coach Stallings has had there, but Vandy's very structured, and we're not as structured," Shulman said.

By not as structured, I think you mean not as good, but whatever. And, Shully, please don't go where I think you're about to go. If you watched Vandy play AT ALL, you would know that it no longer runs the offense that begins with "P."

Consider this fact: the Dores had the third highest adjusted tempo/pace in the SEC, behind only Tennessee and Ole Miss. Or how about this: the Dores were second in the SEC in scoring with 80 points per game. So again, I'm warning you.

"We're more of a ball-screen, motion team - not the Princeton offense that Vandy runs."

As Mark Jackson would say, "You're better than that!"

"With us, we can ball-screen for Keegan, and he can create and make plays."

Exactly. Because Stallings would fine players for setting ball-screens for Keegan (once he made Keegan's roommate and good friend A.J. Ogilvy cry after he fined him $3,200 for setting 32 screens in one practice). And, of course, "making plays" was out of the question.

Bell absorbed message-board criticism on a Vandy fan site after calling himself "a flashy player," comparing his style to Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, and saying that Stallings wasn't receptive to plays such as "between-the-leg passes."

Hey, he's talking about us! We're famous!

That confidence didn't fluster Shulman, who on two occasions Tuesday referred to Bell as "a Steve Nash-type player."

In all seriousness, please stop with the Steve Nash references. Yes, they are both white. We get that. But, Steve Nash is a two-time MVP and a future Hall-of-Famer, one of the best point guards to ever play the game. Keegan Bell is ummm....not. And besides, Nash said he's a big fan of Astro.

Bell expects wide-open game at Chattanooga [Huntsville Times]
Photo [USA Today]