Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer basketball update

Vanderbilt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings spoke to the media during last week's summer teleconference and Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper has a terrific story about Stallings' expectations (or lack thereof) for next year's squad, which will welcome four talented freshman and two redshirt freshmen.

“This is probably as little an idea about a team as I’ve had going into a season in terms of the little nuances you might think about as a coach,” Stallings said. “That’s part of the exciting part of being a college basketball coach – new faces and new teams.”

VU Commodores has the full transcript from Wednesday's teleconference so I figured I'd go ahead and touch on some of the highlights.

*Stallings both expects and needs junior point guard Jermaine Beal to make another leap this season in order for Vandy to be successful.

*Not too much new information to pass along on the four freshmen -- Lance Goulbourne, Jeff Taylor, Steve Tchiengang and Brad Tinsley -- other than that they've been at summer school and working hard. "I think they've come in and tried to quietly go about their business and do things the right way and that's been very pleasing," Stallings said.

*Vanderbilt has become a very attractive destination for potential recruits, which is making Stallings very happy. "We feel like we’re getting entertained and getting interest from as high a level of players since we’ve been here," he said. "So, there's a tremendous amount of momentum that we feel in our program, and I think that the guys we recruit feel that and that's what makes things around here exciting right now."

*Stallings said he would not recruit players who say upfront that they only want to be in school for one year, but at the same, would not have a problem if he one of his players left after a season if he was ready.

"I would have encouraged A.J. Ogilvy to make himself available for the NBA draft this year if he'd have been a top 10 pick," Stallings said, "but A.J. didn't come in here saying 'I'm only going to be here for one year.' I think that kids need to come in and have the mindset that 'I'm going to be here as long as it takes for me to successfully position myself for what I need to do next, if that's four years it's four years, if it's one year it's one year.'"

*Make no mistake about it, Vanderbilt's freshmen are going to play. The Commodores return just two starters (Beal and Ogilvy), along with Darshawn McClellan, Andre Walker, George Drake, Jamie Graham (assuming he returns) and redshirt freshmen Festus Ezeli and Charles Hinkle, which means the youngsters will be given the opportunity to contribute right away.

"They're going to need to help because we're a very, very young basketball team," Stallings said. "So, they're going to need to come in and play with more maturity and at a higher level than what freshmen sometimes play at."

*Just how good is this class? "We think that from top to bottom it's as good a class as we've ever signed," Stallings said. "But, I think it's easy to get enamored with the guys who have never played. I'm always fascinated with the fact that people want to talk about the incoming guys more than they want to talk about the returning guys."

Stallings makes a great point. Right now, Goulbourne, Taylor, Tinsley and Tchiengang have no weaknesses and it's a lot more fun to talk about their potential than it is to discuss how much better Andre Walker and Darshawn McClellan will be as sophomores.

*How quickly will the freshmen be able to contribute? "I certainly don't want to put any timetables on any of them, but we feel like we have a combination of size and strength and athleticism and skill, and I think that all of those things you have to really try hard to go out and recruit," Stallings said. "The best thing that I like is I think we've gotten really good people, and guys are going to have good team attitudes, and that's what we want the most."

*I have absolutely no idea how good the Commodores will be this season, but like everyone else, I can't wait to find out. I don't think there's ever been this much excitement surrounding a team that we know so little about, which speaks to the job that Stallings and his staff have done transforming this program.

Photo [Sydney Morning Herald]

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