Just before their game against Dayton Wednesday night, the Vanderbilt basketball program announced that they’ll be without one of their starting big men for the next four to six weeks.
Junior Luke Kornet has been ruled out after he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee in practice earlier this week. With the announced timetable the Commodores will have begun SEC play when Kornet is able to return to the lineup.
Alongside fellow junior Damian Jones, Kornet is a big man capable of stepping away from the basket in order to help with the Commodores’ spacing on the offensive end. Kornet’s currently third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding with averages of 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The 7-foot-1 Kornet currently leads Vanderbilt in blocked shots, averaging 2.8 per contest.
Without Kornet, Jeff Roberson and Josh Henderson stand to see their playing time increase, and freshman Semir Sehic (8.3 mpg) may also be able to earn more opportunities. Vanderbilt has depth inside, which will help them account for the loss of Kornet as the start of SEC play approaches.
Vanderbilt went with a youth movement of sorts this season with a host of underclassmen going through what amounted to a “trial by fire” under head coach Kevin Stallings, and that’s expected to benefit the Commodores over the long haul.
One player who won’t be around to see the rebuilding process out is point guard Shelton Mitchell, who has decided to transfer. The news was announced by the Vanderbilt program Thursday morning, and Mitchell will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign at the school of his choosing.
“I have decided to transfer from Vanderbilt for personal reasons,” Mitchell said in the release. “I loved my basketball experience at Vanderbilt playing for Coach Stallings and his staff and with a great group of guys we have on this team.
“However, I feel it is in my best interests to continue my college education elsewhere. I want to thank Coach, the fans, and my teammates for the support they’ve given me during my stay at Vanderbilt.”
Mitchell started 11 of the 31 games in which he played in 2014-15, averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 assists in 20 minutes of action per contest. He was one of three guards utilized by Stallings in the role of playmaker, with classmates Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance being the others (and LaChance was the team’s best perimeter shooter).
Those two return in 2015-16, as does classmate Matthew Fisher-Davis, and the Commodores add two more guards in freshman Camron Justice and Cornell transfer Nolan Cressler. Cressler averaged 16.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 2013-14 at Cornell. Given their perimeter depth Vanderbilt will be able to absorb the loss of Mitchell, and their deep front court led by rising junior Damian Jones makes the Commodores a possible Top 25 team in 2015-16.
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings berated freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV on Thursday night for an unsportsmanlike act in the closing seconds of the Commodores’ 73-65 win over Tennessee.
Stallings was caught on camera saying, “I’ll f***ing kill you.” Stallings was quick to apologize to Baldwin following the incident.
On Friday afternoon, the university decided it would not suspend its head basketball coach, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
“After the game, an incident occurred in which I need to apologize for,” Stallings said on Thursday night following the incident. “One of our players acted inappropriately and violated what we believe is good sportsmanship following the game,” Stallings said following the game.
“In my haste to resolve the situation, I made a very inappropriate comment. While obviously it was not meant literally, it was still inappropriate. I apologized to the player immediately following the game, although displaying good sportsmanship is of the highest priority in our program.”
Baldwin was seen clapping in Amani Moore’s face as Moore was walking to the Tennessee bench. Irritated by the gesture, a Tennessee assistant coach alerted Stallings in the postgame handshake line to what had transpired moments earlier.
“Wade’s got some things to learn, some growing up to do if he’s going to play in this program,” Stallings said via David Cobb of Knoxville News Sentinel. One of their assistants said he went and clapped in one of their players faces after the game. We will not do that, not get by with that. We believe in sportsmanship, and that’s not part of who we are, who we’re going to be. He better understand that’s his one and it better never happen again.”
Baldwin posted on Twitter that he took no offense from the incident.
Vanderbilt hosts Alabama on Saturday evening.