Over the last two seasons Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings has dealt with a significant amount of turnover within his program. There have been transfers, dismissals and even a player returning to his native Germany to begin his professional career. Those changes have resulted in the Commodores fielding one of the youngest rosters in the SEC, with five freshmen joining the program and their leading returning scorer being sophomore Damian Jones.
During the team’s media day Wednesday Stallings discussed the state of his program, with much of the conversation focused on the newcomers and how they’ve begun their careers at Vanderbilt. In a story written by Adam Sparks of The Tennessean, Stallings spoke about the freshmen in relation to players who have left the program before their eligibility expired in recent years.
“I guess I wouldn’t be able to answer that question without being derogatory to the people that have been here,” Stallings said. “We’ve got guys that will do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, and they’re going to try their best to do what we as coaches want. I think for that reason, the future is really bright for this group of guys because our entire team is that way.
“I haven’t had to worry about something on the weekend, haven’t had to worry about anything in the classroom, haven’t had to worry about anything in the dorm, and it’s a pretty fun job when the biggest thing I have to worry about is trying to get them better on defense. That’s where we’re at, and that’s where we’re going to stay.”
The five freshmen in the Vanderbilt program aren’t lacking for talent either, with Wade Baldwin IV and Shelton Mitchell leading the quintet. They’ll certainly take their lumps, and with that being the case veterans such as Jones and senior James Siakam will need to do their part to help the freshmen get acclimated to Division I basketball.
After two seasons of instability in Nashville, the hope is that this group of underclassmen can help place Vanderbilt back on solid ground. Based upon Stallings’ words at media day, it seems as if they’re off to a decent start. The key now is to ensure that this remains the case once the season begins.