Simi Shittu will be an unprecedented dominant force for Vanderbilt Basketball

Photo+courtesy+of+Rivals.com.+
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Simi Shittu will be an unprecedented dominant force for Vanderbilt Basketball

Photo courtesy of Rivals.com.

Photo courtesy of Rivals.com.

Photo courtesy of Rivals.com.

Photo courtesy of Rivals.com.

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Memorial Gym has seen plenty of talented individuals wear the Commodore uniform on the court. Future NBA players like Will Perdue, Festus Ezeli and John Jenkins have all graced Vanderbilt with their presence.

Vanderbilt has never seen anything like Simisola Shittu.

That’s how big of an impact the five-star power forward will have in 2018. The 6’9” force committed to the Commodores in a video published by The Player’s Tribune. The team later announced that he had signed his National Letter of Intent.

He was ranked sixth in the ESPN100 recruit rankings and was the second-best in his class in the power forward position behind sensation Zion Williamson.

“Simisola is a special young man who is ranked a top seven player in his class,” said head coach Bryce Drew in a press release. “His announcement video speaks volumes of his character as it was a thank you to all the people who helped him get to this point. He possesses the athleticism and skill set of a guard while having the size and strength of a power forward. There are only a handful of players at any level that have the versatility and all-around game that he does. He is very unique in many ways and we cannot wait for him to put on a Vanderbilt jersey.”

According to David Sisk, recruiting writer for VandySports.com, a Rivals website, Shittu has all the attributes to not just be a star for Vanderbilt, but to be an NBA stud and a lottery pick.

“The first time I saw him play was last spring on the Nike Circuit in Indianapolis,” Sisk told The Hustler. “I didn’t really know anything about him, and went and watched him play a game. On the first play, I saw him come down the court, they’re passing the ball, he’s playing a wing, they set a ball screen, the other team trapped the ball screen hard, he’s 25 feet from the bucket and double-teamed. At 6’10’’, he splits the double team, goes between-the-legs, crosses over and goes in from about the third block and windmills it over the rest of the team.”

“I turned around to Sean Williams (another Rivals recruiting writer), who was with me that time and I said ‘Lottery pick. There’s not five players in America that can do that.'” 

Sisk also said that, despite his massive frame, Shittu is versatile enough to play small forward and even shooting guard on some occasions. That versatility is what will make him a top NBA talent in 2019, or potentially beyond if he decides to stay at Vanderbilt for longer.

Shittu was also considering North Carolina, one of the top basketball programs in the country. According to Sisk, it was Drew’s vision of the team that sold Shittu.

“UNC plays a traditional four (PF), so you’re talking about 15 feet from the bucket, high-post, that’s probably his strength: catching it in that area and taking downhill,” he said. “He would probably do that better than maybe other things, like on the perimeter. But, Vanderbilt gets into a situation of positionless basketball. He could play a combination two (SG), three (SF), four (PF), out on the perimeter.”

“I think that’s what he’s going to play in the NBA. If you watch the game now, unless you’re a seven-footer, you play behind the three-point line. That’s probably not his strength right now, but you have to work on that and develop it. I think that’s what Vanderbilt sold to him.”

With point guard Darius Garland also signing last week, this is the first time in program history that the Commodores have signed two top-ranked recruits to the same class. How did Vanderbilt suddenly become such an attractive destination?

For starters, each coach is a people person.

“Here’s the thing: they’re so good at creating relationships, not only Bryce Drew but the entire staff,” Sisk said. “I figured that out pretty quickly when I first met him. You could see the entire staff was on the same page. They’re the same type of guys, they’ve got the same type of personalities. You could talk to Jake Diebler, and talk to Roger Powell, Casey Shaw or Bryce Drew and it’s basically like having the same conversation. The conversations that they have, the way they talk, the way they carry themselves, the visions that they have, it’s all pretty similar.”

Now, Vanderbilt will try to make Shittu the second-best recruit they’ve ever landed. Shooting guard Romeo Langford has put Vanderbilt in his top three with Indiana and Kansas. He is not expected to commit until the spring. It remains to be seen how Shittu’s commitment will impact Langford’s decision-making, but according to Sisk, Garland, Shittu and Langford each liked Vanderbilt on their own.

“They’re getting these guys that have not had a previous relationship with Vanderbilt,” he said. You’ve got a guy from Indiana, a guy from Canada, and they’re basically saying ‘Hey, I’m considering Vanderbilt. I’m signing with Vanderbilt because I like what they’ve got going on there.’ That’s pretty good.”

While Vanderbilt’s 2018 roster is shaping up, the 2017 Commodores are in the midst of their non-conference schedule and are set to take on Virginia in the NIT Tip Off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

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