The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball Player Preview: The Stackhouse era begins

As Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball prepares to tip-off on the 2019-2020 season, The Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Staff provides an in-depth look at Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse’s new roster.
Hunter Long
Saben Lee finishes a dunk in Vanderbilt’s preseason exhibition against Clark Atlanta. (Photo by: Hunter Long)

The 2018-19 Vanderbilt Commodore season is long gone, the 0-18 record in conference play and the Bryce Drew era a distant memory. Now it’s Jerry Stackhouse’s turn, and the man they call “Stack” will look to revitalize the hoops program and surprise some people this upcoming season. That starts Wednesday night, when Vanderbilt takes on Southeast Missouri State at Memorial Gymnasium in an attempt to bring Memorial Magic back to West End Avenue. 

He’ll do that with a healthy combination of veterans and newcomers. Vanderbilt returns its top two scorers and top defensive specialists alongside an expansive recruiting class that will surely make an impact right off the bat. Before the season gets underway, The Vanderbilt Hustler provides a detailed look at the 2019-2020 Men’s Basketball roster:

G Saben Lee (#0)

After leading the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) in an otherwise disastrous 2018-2019 season, Saben Lee will once again be heavily relied upon by this Commodore team.  As a junior who has started 61 of his 64 collegiate games, there is no one on the roster with comparable big game experience on this roster. He has proven time and again to be a fantastic slasher who has unique athletic skills at the rim that enable him to posterize opposing defensive players.  But similarly to last season, his growth this year will be dependent on whether he has improved his three-point jump shot. Along with Aaron Nesmith, Lee needs to be a go-to scorer for this team and in order to be that go-to scorer, he needs to be able to shoot the three at a reasonable clip.  On paper, Vanderbilt lacks a player who can break down opposing defenses off the dribble and get a basket at will. Lee can be that guy if he rounds out his offensive game. In addition to offensive production, Coach Stackhouse will expect exceptional leadership from his junior point guard. Lee will likely join standout freshman, Scotty Pippen Jr. in the backcourt in crunch time, and he will need to provide veteran composure to couple Pippen’s impressive raw skill-set.

– Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

F Dylan Disu (#1)

As the top recruit of Vanderbilt’s incoming freshman class, Dylan Disu has a lot to bring to the table. Disu’s 6’ 8” frame and long wingspan slot him in as one of Vanderbilt’s top options both inside and out in Coach Stackhouse’s offensive strategy. This past week, he was impressive in Vanderbilt’s open scrimmage against Clark on both ends of the floor, adding 10 points on four of six shooting paired with four blocks and two steals on the defensive end. His build along with his feel for the game and mild demeanor is getting him early looks from NBA scouts, providing Disu with an extra incentive to lead the Commodores alongside the team’s veterans to a more successful season than last.

– Jake Schwartz, Staff Writer

G Scotty Pippen Jr. (#2)

Scotty Pippen Jr. enters his freshman year listed at a mere 6’1”, 170 lbs., giving way to a vast array of concerns regarding his size. But this narrative is nothing new for the Pippen family. Back in 1983, his father, Scottie, walked onto the Central Arkansas team at just 6’1”. Of course, Scottie would go onto grow seven inches (one for each of his seven NBA All-Star Appearances) and win a whopping six NBA titles, but that’s beside the point. Through one exhibition, Pippen Jr. has done more than differentiate himself from his father’s game — he’s put on a clinical display of elite athleticism, halting many of those concerns about his smaller stature.

The Sierra Canyon alumnus showed an ability to attack the rim with his speed, finishing through contact and above the rim with ease. Moreover, against Clark Atlanta he exhibited impressive decision-making through his efficient, 6-10 field goal effort. He finished the contest with 15 points, six assists and three rebounds, but his defense provided the more eye-opening metric. Pippen’s athleticism appears to complement Lee’s nicely, as they each swiped four steals in Coach Stackhouse’s new-look defense. Of course, this performance came in a 40 point rout of Clark Atlanta. Only time will tell if it will translate to SEC competition.

– Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

G Maxwell Evans (#3)

As one of the most experienced members of this team, Evans will have a clearly defined role as he enters his junior year.  Evans has played in 60 games over the past two seasons and has established himself as a talented on ball defender. Already this preseason, Coach Stackhouse has emphasized that this team will rely heavily on defense and Evans fits well into that strategy.  In addition to guarding the opposing player’s best guard, Evans will be able to expand his playing time by being a consistent three point threat. Last season, he only shot 31 percent from beyond the arc, but with a better team this season, Evans should get the opportunity to make more shots.  He started in the team’s lone scrimmage and will possibly compete with Lee for a starting backcourt position.

– Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

G/F Jordan Wright (#4)

Coach Jerry Stackhouse needed another wing presence earlier in his tenure after the decommitment of shooting guard AJ Crowley following the dismissal of former head coach Bryce Drew. Enter Jordan Wright, a 6’5″ shooting guard out of the Dunham School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Wright was a late find for Stackhouse and co. (he committed April 26, 2019, about three weeks after National Signing Day), but he will likely be in the rotation from Game One this season. The number two recruit in Louisiana, Wright put together an impressive high school career and left Dunham as the school’s all time leading scorer and rebounder. He averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals as a senior en route a first team all-state bid. Wright held offers from Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Virginia Tech and others before committing to Vanderbilt. He figures to bring a unique blend of physicality and scoring prowess to the Commodore backcourt in 2019 and should see solid rotational minutes for Coach Stackhouse. He scored four points and dished out a few assists, including an alley-oop to Saben Lee, in the exhibition win over Clark last Friday.

– Bryce Smith, Staff Writer

G DJ Harvey (#5)

Harvey will sit out this year due to eligibility reasons after transferring from Notre Dame, but the 6’6” shooting guard will likely be one of Coach Stackhouse’s go-to guys when he returns for the 2020-21 season. Harvey averaged 10.8 points per game for the Irish in his sophomore year and made improvements in virtually every statistical category. Harvey’s unique size as a two guard makes him able to play inside and out, and he’ll likely be seen at the three spot in smaller lineups. For Harvey to be productive at Vanderbilt, he’s going to have to raise his shooting percentage, which sat at just 39 percent through his first two seasons at Notre Dame. Harvey still has loads of untapped potential, just a couple years removed from a top 50 ranking in the 2017 recruiting class, and he’ll look to show that off for the Commodores upon his return.

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor 

G Drew Weikert (#10)

As a transfer from Division III Centre College in Kentucky, Weikert is following in his father’s footsteps by suiting up in the black and gold.  His father, Doug Weikert, appeared in 35 games at Vanderbilt from 1979-1983. At Centre, Drew played in two games as a freshman and proceeded to walk onto Coach Stackhouse’s team this fall.  The 6’0” sophomore guard is a native of Nashville and had a distinguished high school career at nearby Montgomery Bell Academy. While he is unlikely to see the court much this season, his skills will be used to push his teammates in practice.

– Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

G Jon Jossell (#11)

Jossell is a late addition to Vanderbilt’s roster. The walk-on guard from Arcadia, Oklahoma spent his first three seasons as a student manager for the Commodores. Now, after being slated to serve as the team’s head manager this season, Jossell will instead hang up the suit in favor of the Commodore uniform. Jossell saw his first career action in Vanderbilt’s exhibition game and put up a solid showing. In just three minutes, he notched one steal, one offensive rebound, and nailed a fadeaway elbow jumper on his only shot. Jossell will still only be used in blowout situations, but as a four-year member of the program, his presence is invaluable. 

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor

F Matthew Moyer (#13)

Few expected this Syracuse transfer to see the court last season in a Vanderbilt uniform. Like any transfer, the expectation was for the 6’ 8” forward to sit out a year, thus regaining eligibility. But after sitting for just two games, Moyer received an ever-so-rare NCAA waiver granting his immediate eligibility. Unfortunately, he returned just in time to watch his starting point guard tear his meniscus, subsequently spoiling Vanderbilt’s season. 

This year, Moyer, a team captain, will serve as a vital leader in a program hoping to start from scratch. The former Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year was ranked well within ESPN’s top-100 coming out of high school. That said, his stats from last season hardly stand out on paper — but remember, that’s to be expected when his team finishes in the cellar of the conference. Look back another year and you’ll find Moyer’s redshirt freshman campaign at Syracuse to be a much more promising season that included flashes of impressive rebounding and interior scoring. If the Commodores’ surrounding cast can improve, Moyer will have plenty of opportunity to spread his wings and flourish. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Moyer knows how to win: he’s just one of two players (the other being Clevon Brown) on the Commodores roster to have played in the NCAA tournament; he’s the only one to have won a single game in the Big Dance, as his Syracuse Orange took a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2018.

– Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

G Isaiah Rice (#14)

Reserve guard Isaiah Rice is looking to impact his team on and off the court. The 5’11″ junior guard from Indianapolis walked onto the team as a freshman and has stuck ever since due to his diligence not only on the practice court, but after practice ends. Last season, Rice made the SEC Community Service Team, and he helped start the Vanderbilt Athletics’ Hurricane Harvey Donation Drive. On the court, he’s a good scorer, averaging 15 PPG his senior year of high school while being nearly automatic from deep. Rice won’t get any big minutes this season, but he’ll likely serve as a locker room leader because of his veteran presence.

– Ethan Stern

F Clevon Brown (#15)

Going into his senior year with a chip on his shoulder, Clevon Brown is looking forward to making a splash under Stackhouse’s new scheme. At 6’8″ and a sturdy 240 pounds, Clevon does not lack size, and uses his strong frame to his advantage. Notably, Clevon is an exceptional offensive rebounder and shot blocker — his 1.5 offensive boards a game and 1.3 blocks per game were second and first on the team last year respectively. Clevon fills his role as a defensive-minded big man who extends possessions with his offensive rebounding prowess. With this in mind, this season could be a breakout year for Brown. Named a team captain by Stackhouse, Brown is working to polish his offensive game and utilize his incredible athleticism to score some easy buckets under the basket, and possibly even from deep — Clevon is no stranger to the 3-ball, shooting 87 of them through his first three seasons as a Commodore.

– Ethan Stern

G Trace Arbuckle (#20)

Trace Arbuckle will suit up in black and gold for the first time since his arrival at Vanderbilt — two years ago. In rare fashion, the 6’2”, 170 pound guard walked onto the team in his junior year of college. It may be an uncommon feat, but for those who know him well, it’s not a surprise. Arbuckle spent years playing high-level high school basketball at Park Tudor, where he cut down the net in the 2015 state championship and 2016 sectional championship with then-teammates Isaiah Rice and Jaren Jackson Jr. Arbuckle did see the floor (albeit briefly) in the Commodores’ dismantling of Clark Atlanta, but it’s unlikely we see much more of him. If we do, expect Arbuckle to take advantage of his prowess from behind the arc.

– Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

F Aaron Nesmith (#24)

Aaron Nesmith was one of the lone bright spots in last year’s otherwise disastrous season. Nesmith was the least heralded of Vanderbilt’s freshman class last year, which featured Darius Garland and Simi Shittu, but he ended up being the most productive and emerged as one of the Commodore’s top players by the end of the season. He saw action in all 32 games and he started 19 of those games. Nesmith averaged 11 points and 5.5 rebounds in the 2018-2019 season, and he also finished second on the team in minutes per game, behind only Lee. This season, Nesmith will be asked to take a bigger role both as a team captain and also as the team’s primary offensive threat. He got off to a good start in the exhibition win, scoring 17 points and chipping in four assists. Nesmith was named to the preseason All-SEC second team and has name is already popping up in NBA mock drafts, so the sophomore guard has a lot to live up to this season. Vanderbilt’s success this season will be largely contingent on how well Nesmith performs as the primary scoring option, but if last year was any indication, he will be up to the challenge. 

– Alyssa Muir, Senior Writer

F Quentin Millora-Brown (#42)

After an impressive freshman season at Rice University, Quentin Millora-Brown wanted more. With this in mind, he transferred to Vanderbilt, eager to join the Commodores’ young, exciting core as a versatile big. Due to NCAA rules, Millora-Brown will not play this season, but a year dedicated to training and conditioning will be vital for Millora-Brown’s development. At 6’10″ and 205 pounds, Millora-Brown still has a lot to add to his frame. He possesses incredible length and his 1.2 BPG led Rice’s team last season. A big man whose game revolves around finesse around the basket, Millora-Brown is a good ball-handler for any size, with soft hands and good touch around the rim. He’s also an above-average passer, and in a game where versatility matters, this will prove crucial to Millora-Brown’s impact after his redshirt season this year.

Ethan Stern

C Ejike Obinna (#50)

Obinna is back this year after redshirting last season. The redshirt sophomore adds some much-needed size to this roster. It’s clear he will need time to return to the speed and rules of games, as he fouled out in just nine minutes of play in the exhibition against Clark Atlanta. As a freshman, he made 14 starts and appeared in 25 games, so he has the experience to contribute to the team as a role player off the bench. Against bigger teams in the SEC, Obinna will be relied upon heavily to match up with opposing bigs and match their physicality.

– Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

F/C Otan Jankovic (#55)

Jankovic is the wild card of this Commodore group, still exploring his untapped potential. The 6’10” center from Zagreb, Croatia got the start in place of an injured Clevon Brown for Vanderbilt’s exhibition against Clark Atlanta, scoring seven points on three of five shooting while pulling down three boards. Jankovic comes to Vanderbilt from Montverde Academy, a hotbed for elite athletic talent, and he hopes to be the school’s next college standout. In terms of his role this season, Jankovic will almost certainly be a backup. Brown has a stronghold on the starting center spot, and Jankovic will compete early for minutes with Ejike Obinna. Obinna struggled mightily in the exhibition and still doesn’t look ready to play impactful minutes, so expect ample time off the bench for the Croatian big sooner rather than later.

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor

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About the Contributors
Hunter Long, Former Multimedia Director
Hunter Long (’21) is from Austin, TX and double majored in molecular biology and medicine, health and society. He is an avid lover of film photography, good music and all things coffee. He can be reached at [email protected].    
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