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.

Breaking down Jerry Stackhouse’s new and improved Vanderbilt offense

It’s only been four games, but Vanderbilt’s new head coach is showing his NBA influence on the offensive side of the ball.
Brent Szklaruk
Aaron Nesmith finishes through traffic in Vanderbilt’s 90-72 win over Austin Peay.

With the Stackhouse era underway on West End, Vanderbilt basketball fans have been introduced to an entirely new offensive philosophy. The team has had little trouble scoring, averaging over 80 points per game, largely due to the three-point shot. 

The Commodore’s top two scorers, junior guard Saben Lee and sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith, are both averaging over 19 points per contest. Nesmith leads the league in scoring and is among the elites in the country in three-point shooting, while Lee has been able to get to the hole at will and has demonstrated an increased willingness to pull from deep.

It is no shock that the offense runs through these two players. Both are offensive-minded veterans who are uniquely skilled at shooting and slashing, respectively. However, in addition to their individual play, Coach Stackhouse has put a firm emphasis on a few key offensive elements that have helped generate consistent scoring early in the season.

Threes, Threes, and More Threes

The first and most clear initiative from Coach Stackhouse was to motivate all of his players to shoot plenty of threes. The Commodores are taking six more three-pointers per game on average this season than last season and hitting on about eight percent more of them as well. In total, 41.1 percent of Vanderbilt’s points have come courtesy of the three ball and the Commodores boast the nation’s seventh best Effective Field Goal Percentage, a stat that heavily weighs made three-pointers. 

Nesmith himself has been nothing short of deadly from outside, shooting 21 for 38 (55 percent) on three-point attempts. Saben Lee has taken at least three three-pointers in every game thus far as well. While they are only going in at a 22 percent clip, by taking them, he is extending defenses and opening up driving lanes for himself and others. 

Freshman forward Dylan Disu has also shown that he has the ability to stretch the floor. Although his percentages are not high just yet, Commodore fans should not be fooled. Disu has a smooth jumper and at 6’9”, there are few forwards who can contest his high release. Even Senior forward Clevon Brown has shown the ability to hit from outside, something he dedicated himself to this offseason. 

Motion Offense and ‘Horns’ Sets

With a young group of players without a ton of guys who can create off the dribble, the Commodores have opted for a strict motion offense that enables all to get involved. This motion offense relies on constant cutting from all players and eliminates much of the isolation and pick and roll basketball the team so heavily relied on last season. It also has proven to create plenty of open jumpers, which will continue be a huge part of this team’s identity.

Throughout the first three games, one common set that Stackhouse has implemented is a ‘horns’ set. In this set, forwards such as Matt Moyer and Clevon Brown set up at the elbows while shooters such as Aaron Nesmith and Dylan Disu space the floor out on the wing. 

The ball is then passed into one of the forwards and from there, and the perimeter players can cut, space or set off-ball screens to try and get themselves open. The set allows for different guys to touch the ball and when run accurately, has been very effectively.

The key to the offense lies in constant motion and quick ball movement. Freshman guard Scottie Pippen Jr. has done a fantastic job of probing the defense by penetrating and kicking out to shooters. In the example below, Clevon Brown is left for a wide open dunk thanks to Pippen Jr. and Lee getting into the lane and moving the defense.

Staggering Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith

Stackhouse shocked many Vanderbilt fans on opening night when he had junior Saben Lee come off the bench. He rationalized it by saying that Lee and Nesmith are his best two scorers. And by bringing Lee off the bench, he is guaranteeing that one of them will be on the floor at all times.

To a large extent, this strategy has worked. Lee has been more efficient than ever, capitalizing on 50 percent of his shots while still averaging the second most minutes on the team. In addition, since Lee has been entering the game at the first media timeout, he is frequently forcing opposing team’s backup point guards to cover him, which has proven to be a mismatch.

The other added benefit to bringing Lee off of the bench is the long-term effect of allowing Scottie Pippen Jr. to gain experience running the offense. It is no secret that Pippen Jr. is the point guard of the future and someone Stackhouse expects to be with the program for four years. By giving him early exposure to starting and crunch time minutes, he is gaining valuable experience that is crucial to a point guard’s success.


While the bulk of the schedule is still to come for this team, Commodore fans should be excited by Coach Stackhouse’s offensive philosophies. By recognizing the increased need for three-pointers and implementing a concrete motion offense, he is showing his ability to be a talented X’s and O’s coach. With this effective system in place and his high recruiting aspirations, Coach Stackhouse is on his way to creating a strong foundation for Vanderbilt Basketball.

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About the Contributors
Justin Hershey
Justin Hershey, Former Sports Editor
Justin Hershey ('22) was Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Deputy Sports Editor and Lead Sports Analyst. He majored in human and organizational development with minors in business and economics. In addition to writing, he hosts The Hustler Sports 30 Podcast, enjoys playing golf and is waiting for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers to complete The Process. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected]    
Brent Szklaruk, Former Staff Photographer
Brent Szklaruk ('21) can be reached at [email protected].
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