Jerry Stackhouse talks COVID-19 protocols, player updates

The Vanderbilt Commodores are approximately two weeks away from the kickoff of their 2020-21 season, and Coach Stackhouse gave a few updates on scheduling and player roles.

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Jerry Stackhouse is entering his second year as Vanderbilt’s head coach. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

Alyssa Muir, Deputy Sports Editor

Head basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse addressed the media on Friday morning two weeks ahead of the official start of basketball season for the Vanderbilt Commodores. 

With so much uncertainty surrounding sports this year combined with the multiple cancellations around college football this week, Stackhouse spoke candidly about how this season might look different due to COVID-19. 

One of the main things Stackhouse touched on was the concern of playing non-conference games against schools with different protocols from the SEC.

“I think the tricky thing we’re seeing with these non conference games is just other schools, they can’t afford to do the testing that we’re doing,” Stackhouse said. “We’re testing three times a week and we feel pretty good about what we’re doing. But will we feel as good about the other teams that we play? I don’t know if it’ll happen but I don’t think it’s a far cry to eventually say, if things start trending toward the way that they’ve been going with a lot of these other schools, it may go to a SEC schedule.”

He mentioned the University of Connecticut in particular as a team that has been having COVID-19 issues within their basketball program. Vanderbilt is currently scheduled to play the Huskies on Dec. 1, 2020 in the Legends Classic. 

Within his own program. Stackhouse was pleased with the precautions his players have taken in keeping themselves as safe as possible off the court. 

“[I am] knocking on all of the wood that I got in here right now, but fortunately we haven’t had any setbacks,” he said. 

On the court, Stackhouse seemed generally satisfied with the direction his team has been heading towards over the past couple weeks of practice. He was particularly optimistic about the play of center Quentin Millora-Brown, who redshirted last season after he transferred from Rice. 

“Quentin Millora-Brown has probably been one of the most pleasant occurrences over the last few weeks with him emerging as more of a guy we feel that we can put in our first unit to help with our rebounding,” Stackhouse said. “He’s kind of our anchor on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively.” 

With Millora-Brown making a strong case for the starting center position, Stackhouse mentioned how Clevon Brown, the starting center last season prior to injury, is trending towards playing a lot more at the four-spot rather than the five. 

If this is the case, Brown will split a lot of time with Dylan Disu at the position. Disu was a key contributor as a freshman last year, and Stackhouse is expecting even more from him this season, noting how Disu has put on a lot of muscle over the offseason. 

“I don’t think anybody on our team has more upside than Dylan,” he said. “The potential to have not only a great college career but being able to possibly play at the next level as well. He has a skillset of being able to shoot the ball unbelievable. High IQ with the game. He’s getting the confidence; he’s looking like a man.”

The ability of both Disu and Brown to stretch the floor is an exciting prospect for the former NBA assistant who wants to prioritize outside shooting both this year and going forward with the program. 

“We want to take advantage of the threes,” Stackhouse said. “I think that’s a trend for us that’s going to continue to trend in that direction with the guys we’re bringing in. A couple of the guys that we signed some of their main attributes are being able to shoot the ball. We want to spread the floor and that’s going to be our thing going forward. I think it’s always kind of been a part of Vanderbilt’s history with some of their best teams being able to have great shooters.” 

Stackhouse also spoke highly of his sophomore point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. and the strides he made during the offseason. 

“He spent a lot of time during this quarantine with his dad,” Stackhouse said. “I think they really got in the gym, really got in the backyard and really worked on some things. And it’s showing. It’s showing that he’s ready to take the next step of becoming, I think, an all-SEC performer. He was last year as a freshman, and I think he wants to continue that trend going forward.” 

Pippen Jr. split the ball handling duties with Saben Lee last season, but with Lee departing for the NBA, the second floor general spot was up for grabs coming into this year. From Stackhouse’s comments, it appears that freshman Trey Thomas has a firm grasp on the backup point guard position. 

“He was kind of a late sign because I felt like we needed another guard behind Scotty with everything that has happened over the last couple of years with injuries,” Stackhouse said of Thomas. “He’s proven to be one of our best shooters and tough. Only like 5’10”, 165 pounds but he plays with a level of toughness, a level of confidence that kinda exudes through the team.” 

Stackhouse also touched on Issac McBride, the Kansas transfer who was deemed eligible earlier this week by the NCCA. 

“Issac is a freshman,” he said. “Basically that’s what he is for us right now. He has the ability to shoot the basketball, to score the basketball. He’s adjusting to the next level of play from high school.” 

With the additions of guys like McBride, Thomas and Millora-Brown, this Commodores roster is built with a great deal of depth compared to last season where the injuries of Brown and Aaron Nesmith forced the Commodores to play guys huge minutes and use multiple walk-ons a game. 

“It is fun to know that we can have a really, really competitive game because we can put ten guys out on the floor that we feel comfortable about what they bring to the table,” Stackhouse said.