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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.

First Impressions: Takeaways from Vanderbilt men’s basketball Pro Day

Jerry Stackhouse and the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team invited NBA scouts and media into Memorial Gymnasium on Monday for a Pro Day.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt men’s basketball player Shane Dezonie finishes a layup at the team’s NBA Pro Day on Oct. 4. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

With October officially underway on West End, basketball season is in full swing. After Vanderbilt’s first official practice of the season on Sept. 29, head coach Jerry Stackhouse and his team invited NBA scouts and media to Memorial Gymnasium on Monday for a Pro Day.

The main storyline coming out of this offseason was the return of junior Scotty Pippen Jr. After declaring for the NBA Draft, Pippen Jr. announced in July that he would be returning to Vanderbilt for a third season. The All-SEC First-Teamer returns after setting a school record for points per game for a sophomore.

By retaining his star point guard and picking up eight new pieces, Stackhouse has retooled his roster for year three. In addition to four freshmen, Stackhouse added four players via the transfer portal: Liam Robbins, Terren Frank, Rodney Chatman and Jamaine Mann. All four are expected to provide immediate help this season with the squad losing nearly half of its offensive production from last year.

While Robbins did not participate in Monday’s Pro Day due to an undisclosed injury, he was present at the event with no visible ailments. In addition, sophomore Tyrin Lawrence did not participate in the practice as he is still recovering from a torn ACL injury that he suffered last November.

In the infant stages of practice with a team of eight new players, there is much to observe. From potential freshmen contributors to the development of upperclassmen, here are three main takeaways after Vanderbilt’s Pro Day as the team prepares for its Nov. 10 opener against Alabama State.

Veteran Presence of Rodney Chatman

Throughout the majority of the afternoon Pippen Jr. remained the best player on the floor. During a 20-minute scrimmage period, the junior teamed up with Frank, Mann, Trey Thomas and freshmen Shane Dezonie and Gabe Dorsey. He controlled much of the pace for his team, scoring 11 points and dishing out three assists as well. But he did turn the ball over multiple times thanks to the aggressive defense of Chatman.

Chatman—who is officially listed at 6’1”—boasts really good hands and amazingly quick feet, tallying steals and deflections all over the place. The graduate transfer from Dayton has long been known as a solid defensive stopper and is most famous for holding Anthony Edwards to just 2-10 shooting two seasons ago. Alongside Robbins, Chatman figures to be Vanderbilt’s best defensive player. He will likely match up with the best opposing guards in the SEC and be tasked with holding them in check.

But what really stood out Monday was his maturity and poise. As the de facto point guard on a squad headlined by Jordan Wright, Myles Stute, Quentin Millora-Brown and freshman Peyton Daniels, he played smart and embraced a floor general role. He knew just when to speed things up and slow things down and also totaled 10 points in the 20-minute period, combining a few nifty floaters with a pair of three-pointers.

“Rodney picks your mind as an older player. He’s an older player, a guy who just knows how to play,” Stackhouse said recently on The Anchor podcast. “He’s going to be one of the biggest helps for Scotty. We can get Scotty off the ball [now].”

While double-digit scoring won’t be commonplace for Chatman, what should be consistent is a healthy dose of poise and maturity. He has played in over 100 college basketball games throughout his four-year career and will be a valuable backcourt mate for Pippen Jr. He will also be the most pure secondary ball-handler Vanderbilt has had in a number of years, allowing Pippen Jr. to get the ball later in offensive sets.

Improvement On the Wings

Around the program, the most anticipated offseason buzz has surrounded Wright, who enters his third year on West End as a guaranteed starter. After playing at around 235 pounds last season, Wright has dropped off to 215 and what that has done for his game was evident on Monday.

The Baton Rouge native was dunking with ease during drills, off of both one and two feet. With a bouncier approach to the game has come improved playmaking as well. 

“I think he has become a better playmaker,” Stackhouse said on the podcast. “He has always been a solid defender but now he understands more about the team and concepts … He’s right on the verge of being ‘the man.’ One of the guys we can really count on.”

Wright very much looked like a go-to player for his squad in the scrimmage period, tallying eight points on a number of creative drives and finishes at the rim. He was put on the ball quite a bit, demonstrating an improved handle and elevated confidence. Although he didn’t sink any shots from deep, he will carry his 43 percent three-point clip over from last season.

Another Commodore wing who impressed—but will likely be competing for a starting spot—was Myles Stute. The 6’7” sophomore comes off a freshman year that saw him be very streaky from beyond the arc, but blooming with potential. He did knock down a three in the scrimmage period but more impressive was how he appeared in drills. In addition to knocking down dozens of threes in various shooting drills, it’s evident he has improved his body and looks more comfortable battling down low in the paint.

“Myles Stute’s body has probably changed more than anybody that we have had just from last year. COVID-19 really set him back a little bit,” Stackhouse said on the podcast. “He has responded and really come back and has been a bright spot for us over the summer. We are looking for him to come back with that same sort of energy as he [began with] last season.”

The Washington D.C. native came out guns blazing last year, hitting 13 of his first 26 attempts from beyond the arc. But after his battle with COVID-19, he returned to earth and finished shooting just 29 perecnt for the year. 

Alongside Frank, Stute figures to have a shot at starting on the wing. The TCU transfer boasts the bigger body and rebounding frame, but both are more than capable of spacing the floor and hitting shots. Frank tallied a pair of threes himself in the scrimmage. 

Freshmen Standouts

All four of Stackhouse’s freshmen—Dorsey, Daniels, Dezonie and walk-on Graham Colton—saw plenty of action in the scrimmage and each showed a bit of promise. 

Dorsey flashed incredible “three-and-D” potential, nailing three triples for his squad throughout the 20-minute period. The lefty has a beautiful stroke and appears prepared to potentially get bench minutes early this season. 

Dezonie flaunts the most impressive frame of the young group. At 6’5” and 215 pounds, he was impressive in finishing drills all afternoon. With plenty of bounce and athleticism, there will certainly be a role for him somewhere on this roster. He was not extremely aggressive on offense, but coming from a loaded high school team in Brewster Academy, it’s likely he will still need to develop his go-to offensive game.

Daniels figures to push Thomas for backup minutes at the point guard position all year long. With better size and quickness than Thomas—albeit worse shooting than the sophomore—he has a textbook skill set for an SEC guard. The former standout on Stackhouse’s AAU team will need to prioritize defense and protecting the ball to claim the backup point guard role. At times he looked a bit out of control on both ends despite flashing the potential to be explosive in transition and the mid-post area.

Stackhouse’s group will continue practicing in the days ahead with his team’s season opener just about one month away.

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About the Contributor
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]    
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