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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.

Offseason Notebook: Men’s, Women’s basketball look towards next season with new faces in Memorial

After strong seasons for both Vanderbilt basketball teams, Jerry Stackhouse and Shea Ralph will look to start a new era after major roster turnover.
Hunter Long
Vanderbilt men’s basketball head coach Jerry Stackhouse during a game against SEMO in 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Compared to the standard that had been set in recent years, the 2021-22 season was special for both Vanderbilt basketball teams. On the men’s side, the team’s first winning record in five seasons (19-17) and a run to the NIT quarterfinals brought a bit of magic back to Memorial Gymnasium. The women’s team followed suit, turning a program that had its 2020-21 season discontinued due to COVID-19 and injuries into a program that finished the 2021-22 season with a win in the SEC Tournament and a successful run in the WNIT

Vanderbilt basketball gave fans two teams to be hopeful about moving forward. Despite some big losses for both teams this offseason, the Commodores will be bringing in new talent to fill the voids left behind their stars. 

Men’s basketball

Since stepping on campus as a freshman, Scotty Pippen Jr. has been a leader for Vanderbilt men’s basketball. After a solid freshman campaign, Pippen Jr. burst onto the scene as a sophomore, averaging 20.8 points and 4.9 assists per game en route to First-Team All-SEC honors. Following another great season as a junior, Pippen Jr. will forgo his senior season and hope to make the leap to the NBA. 

The departure of Pippen Jr.—Vanderbilt’s leading scorer for the past two seasons—obviously leaves a huge hole at point guard. In addition to his departure, the Commodores also took another blow to their backcourt with the graduation of Rodney Chatman. Though the transfer guard struggled with injuries in his lone season on West End, he did provide a steady source of defense and 3-point shooting in the backcourt. 

Head coach Jerry Stackhouse also lost three players to the transfer portal: freshman guard Shane Dezonie and sophomore forwards Jamaine Mann and Terren Frank. Despite showing flashes throughout the season, neither Mann nor Frank played a consistent role for the Commodores throughout the year. With Liam Robbins and Quentin Millora-Brown expected to return next year, there was likely not enough room in the Commodores’ frontcourt for the two forwards. 

The biggest portal loss may end up being Dezonie. Despite a modest stat line over just 11.1 minutes per game, Dezonie was a highly touted four-star recruit who had offers from a number of Power Five schools before choosing the Commodores. For Stackhouse, the hope may have been to mold the 6’5” guard into Vanderbilt’s main ball handler, in a role similar to Pippen Jr.’s. With Dezonie gone, the Commodores future at the point guard position looks a bit more uncertain. 

Even with these losses, Vanderbilt made two additions this past week to fill the gaps in their current roster. While replacing the production of someone like Pippen Jr. may be impossible, the Commodores will bring in Ezra Manjon to try and do so. The former UC Davis guard averaged 15 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Aggies last season, shooting at a respectable 43% from the field en route to First-Team All-Big West honors. Standing at just 5’11”, Manjon is a smaller, quick guard who uses his ball-handling ability and craftiness to create shots for him and his teammates.

“They continued to talk and were like, ‘We need a point guard right now. We need somebody to run the team,’” Manjon told 247 sports. “They said I filled the spot they needed, just being a faster, quick, explosive point guard.”

Manjon will join the Commodores’ unique blend of experience and youth as they try to navigate life after Pippen Jr. A strong freshmen class will certainly help in that endeavor. Stackhouse recruited the best class that the Commodores have had in years. It’s headlined by forward Lee Dort and guard Noah Shelby, two four-star teammates who committed to play at Vanderbilt early last year. The duo is complemented by another four-star in forward Colin Smith and three-star recruits in Malik Dia and point guard Paul Lewis, the latter of whom only received an offer on April 17 but committed on April 18. Stackhouse and company did extremely well in recruiting to add talent across all positions, which should help the Commodores for years to come.

Women’s basketball

After years of turmoil within the program, Vanderbilt women’s basketball flourished once again under the guidance of new head coach Shea Ralph. As the women’s team hopes to build on their season which was capped by an encouraging performance in the WNIT, they will also have to deal with a roster turnover that mirrors the men’s team.

For starters, the women’s team is also losing their leading scorer: guard Brinae Alexander, who entered the transfer portal in early March. Alexander was a huge piece for the Commodores, averaging 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and two steals per game last season as a versatile force in the Commodore backcourt. Losing the former five-star recruit leaves a massive hole in the roster.

In addition to Alexander, the Commodores also lost freshman guard De’Mauri Flournoy to the transfer portal. Flournoy struggled to find consistent playing time for Vanderbilt, averaging just 12.9 minutes per game, but showed promise during her freshman season in her limited role. 

To replace the production she lost, Ralph turned straight to the transfer portal. The biggest addition heading into next season is certainly former Saint Louis guard Ciaja Harbison, who announced her commitment over Twitter. As a senior at Saint Louis last season, Harbison averaged over 17 points per game along with 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. She thrives when using her speed and ball-handling ability to get to the basket but also can slow her pace and excel from the mid-range. Although Harbison did not shoot well from the 3-point line during her junior and senior seasons in a more ball-dominant role, she showed her capability in her first two collegiate seasons, shooting 35.3% from the line. With experienced guards in Jordyn Cambridge and Iyana Moore joining her in the backcourt next year, Harbison may see her usage reduced, allowing her to grow into a more efficient scorer. 

Vanderbilt made another addition to their backcourt when guard Marnelle Garraud left Boston College to join the Commodores. Serving primarily as a shooting guard as a junior last season, Garraud complements Vanderbilt’s current guard rotation quite well. She led Boston College in assists along with pacing the entire ACC in steals with 2.1 per game, en route to an ACC All-Defensive Team selection. With Garraud joining a Commodores defense that already features a two-time All-SEC Defensive Team selection in Cambridge, Vanderbilt should rank as one of the better defenses in the country next year. 

In addition, Garraud is a reliable shooter, making over 50 3-pointers last season at a clip of just over 34%. With the ball-handling capabilities of Cambridge, Moore and now Harbison, Garraud can provide an off-ball option in the backcourt as someone can influence the game with tenacious defense and playmaking. 

Like Stackhouse, Ralph turned in a strong freshman recruiting class. Next year, the Commodores roster will be bolstered by the additions of two players in ESPN’s top-100: guard Ryanne Allen and center Amauri Williams. Jada Brown, another guard, also committed to the team before the start of last season. With a promising young coach in Ralph, Vanderbilt will look to build on their success from last season, albeit in a slightly different way.

Next year will prove to be a challenge for Stackhouse and Ralph as they try to navigate life after losing their star players. Yet, with a combination of youth and experience being infused into their rotations, both coaches should have a chance to see who their next stars may be.

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About the Contributors
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
Hunter Long
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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