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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.

Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball Offseason Notebook: Making sense of the mess

Who’s in, and who’s out for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball? And which camp is Jerry Stackhouse in?
Nikita Rohila
Tyrin Lawrence during a free throw against LSU at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Mar. 9, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila)

Much has changed for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball since the season concluded just over three weeks ago in the NIT Quarterfinals. 

Since that March 22 loss to UAB, six Commodores have entered the transfer portal, star wing Tyrin Lawrence declared for the 2023 NBA Draft, head coach Jerry Stackhouse was linked to the Detroit Pistons vacant head coaching position and sources told The Hustler that assistant coach Adam Mazerai is expected to leave for UC Berkeley. As the dust of the offseason transfer portal frenzy slowly begins to settle at other schools, Vanderbilt’s future outlook is completely up in the air. 

As it stands, only Ezra Manjon, Paul Lewis, Colin Smith and Lee Dort remain from the Commodores 2022-23 roster. Quentin Millora-Brown announced his entry into the transfer portal after stating at the SEC Tournament that he would be staying another year on West End. Here’s a visual aid to our scholarship chart that helps sort the mess: 

Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Scholarship Chart (Bryce Smith)
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball Scholarship Chart. (Hustler Staff/Bryce Smith)

Manjon, Lewis and Smith signed postseason deals with The Anchor Impact Fund, one of Vanderbilt’s two main collectives. Whether or not Dort and Lawrence ink eventual deals with a NIL collective — seemingly indicating their status to return next season — marks two more crucial steps in the Commodores roster retention efforts. 

In the meantime, Vanderbilt will await the NBA fate of Lawrence, who has until June 12 to test the professional waters. However, Lawrence may not be the only key member from the Commodore program whose NBA future looms large. 

Eric Bossi of 247Sports reported on Tuesday that Stackhouse was “very interested” in the recently opened Detroit Pistons head coach opening. Stackhouse previously coached under former Pistons coach Dwayne Casey, who recently moved into a front-office role for Detroit. Stackhouse also played five seasons for Detroit during his 20-year professional career. 

“Stackhouse is very well regarded in NBA circles, and numerous sources tell 247Sports that he’s indeed very interested in the Pistons opening,” Bossi wrote in his report. “His ability to draw up plays is highly thought of, and he impressed many during his time as an assistant alongside Casey with the Toronto Raptors”

As the future of the Vanderbilt basketball program seemingly hangs in the balance over the next few weeks, let’s try to make some sense of the mess that has become April. 

Who’s out 

Let’s start with the easiest bit to unscramble: the outgoing Commodores. Nearly half of the 2022-23 Vanderbilt roster has opted to enter the transfer portal, with six of 13 scholarship players gone. 

Among the most significant of those defections are Jordan Wright and Millora-Brown, two seniors with one more season of eligibility remaining. While Millora-Brown’s entry was the more surprising of the pair, Wright’s may hurt Vanderbilt more in the long run. 

Quentin Millora-Brown is pushed out of the way, as photographed on Dec. 3, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)
Quentin Millora-Brown is pushed out of the way, as photographed on Dec. 3, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders) (Josh Rehders)

That’s because this won’t be the last the Commodores see of Wright: The Baton Rouge native transferred to conference foe LSU for his final season. Wright was third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points and averaged 5.4 rebounds, just a tick above Millora-Brown’s 4.3 boards per game. With Liam Robbins and Emmanuel Ansong out of eligibility and also departing, Manjon stands as the only senior left from the 2022-23 squad. 

Bumping down a rung, Myles Stute and Trey Thomas both announced their entries into the portal from the junior class. Stute started 26 for Vanderbilt this season, while Thomas started 17. That leaves just Lawrence as a potential returnee from the Class of 2024. 

Noah Shelby and Malik Dia, who ranked 11th and 12th in minutes played this season, entered the portal from the freshmen ranks. Dia announced his commitment to nearby Belmont on Apr. 3. 

In total, that marks six Commodores who have entered the transfer portal thus far. With an incoming high school class of three players (Isaiah West, JQ Roberts, Carter Lang), that leaves five open scholarships for the 2023-24 squad. 

Who’s in

Now for the trickier part of the offseason: filling those open five spots. Thus far, Vanderbilt has yet to nab a player out of the portal themselves. Last season, Stackhouse had added Manjon by this point, and two years ago today, he landed Robbins. Vanderbilt has taken its fair share of swings in the opening few weeks of the portal, though. Stackhouse and his staff have reached out to at least 20 portal candidates that we know of. 

The most notable of those targets include BJ Mack (Wofford), Kamari Lands (Louisville), Isaac Jack (Buffalo) and Josh Uduje (Coastal Carolina). Vanderbilt was reported to have or have had in-home visits with all four prospects but was cut from both Mack and Lands’s final lists. Elsewhere, Kinston, North Carolina, — Stackhouse’s hometown — natives Damian Dunn (Temple) and Dontrez Styles (North Carolina) never seemed very enticed to play for Vanderbilt and landed at Houston and Georgetown, respectively. 

As I said in my final column of the season, based on the current roster construction, Vanderbilt’s top needs in the portal are a starting capable big man, a two-way wing with shooting ability (which we now know is a Wright replacement) and a backup guard or forward. With the additional unexpected departure of Millora-Brown, finding a veteran center becomes all the more important. 

Vanderbilt’s portal recruiting strategy has, on the whole, been a bit murky and confusing so far. The Commodores have reached out to a plethora of targets and top names like Virginia center Kaden Shedrick, Syracuse big man Jesse Edwards and Cal Baptist wing Taran Armstrong. Landing any of the three would fill Vanderbilt’s voids and then some, but it’s fair to wonder how realistic those options are given the number of suitors they will have and the NIL money they will command. 

Vanderbilt has only made public visits with the aforementioned four prospects Mack, Lands, Jack and Uduje. The puzzling aspect is that each of these players represents very different archetypes — and that half of them immediately cut Vanderbilt from their lists. 

Perhaps the Commodores are trying to spread their wings in the portal rather than target specific types of players, but either way, the lack of early success is somewhat telling. Of course, Vanderbilt has a plethora of scholarships to work with given the rash of departures, so until at least one player is committed, this point may be moot. 

The looming questions

As interesting (or not, depending on your viewpoint) as it is to debate and assess Vanderbilt’s roster turnover, it will be an even bigger moot point depending on the fate of the Commodores’ two potential league-bound figures: Lawrence and Stackhouse.  

According to sources, Lawrence’s status hasn’t changed. The junior will work out for NBA scouts while maintaining his college eligibility. He has not entered the transfer portal and has until June 12 to pull his name out of the draft. 

It’s not necessarily ideal for a college basketball program to have its future trajectory hanging in the balance of its best player testing the NBA waters, but teams deal with it all the time. Vanderbilt managed the last two offseasons with such a dilemma as Scotty Pippen Jr. entered his name into the NBA Draft pool not once, but twice.

Having the future trajectory of the program hanging in the balance of the head coach testing the NBA waters is an entirely different story, though. It’s rather rare in today’s era for NBA teams to hire coaches from the college ranks, but Stackhouse could be an anomaly given his nearly 30 years spent in the league as a player and coach. 

“Stackhouse is very well regarded in NBA circles and numerous sources tell 247Sports that he’s indeed very interested in the Pistons opening,” Eric Bossi wrote in his report

The timing of Stackhouse’s linkage to the Pistons job opening is far from ideal for Vanderbilt however, as April has become the lifeblood of college basketball recruiting in the transfer portal era. The longer Stackhouse’s fate hangs in question, the more difficult it seems the Commodores will have in rebuilding their roster. Further, while Stackhouse contemplates his NBA future, his peers in the SEC are loading up with talent at places like Arkansas, Florida and Ole Miss. 

Jerry Stackhouse coaches from the sidelines against LSU at the SEC Tournament, as photographed on Mar. 9, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila).
Jerry Stackhouse coaches from the sidelines against LSU at the SEC Tournament, as photographed on March 9, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila)

Assistant coach Adam Mazarei is expected to leave the program as well, sources told The Hustler on Wednesday. While Mazarei’s move isn’t necessarily related to Stackhouse’s, it adds further to an offseason that thus far has been filled with instability. Over the past four years, Mazarei served as a key developmental coach for Stackhouse’s program and helped land point guard Ezra Manjon from UC Davis. Sources linked Mazarei to the assistant coach opening at UC Berkeley. 

All in all, there have already been many moving pieces this offseason for Vanderbilt, and more are certain to come. The looming decisions of Lawrence and Stackhouse will have seismic effects on the scale of those changes. Losing both the head coach and the best-returning player likely would have devastating consequences on the future of the program. Retaining both and finding success in the portal could vault Vanderbilt into preseason top-25 conversation. It’s safe to say that there is a range of outcomes yet to play out for the Commodores over the next few weeks. 

Buckle up. 

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Nikita Rohila
Nikita Rohila, Senior Staff Photographer
Nikita Rohila ('25) is from a small town in Arkansas and is majoring in psychology and medicine, health and society in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Deputy Social Media Director. During her free time, she enjoys roaming around the city and getting cinematic-style shots for her photography account! You can reach her at [email protected].
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Doug w
1 year ago

I am not feeling to good about this upcoming season

David Corbitt
1 year ago

Great article young man. I enjoy reading your stuff