Colin Smith, Evan Taylor, Tyrin Lawrence, Ezra Manjon, Ven Allen-Lubin and Lee Dort (pictured left to right) will all look to play critical roles for Vanderbilt Mens Basketball when its season tips off on Nov. 7, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Colin Smith, Evan Taylor, Tyrin Lawrence, Ezra Manjon, Ven Allen-Lubin and Lee Dort (pictured left to right) will all look to play critical roles for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball when its season tips off on Nov. 7, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

2023-24 Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball season preview

The Commodores will begin their 2023-24 campaign on Tuesday night with a matchup against Presbyterian at 7 p.m. CST at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Vanderbilt Commodores will tip off their 2023-24 season on Tuesday evening in Memorial Gymnasium, 230 days after losing to UAB in the NIT Quarterfinals. The Commodores lost eight key players from the 2022-23 team: Liam Robbins, Jordan Wright, Quentin Millora-Brown, Myles Stute, Trey Thomas, Malik Dia, Emmanuel Ansong and Noah Shelby. Although the Commodores lose two of their top five leading scorers in Robbins and Wright, the additions of Evan Taylor, Tasos Kamateros and Ven-Allen Lubin will fill that void.

Jerry Stackhouse enters his fifth season as head coach of the Commodores and will look to improve on his 22-15 record from the 2022-23 season. Last year, Vanderbilt got off to a sluggish start, winning only 7 of its 13 nonconference games. Losses to Southern Mississippi and Grambling State are what ultimately plagued the Commodores at the end of the season. This year, the Commodores will look to dominate their nonconference opponents. 

Before the season begins, The Hustler conducted a position-by-position breakdown, analyzed Stackhouse’s current status and predicted how the Commodores would finish this season.

The Rotation

Guards: Ezra Manjon/Tyrin Lawrence/Paul Lewis/Malik Presley

Ezra Manjon returns to the Commodores after averaging 10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in his senior year last season. The transfer from UC Davis was Vanderbilt’s primary ball handler and will return for a fifth year of college ball with a year of Stackhouse’s system under his belt. For the spearhead of your offense, experience is more valuable than raw talent. Manjon doesn’t stand out size-wise — he’s listed as 6’0”, 170 pounds — but his speed, scrappy defense and floor-general capabilities make him incredibly valuable for this squad. His 140 assists led the team and are nearly double the next highest assist-getter — Jordan Wright with 71. He needs to improve his 3-point shooting, which, at 25%, was the lowest on the team of any player who took more than three 3s, but his veteran leadership and driving abilities make up for many of his shortcomings. This season, the Black-and-Gold faithful will hope for more magical moments from Manjon like last year’s Auburn game-winner.

—Sam Curtis

Tyrin Lawrence will be Vanderbilt’s best overall player in the 2023-24 season. The shooting guard averaged 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 29 minutes per game for the Commodores last season. A few weeks after the conclusion of the Commodores’ season, Lawrence entered the transfer portal. Although Lawrence explored leaving Vanderbilt, he ultimately decided to come back to Nashville and don the Black and Gold one last time. The senior was selected to the preseason All-SEC second team one week ago and will look to lead Vanderbilt to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2017. Lawrence and Manjon bring veteran experience and sheer speed to the backcourt and will help the Commodores stretch the floor. Lawrence will look to relive some of his staggering moments from last year, such as the night he took down No. 6 Tennessee with a program-defining buzzer-beater. 

—Andrew Wilf

Paul Lewis was the final member of Stackhouse’s heralded 2022 recruiting class, as the former 3-star out of Woodbridge, Va. didn’t sign on to the Black and Gold until April 2022. Lewis, like his current teammates Colin Smith and Lee Dort, didn’t get enough minutes last season to really make a mark, but he showed brilliant flashes nevertheless. He averaged 2.9 points in just 10.0 minutes per game, but it was his 3-and-D ability that truly stood out. The 6’2” sophomore came into Vanderbilt flashing promise from downtown — and he showed it, shooting 39.5% from 3-point range — with defensive question marks. Lewis’s time spent during practice guarding Manjon helped him hone his craft on defense, as he learned how to keep speedy guards in front of him and not get burnt on drives. With the departures of Shelby (Rice) and Thomas (Bowling Green), as well as a year of experience under his belt, Lewis should serve as one of the top options off the bench for the Commodores. 

—Aiden Rutman

Malik Presley might not be a star player on this Vanderbilt roster right now, but he will be a key part of the program for years to come. The 6’6” forward out of San Marcos, Texas is the second-highest-rated freshman in Vanderbilt’s 2023-2024 class. Right now, he’s an incredibly raw prospect with high-end athleticism and plenty of downhill speed. There’s going to be a moment this season when Lawrence or Manjon dish the ball to him on a fastbreak and the ensuing dunk is so violent that it makes the rounds on Twitter for at least a week afterwards. He will also miss a lot of shots, and he’ll probably have to take his lumps on defense as he undergoes an SEC strength and conditioning regimen. He’s got the measurables and the athleticism to be one of the Commodores’ biggest contributors in the years to come. For now, he’ll get some fringe playing time on the bench, but it will be electric.

—Jayce Pollard

Forwards: Evan Taylor/Colin Smith

Though not a familiar face to Commodore fans, Taylor isn’t a stranger to college basketball. The 6’6” forward spent four years at Lehigh University before becoming the first transfer commit of Vanderbilt’s 2023-24 class. In his last season with the Mountain Hawks, Taylor averaged 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds on 42.5% from the floor, 43% from deep and 80% from the free throw line — good enough for a Second Team All-Patriot League finish. His high-level catch-and-shoot ability will serve as a complement to the quick downhill game of Manjon and Lawrence, while his above average rebounding presence may help to extend a few drives over the course of the season. Don’t expect him to be assigned a lot of on-ball creation duties, but he’s flashed the ability to take advantage of close-outs and pull up from mid-range at a solid clip. On defense, his size should allow him to square up against guards and forwards alike, but he’ll struggle to handle the fastest and strongest among them. His off-ball defense didn’t look stellar in Lehigh’s biggest moments last season against Wisconsin and Syracuse, but another year of experience should allow him to at least be a net neutral presence on that end of the court.

—Pollard

Those that have been following Live from West End for the past year will know that I’ve been on the Colin Smith wave for a long, long time. The second-year player out of Texas stands at 6’8” and 220 pounds, and he represents one of the more athletic players on Vanderbilt’s roster. The Dallas native has the speed and length that NBA scouts covet in this era of basketball: He’s tall enough to guard up but quick enough to guard down as well, and he’s as close to a Swiss army knife as a team could ask for. Offensively, the numbers might not stand out — 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game — but the flashes that he’s shown are simply undeniable. Smith proved his innate ability to shoot the ball from deep, as he shot 37.6% from 3-point range. He did this all with relatively inconsistent playing time (just 16.8 minutes per game) in a crowded forward room that included now cross-conference foes in Stute (South Carolina) and Wright (LSU). With more minutes up in the air, expect Smith to show what he’s truly capable of this season.

—Rutman

Centers: Tasos Kamateros/Lee Dort/Ven-Allen Lubin

Kamateros might be the biggest X factor in Vanderbilt’s projected starting lineup. Manjon, Lawrence and Smith are all relatively known entities at this point in their Vanderbilt careers, while Taylor’s catch-and-shoot ability should fit seamlessly into any starting lineup. Until Kamateros, a 6’8” forward/center, steps on the floor, there’s no telling what his role will be for the Commodores this season. Originally hailing from Athens, Greece, Kamateros spent his first four years of eligibility at the University of South Dakota. In his time as a Coyote, Kamateros earned a reputation as one of the best stretch bigs in the Summit League, knocking down 57 3s at an impressive 40.1% clip in his senior season. If that three-point shooting translates to the SEC, Kamateros can be dangerous as a pick-and-pop or kick-out option when Manjon and Lawrence are driving to the rim. Kamateros can also be a threat from the low post as a passer, a skillset which should nicely complement the explosive cutting ability of Lawrence and Smith.

—Brandon Karp

Though he won’t be ready for Tuesday’s opener, there are few players on this roster Stackhouse is more excited about than Lee Dort. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Dort was limited in his first season with the Commodores due to a combination of consistent foul trouble and issues with nagging injuries. Though the injuries are a bit of a concern — Stackhouse said Dort might miss the first few weeks of the season — the energizing center will need to fill major voids left in Vanderbilt’s frontcourt. Make no mistake, Dort absolutely has the ability to step up for the Commodores. A hawking presence in the paint, Dort offers a much different option than Kamateros as a player who can dominate on both ends. In limited minutes as a freshman, Dort showed great defensive instincts to pair with his size while also showing flashes of being an elite rim-runner. Though it has been mostly flashes with Dort and the big man will need to cut down on his excessive fouling, Dort has all the tools to be a centerpiece of Stackhouse’s rotation this season. 

—Anish Mago

Lubin provides an interesting prospect as a depth piece who can play in the four or the five spot. The 6’8”, 230 pound Florida native was a four-star recruit in high school and transferred out of Notre Dame after just one season where he averaged 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Notably, he was a shot-blocking machine. He led the Fighting Irish with 23 blocks on the season, despite only getting half as many minutes as the second place finisher. This stat is crucial in replacing center Robbins, who was a monster on defense for the Commodores last season before signing with the New Orleans Pelicans as an undrafted free agent after last year’s NBA draft. Lubin will likely see playing time earlier in the season as Dort gets back to full health and Stackhouse uses an extended bench. But don’t be shocked if you see this lengthy sophomore earn minutes in a bigs lineup down the stretch. Lubin also led Notre Dame in shooting percentage last year as he took many high-percentage shots by dominating the paint with his impressive height-to-weight combo — look for him to provide something similar to Vanderbilt.

—Curtis

Season predictions

I have really high expectations for Stackhouse and Co. this season, and for a justifiable cause. This is a group that could have been an NCAA tournament team. They finished the season on a ridiculously hot streak and will look to carry that into this season. Both Manjon and Lawrence returning was an absolute win for Vanderbilt as they project to be one of the best backcourts in the SEC. The sophomore trio of Dort, Smith and Lewis should all take steps forward due to both last year’s experience and more playing time this year. Transfers in Taylor, Lubin and Kamateros all figure to play essential roles as well. I know the media picked this team to finish 11th in the SEC, but I just don’t see it. I think the Commodores will finish in the top half of the conference for the second year in a row and end the season ranked within the top 25 teams in the nation.

—Rutman

With history as my guide and anxiety in my heart, I don’t expect Vanderbilt to be anything more than an NIT team. It’s possible to arrive at a more optimistic conclusion if you just focus on the Commodores and ignore all the other teams in the conference. There’s veterans in the starting lineup. There’s young, athletic wings. There’s even shooting! Everybody else has those too, and the guys doing it on those teams generally have more stars next to their names when they come out of high school. Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but the Commodores’ veteran experience isn’t an SEC abnormality either. Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M are all veteran teams about whom many of the same things could be said. Did Vanderbilt go on a massive run at the end of last season? Yes. Is this the same squad? No. It lost its best player to the Pelicans and a bunch of other contributors to the transfer portal (a few of those to in-conference foes). This year’s SEC tournament is going to be a logjam, and the Commodores are likely to come out on the NIT side of it.

—Pollard

With the modern transfer-portal era of college basketball, trying to predict and rank where Vanderbilt will be in comparison to 13 other teams with hefty roster changes is a fool’s errand. That said, I think this group making the NCAA Tournament is a longshot. With so much turnover in the starting five and Stackhouse’s propensity to use his second group more often than other coaches, I could see this team struggling to gel during the nonconference schedule ― just like last fall. With difficult games coming up in the fall like NC State, Boston College and Memphis, a slow start could doom Vanderbilt’s Tournament chances yet again. The selection committee’s methodology hasn’t changed. We’ll see if Vanderbilt’s approach has.

—Frankie Sheehy

Stackhouse expectations

The Commodores have done well to earn NIT berths in the past two seasons, but ultimately, they’ll need a bit more to take their next step, whether that’s in the form of solidifying their rotation earlier in the season or winning most of their nonconference games handily. With the expectations high, Stackhouse will also need to navigate the most amount of turnover he’s had to face so far. In his fifth season, Vanderbilt’s roster is completely “his,” both in terms of recruitment and development. While he got his crown jewel back in Lawrence, Stackhouse will need to rely on the progression of Dort, Lewis and a wide spread of other underclassmen to fill the roles left by off-season departures. More than anything else, development and production out of his young talent are the most fair expectations for Stackhouse; after all, these are the players he brought to Vanderbilt to take on these types of roles. For the Commodores, how much he can get out of his underclassmen might decide the fate of their season. 

—Mago

Expectations should naturally be higher this season with Lawrence and Manjon back in the fold after leading an impressive 12-3 finish last year. With that said, I think there’s less pressure on Stackhouse than ever before, and this firmly feels like his program for the foreseeable future. 

The biggest questions Stackhouse faced throughout last season were his ability to beat ranked teams and his ability to recruit and retain top talent. With wins against No. 15 Arkansas, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 23 Kentucky en route to a 4th place finish in the SEC, there is no longer any justifiable argument that Stackhouse can’t beat top teams. With respect to recruiting and managing the transfer portal, Vanderbilt still faced an unusual amount of roster turnover this offseason. Even so, the roster attrition may have less to do with Stackhouse and more to do with the new rules of college basketball. Previous top recruits Shelby and Dia departed via the transfer portal alongside key contributors Wright, Millora-Brown, Thomas and Stute. On the flip side, Stackhouse brought in another strong recruiting class headlined by 6’8” wing Jason Riviera-Torres and was able to use the portal to bring in proven talent in Taylor, Lubin and Kamateros.

—Karp

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
Anish Mago, 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 .
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
Aiden Rutman, Senior Staff Writer
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
Sam Curtis, Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Jayce Pollard, Assistant Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
Brandon Karp, Senior Staff Writer
Brandon Karp ('25) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is studying human and organizational development and political science in Peabody College. You can reach him at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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