Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Player Preview: Rebuilding and rebooting

As Vanderbilt Women's Basketball prepares to tip-off on the 2019-2020 season, The Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Staff provides an in-depth look at Head Coach Stephanie White's new roster.

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Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Player Preview: Rebuilding and rebooting

The Vanderbilt Women's Basketball Team sports pink in support of breast cancer awareness on Thursday, February 15, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

The Vanderbilt Women's Basketball Team sports pink in support of breast cancer awareness on Thursday, February 15, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Claire Barnett

The Vanderbilt Women's Basketball Team sports pink in support of breast cancer awareness on Thursday, February 15, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Claire Barnett

Claire Barnett

The Vanderbilt Women's Basketball Team sports pink in support of breast cancer awareness on Thursday, February 15, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

The 2018-19 Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball season saw the Commodores finish with an underwhelming 7-23 record, including a mere two wins in the Southeastern Conference. The team’s lack of depth seemed to work in unison with frustrating injuries, ultimately whittling down the Commodore roster to as few as seven active players.

Now, Head Coach Stephanie White enters her fourth season at the helm with plenty of room to improve, but plenty of hope that her new-look Commodores will do just that. Six of the program’s top eight players have returned, which presumably will help their large, seven person freshman class adjust to the pace of SEC play.

The Commodores’ season will tip-off in Memorial Gym tonight, as they host Jacksonville State at 7 p.m. Before they begin, The Vanderbilt Hustler provides a detailed look at the 2019-2020 roster:

G Sarah Gordon (#1)

Gordon made the team as a walk-on in December of last year. The 5 foot 7 guard returns for her senior season after playing in four games last season. Gordon only played more than two minutes once last season, and she missed her only field goal attempt. She will continue to provide depth for the team, but with a bigger roster this year, she may not see any playing time.

– Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

G Chelsie Hall (#2)

After earning All-SEC freshman honors in her first season as a Commodore, Hall lacked consistency and battled injuries during her sophomore year, resulting in a slight step back from her strong freshman campaign.  She saw action in 23 games and averaged about 10 points per in those games. Although up and down at times, her season culminated in success as she scored 14 points in 25 minutes during Vanderbilt’s historic upset of Tennessee in Knoxville. Expect more of that Chelsie Hall this year. In Vanderbilt’s only preseason scrimmage of this season – a decisive victory over Division II Palm Beach Atlantic – Hall was in the starting lineup and looked better than ever. She scored 12 points and dished out 4 assists while playing the most minutes on the team (25).  With a host of talented freshmen joining this year’s roster, junior Hall will be called upon to be a leader in the locker room and a consistent point guard presence on the court. Coach Stephanie White’s team has huge aspirations this season and if they are to be met, Hall must be the poised veteran that she has shown she is capable of being.

– Justin Hershey

G Jordyn Cambridge (#3)

Sophomore guard Jordyn Cambridge is looking to revert back to her high school days this season. The Nashville native was the 24th ranked prospect in 2018 but was unable to live up to the hype. After only averaging 3.3 points in 15.4 minutes per game on a struggling Vanderbilt women’s team, there is nowhere to go but up for Cambridge. Her defending prowess will hopefully shine this season and usher in a culture of winning ways for the Commodores.   

– Jake Schwartz

F Yaubryon Chambers (#5)

Yaubryon Chambers will begin her college career just a half hour away from her home town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The 6 foot 1 forward was a two-time all-district team selection for Private Christian Academy. Chambers is a three-star recruit, and has been applauded for her athletic ability inside the paint. She contributes to the Vanderbilt roster as a versatile defender, who can create turnovers and follow the fast break down the court. While she is not the most highly touted prospect in the freshman class, the athletic tools are there. If she develops her game, Chambers could be a solid contributor to Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball in the coming years. 

– Jesse Goldman

G Demi Washington (#12)

Demi Washington joins the Commodore women in 2019 as part of a highly touted recruiting class that had two 4-stars and five 3-stars. Washington, a 5 foot 9 guard from Landover Maryland is one of two ESPN HoopGurlz top 100 recruits joining the Vanderbilt team, alongside Koi Love. She was a two-time all conference selection and all-district selection in high school. Described as a physical backcourt presence, Washington should be able to come in and contribute right away on a Vanderbilt squad that lacked depth last season. 

– Bryce Smith

G Akira Levy (#14)

Levy, a sophomore transfer from the University of Missouri, will have to sit out this season before becoming eligible for the 2020-21 season. Still, Levy will undoubtedly test the rest of this group in practice and will be a focal point of the team for the foreseeable future. The Tennessee native and two-time Class AA Miss Basketball posted a solid freshman campaign for the Tigers, averaging 4.8 points and 2.1 assists in 15.8 minutes per game while earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors. Levy is reunited with Brinae Alexander and Jordyn Cambridge, her former Tennessee Flight AAU teammates. 

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor

F Brinae Alexander (#15)

A Freshman All-SEC selectee alongside Levy, Brinae Alexander put together a strong first season in Black and Gold, averaging 9.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Alexander was forced to miss nine games in the middle of the season with a knee injury, but she came back strong. In just her third game back from injury, Alexander scored 24 points and grabbed six boards against Texas A&M. Look for 5 foot 10 forward to be a mainstay in the starting lineup this year and act as a focal point for this offense going forward. After all, she wasn’t the 33rd ranked prospect in the country last year for nothing. 

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor

G Taylor Hutchins (#22)

Freshman forward Taylor Hutchins should serve a similar role as Kaylon Smith on this year’s Commodore team, providing a spark off the bench that Vanderbilt has lacked in the past year. While she may not have had the national recruiting spotlight of Koi Love, Hutchins is a physical winger from DeSoto, Texas who can compete, defend and control the low block despite being listed at just 5 foot 9. The aspiring lawyer was given a three-star rating by ESPN’s HoopGurlz. In high school, Hutchins would routinely stuff the stat sheets to the tune of 21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and four steals — in the state playoffs. Look for Head Coach Stephanie White to call on Hutchins to do a bit of everything.

– Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

F Koi Love (#23)

This freshman forward makes a compelling case to be the program’s most talented newcomer. Love, the 2019 USA Today Florida Player-of-the-Year, was a four-star recruit coming out of Miami Country Day School; she ranked within the top 100 of her class according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz and ProspectNation listed her as high as the 40th best recruit in her class. These recruiting profiles consistently made note of Love’s versatile, athletic approach to the game, as her tenacious defense is complimented nicely by her ability to penetrate and finish through contact on the other end. So far, our sample size of Love’s skills might be small, but expectations remain very high. In Vanderbilt’s 116-42 demolition of Palm Beach Athletic, Love did it all: 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals are not to be taken lightly. Only time will tell if Love can continue to produce at this level once the competition stiffens.

Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

F Autumn Newby (#24)

Newby is developing into one of Vanderbilt’s best players. She has lots of experience in games, having made 29 starts as a freshman and 28 starts as a sophomore. She made strides in her rebounding between her freshman and sophomore season, and she should grow and develop further heading into her third season as a starter. Newby led the team with 6.7 rebounds per game last season. If there’s one area she can improve, it’s shooting. She shot just 41 percent from the field and only scored 7.4 points per game. If Newby can average in the double-digits by taking (and making) more high-percentage shots, Vanderbilt’s backcourt may feel less pressure to be responsible for the majority of Vanderbilt’s points each game. Newby also led the team with 89 fouls last year, and she needs to stay out of foul trouble in order to remain on the court to have more chances to rebound and score.

– Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

F Kyndall Golden (#25)

Although she only scored two points in 17 minutes during Vanderbilt’s exhibition win over Palm Beach Atlantic, Golden made her presence known in other areas on the court. Five of her six rebounds were offensive rebounds, and getting her team another chance to score is crucial to Golden earning playing time as a freshman forward. Golden also led the team with four blocks. Her defensive prowess and physicality on both ends of the court will allow her to make an impact as a bench player in her first year on West End. As a senior in high school, she averaged 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, another indication that her contributions will not solely consist of points.

– Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

G LeaLea Carter (#30)

Over the course of her basketball career, Chassity “LeaLea” Carter has been through it all. Hailing from Dickson County High School, she arrived in Nashville as one of the most decorated high-schoolers in the entire nation. Not only was Carter the No. 3 ranked Guard and No. 8 prospect overall in the 2016 signing class, according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz, but she was also a McDonald’s All-American and a U16 Olympic Gold Medalist. While Carter excelled in her years before Vanderbilt, her tenure as a Commodore has not been as productive as many expected. After being an integral part of the lineup as a freshman, Carter’s sophomore campaign fell flat as she averaged just 1.4 points per game over the course of 16 appearances. Last year, Carter enjoyed a bounce-back season — playing in all 30 games, starting in 18 of them, and averaging about 9 points and 5 boards per. Her best performance of the year came against the Creighton Bluejays, where she played all 40 minutes and posted a career-high 21 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block. As her time in black and gold comes to a close, LeaLea desperately needs to avoid injury and make a statement in her last year with the team. Although her playing time may be limited thanks to the plethora of younger guards, the senior’s experience and veteran presence will be invaluable for the squad going forward. 

– Christopher Hugh

G Kiara Pearl (#33)

Pearl is yet another member of a strong freshman class for the Commodores. The 5 foot 8 guard from Louisville, Kentucky averaged 12.8 points and 4.0 rebounds during her senior season for Eastern High School, joining the 1,000 point-club in the process. Pearl was also named to the 28th District All-Tournament Team and All-Region Second Team. Pearl is an athletic combo-guard who can push the tempo and score in transition. However, don’t expect a ton of minutes from Pearl early on, especially at a crowded guard position.

– Max Schneider, Sports Editor

F Mariella Fasoula (#34)

In her first season at Vanderbilt after transferring from Boston College, Fasoula did not disappoint. She led the team in both points and rebounds per game, averaging 15.9 points and 7.2 respectively. Fasoula started 29 games and scored in double figures in all but six of those. Her efforts landed her on the all-SEC second team and this season she has already been put on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list for the best center in the country. In Vanderbilt’s 116-42 exhibition win over Palm Beach Atlantic, Fasoula picked up right where she left off and scored 18 points. Fasoula should be the centerpiece of the team for the second year in a row and she will also be tasked with a bigger leadership role on a team with seven freshmen. Most opposing defenses will concentrate on stopping Fasoula in the paint which will free up space for Vanderbilt’s guards. If Fasoula can manage to avoid foul trouble and improve upon her 65 percent free throw percentage from last year, she should be in store for an even bigger season than last. 

– Alyssa Muir, Senior Writer

F Kaylon Smith (#50)

In January of 2019, Kaylon Smith and the Oxbridge Academy Thunderwolves hosted the Miami Country Day Spartans in a highly touted battle for the Florida high school basketball crown. While the story of the game was Koi Love’s 22 points en-route to victory, the Thunderwolves were within striking distance for nearly the entire game despite being heavy underdogs; a lot of their efforts can be attributed to Smith’s play. Smith, now teammates with Love at Vanderbilt, nailed a turnaround jumper in the paint with two minutes left in the game, cutting Love and the Spartans’ lead to eight. The three star forward may not have the same hype, nor will she garner the same attention from opponents as Love, but she has a chance to serve an integral role in this Commodores team by providing a spark off the bench. Vanderbilt is a year removed from winning just two conference games, and the lackluster performance was largely attributed to their lack of depth. Expect Smith to serve as a face-up forward who can steal a few points off the bench when her name is called.

– Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

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