What could have been?
It’s the question that every Vanderbilt Basketball fan will ask themselves at every turn as the Commodores finish the 2018-19 season without freshman point guard Darius Garland.
What could have been?
On Tuesday night, Garland officially announced that he has withdrawn from Vanderbilt and will be focusing on preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft. Most of the latest projections indicate that Garland will hear his name called very early in this year’s draft despite missing all but five games this season due to a knee injury.
This is uncharted territory for Vanderbilt. Garland is the school’s first “one-and-done,” and you can count the number of games in his Vanderbilt career on one hand. As more and more Vanderbilt athletes have made the jump to the pros across all sports, the Vanderbilt community has always viewed Commodores in the professional ranks with nothing but pride and admiration.
Despite the brevity of his career and the painful thoughts of what could have been had he not fallen awkwardly and injured his knee in the opening minutes against Kent State in November, Garland should receive the exact same treatment from Commodore Nation.
Vanderbilt has only had two “lottery picks” in the NBA Draft: Clyde Lee in 1966 (third overall) and Will Perdue in 1988 (11th overall). Most of the recent mock drafts put Garland firmly in the top 10 of the 2019 draft.
No matter how brief his career might have been, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will still say “With the [NUMBER] pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the [TEAM] selects Darius Garland, point guard, Vanderbilt.”
With just his mere presence in the NBA, Garland will increase Vanderbilt Basketball’s national profile tenfold. His charismatic personality and dazzling moves on the court will make any NBA team better. His jerseys will fly off the shelves.
Vanderbilt fans would be foolish not to claim a budding star like Garland.
He’ll continue to be the trailblazer that puts Vanderbilt on the recruiting map. Potential recruits will see a Vanderbilt man making waves in the NBA and realize that there’s a path to NBA stardom that goes through Memorial Gym.
In addition, Garland carried himself with the class and dignity of a Vanderbilt man in his short time here. Despite being the best basketball talent to come to West End in program history, he never acted like it. He could be seen at Vanderbilt Soccer games supporting other athletes and was nothing but gracious in his brief time on campus.
His decision to leave school to focus on the draft could not have been easy. Otherwise, he would have made the decision a long time ago. He could have left right after he got hurt, but he took the time to make this hard decision.
“This decision was not an easy one due to my love for Vanderbilt, my teammates, Coach Drew, and his staff,” Garland said in an open letter published on VUCommodores.com. “I am beyond thankful for the opportunity they have afforded me at Vanderbilt. Current NBA rules allow me the immediate opportunity to pursue my ultimate dream of playing professional basketball — which, for me, is a chance of a lifetime. Having discussed my options with my family and Coach Drew, I know this is the right move at the right time.”
Garland also said he will return to Vanderbilt in the future to finish his degree, something that undoubtedly matters to him.
It will be hard for Vanderbilt fans to look past the “what-if” scenarios of this season with a healthy Garland, especially as the team continues to slide in SEC play. However, when Garland steps to the stage in New York wearing a sleek suit and puts on an NBA team’s cap, he’ll be there representing himself and his school: Vanderbilt.
Darius Garland loves Vanderbilt, and when he makes it big in the NBA, Commodore Nation should make sure they love him back.
Once a Commodore, always a Commodore, no matter how long you’re a Commodore.