NASHVILLE, TENN. — In a little more than two weeks, Vanderbilt basketball will usher in a new era when first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse leads his team into Memorial Gymnasium for an exhibition against Clark Atlanta.
There is a cautious optimism going into the 2019-20 season as the Commodores try to rebound from a 9-23 campaign – and 0-18 mark in the SEC – while currently riding a 20-game losing streak.
“We got a young team – I feel like we’re going to shock a lot of people,” Vanderbilt junior guard Saben Lee said. “I feel like we have a good group of guys and enough in this locker room to win games.”
Stackhouse came to Vandy after one year as an assistant with Memphis in the NBA and two years as the head coach of Toronto in the G League. He assembled an entirely new staff and brought in six new players – four of whom are eligible to play this season.
The Commodores will rely on Lee, fellow juniors Maxwell Evans and Matthew Moyer, sophomore Aaron Nesmith and senior Clevon Brown to try to get off to a good start in a schedule that includes 11 nonconference games at home before the always-daunting league slate begins in January.
“It’s exciting to see these guys for the first time and learn their skill set,” Stackhouse said. “We’re still learning what some of these guys can do – all of them. They’re all kind of new to us. They’re all freshmen in my mind. They’re all learning how we want to play and how we want to do things. But we’ve been together for a while now so I think they’re starting to get a good feel and understanding of what we want.”
Among the eligible newcomers on Stackhouse’s first roster include forwards Dylan Disu and Oton Jankovic and guards Jordan Wright and Scotty Pippen (the son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen). Sophomore center Ejike Obinna will also be active for the first time since the 2017-18 season after redshirting last year.
That amount of youth should provide plenty of teachable moments as Stackhouse navigates Year 1 in Nashville.
“It’s great that we don’t have a lot of expectations from the outside, but we have a lot of expectations for ourselves because we know how we work and how we approach things and how we teach,” Stackhouse said. “So hopefully the teaching and the learning and the accountability that we put on top of that can bear some really good fruit.”