NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What will be different for the Commodores in Year 2 as opposed to Year 1 under head coach Jerry Stackhouse?
“It’s just the belief. You have to really believe that we can be really good,” Stackhouse said. “That’s not always about talent, one through 15, that you have on your roster. It’s about how you’re able to come together and grow and be able to pull for each other. I think that we saw that toward the end of the (2019-20) season.
“Our guys really care for each other, they enjoy playing with each other. Our newcomers, they’ve come in and their personalities and their skill sets have blended in really well. We’re super-excited about that.”
Stackhouse’s Vanderbilt team began practice this week looking to build off some positive momentum from the end of last season.
Yes, the Dores exited the SEC Tournament with a first-round loss and finished with an 11-21 record, but they won the final two games of the regular season and scored a win over No. 18 LSU earlier in the campaign to break a long losing streak in league play. Vandy also fought its best time and time again to try to overcome season-ending injuries to starting center Clevon Brown and leading scorer Aaron Nesmith.
That all led to the continual growth of the program under Stackhouse. His second team is now focused on taking a significant leap in the win column in 2020-21.
“With the new pieces that we have and then with the guys that have a year under their belt – then with (Maxwell) Evans and Brown coming back, we have a lot of experience,” Vanderbilt senior DJ Harvey said. “I think we have a lot more weapons than we did last year. And with coach Stackhouse, his system isn’t the easiest, so with guys having a year under their belt that’s going to be huge.
“We’re deep in all positions I think and it’s going to be a fun season.”
Harvey, along with Quentin Miller-Brown, sat out the 2019-20 season due to transfer eligibility rules. But 2020-21 will still be their second go-round with Stackhouse as it will be for Brown, Evans, Isaiah Rice, Ejike Obinna, Drew Weikert, Dylan Disu, Braelee Albert, Jordan Wright and Scotty Pippen.
Add six newcomers to that mix and Stackhouse is thankful to have some depth to work with.
“I think it’s great to look around and see it’s competitive at every spot that we have from our starters to our second group to I feel like we could possibly have 11 or 12 guys that understand what we’re doing,” Stackhouse said. “(And) it’s not about the scholarship players or the walk-ons. If you can get it done, you know you can get on the floor with me.”
As the Commodores continue to work over the next few weeks in anticipation of the start of the season, Stackhouse said he has already witnessed a, “night and day,” difference from where his team’s defensive structure was a year ago. He also foresees the heightened play on the defensive end day-in and day-out will lead to better production from the Commodores on the offensive end.
Vandy student-athletes said Thursday they also have a better understanding of what’s expected of them on and off the court having now spent a full season with their head coach. The Dores look forward daily to meeting the demands of the former NBA all-star.
“Coach Stackhouse demands your 110 percent effort every day,” Harvey said. “He requires your focus because what he’s teaching is higher than the usual college level – especially him dealing with NBA-caliber athletes and players, he doesn’t have time to babysit or walk you through it.
“He expects the best out of his players. He pushes everybody to their fullest and he gets the best out of us, that’s also huge. He gets our respect, too. He’s out there playing us almost every practice. He’s a great teacher, mentor, someone to look up to. He holds everybody’s respect and so does his coaching staff.”
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.