Behind the Dores: Joe Toye

Joe Toye of Chicago is the senior citizen on a young and talented Commodore men’s basketball team. He enjoys that role – and the sweet potato pancakes in Hillsboro Village.

I went to Whitney Young High School in Chicago, which is almost like a high school version of Vanderbilt. The athletics are extremely good, and it’s one of the best academic schools in the city. I wanted to go there because of its reputation.

Whitney Young was a civil rights leader who passed away in a drowning accident.

Michelle Obama went to school there. I’ve never met her, but she was just there at the school recently.

When I was looking at colleges, my parents wanted me to go somewhere I felt the most comfortable, and to pick a place where even if basketball didn’t work out, I’d still love the school and value the education I received. That’s why Vanderbilt was perfect for me.

I’ve enjoyed my Engineering Management course with Professor Jordan. It’s more like a life class. I learned about myself and different things I can do outside the classroom to make myself successful.

Over the last four years, I’ve matured a lot. I’ve realized that the best part of being at Vanderbilt is the people you’re around. Networking with everybody and making as many friends as I can has been something I’ve done this year. That means just being nice to everybody, being myself, not closing myself off from new friends.

I would consider myself a well-rounded person. I can pretty much hold a conversation with anybody about anything.

I think it’s cool we all support each other on the different teams. It’s nice having a diverse group of friends who play different sports. I’m rooming with a football player, Alex Stumpf. We’re all friends here. I’ve had conversations with Dansby Swanson [of the Atlanta Braves]. He’s a great guy. In my class we had Conner Kaiser from Vanderbilt baseball.

Coming to Nashville, I didn’t expect it to be a great city like it is. I had never heard about Nashville in Chicago. But since I’ve gotten here, I’ve seen the growth of the city, the sports teams. It’s a super-exciting city.

I try to go to different restaurants around the city, but most of my favorite spots are near campus. I like Pancake Pantry. I get the sweet potato pancakes with hash browns and sausage.

When I was a freshman, our seniors were Josh Henderson, Nate Watkins and Carter Josephs. They did kind of seem old to me. But they were all good dudes.

It’s weird to be in that role now as the old guy. But I like it. I’m just using my experience to kind of guide everyone through the season. I try to lead by example with my effort everyday in practice, and also just the fact that I’ve been on good teams and bad teams here. I’ve pretty much seen everything and know what it takes to win at this level.

Good teams are vocal on the court and have good chemistry outside of basketball. Everybody likes each other and just hanging out. This is the best chemistry I’ve had with a team since I’ve been here. From seniors to freshman, everybody just loves each other. There are no cliques. We’re all a group.

I’ve become more consistent in practice, which has helped me in games. I watch film more and think about the game differently than when I came in. Watching film with your coaches is so important. I look for defensive mistakes, things I did well so I can see how I can do it again in a different situation, opportunities I may have missed in a game.

I never got to talk to him, but Perry Wallace means the world to me. I have his scholarship, the first Perry Wallace Scholarship. That was a great honor for me. Perry was a trailblazer for pretty much everybody on this team.

David Williams has been a great leader at Vanderbilt. From the first day we got here, he made his office open. If we need to talk to him about anything, we can go talk to him. I think that’s pretty rare at any level.

I think we have the talent to go further than any Vanderbilt team has. But we’ve got to put it all together, and take nothing for granted.

Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss