MBB opens season Tuesday vs. Winthrop

The Vanderbilt men’s basketball team gets their 2018-19 campaign underway on Tuesday night when the Commodores host Winthrop at Memorial Gym.  Tip time is set for 8:30 p.m. CT. with the game airing live on SEC Network Plus, on the radio with Joe Fisher and Tim Thompson on the Vanderbilt IMG Radio Network, and online on vucommodores.com.

The meeting with the Eagles will be the first between the two teams and the first of three Big South teams (UNC Asheville, Liberty) to appear on the Commodores’ non-conference schedule this season.

Vanderbilt Basketball Quick Hitters

  • This is the 116th year of Vanderbilt basketball, with the first season taking place in 1900-01.  There were no teams in 1904-05 and 1905-06.
  • Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew and his staff will welcome the highest decorated recruiting class in the program’s history this fall in point guard Darius Garland, forward Aaron Nesmith, and forward/center Simisola Shittu.  Garland and Shittu were consensus five-star prospects, and Nesmith was a four-star recruit who won the Gatorade South Carolina Player of the Year award, beating out highly touted center Zion Williamson, who eventually signed with Duke.
  • Drew, now in his third season, led the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament in his first season in Nashville, marking the first time in the history of the program a first-year Vanderbilt coach led his team to the tournament.  
  • Vanderbilt returns eight letterwinners and two starters from a year ago, with rising sophomore guard Saben Lee leading the way after averaging 10.6 points per game in 2017-18.  Senior Joe Toye, who has played significant minutes in his first three years with the Commodores, averaged 5.7 points per game.  Other returnees include sophomore Maxwell Evans, junior Clevon Brown, sophomore Ejike Obinna, and sophomore walk-on Isaiah Rice.
  • Junior transfers Matt Ryan and Yanni Wetzell will also suit up for the black and gold after sitting out last season.  Ryan is a 6’8 forward who transferred from Notre Dame and Wetzell is a 6’10 center who last played at St. Mary’s College in Texas.
  • The Commodores have had five NBA Draft picks since 2012 – Wade Baldwin IV (17th, Memphis Grizzlies), Damian Jones (30th, Golden State Warriors), and John Jenkins (23rd, Atlanta), Festus Ezeli (30th, Golden State), and Jeffery Taylor (31st, Charlotte) in 2012.  
  • Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson each departed Vanderbilt as 1,000-point scorers.  Each were four-year players for the Commodores who advanced to the postseason on three different occasions (2015 NIT, 2016 and 2017 NCAA Tournaments).  LaChance finished 15th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list with 1,476 points, Roberson 20th with 1,373 points, and Fisher-Davis 31st with 1,219 points.  There has been only one other class of Vanderbilt players to have three 1,000-point scorers – the vaunted “F Troop” – Butch Feher, Joe Ford and Jeff Fosnes in 1976.  Fisher-Davis (Windy City Bulls) and Roberson (Maine Red Claws) are now playing in the NBA G League, while LaChance has taken his talents to play professionally in Poland.
  • Besides Fisher-Davis, LaChance and Roberson’s departures, junior guard Larry Austin, Jr. graduated with a Vanderbilt degree in May and transferred to Central Michigan as a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately for the Chippewas.  Sophomore guard Payton Willis transferred to Minnesota and will sit a year for the Golden Gophers, while redshirt sophomore big man Djery Baptiste left the team to concentrate on his studies at Vanderbilt, where he will graduate with an undergraduate degree in December and play at UMass beginning in January as a graduate transfer.
  • The Commodores played nine games in 2017-18 against a ranked opponent – USC (#10/#10), Virginia (RV/#25), Seton Hall (#20/#20), Arizona State (#5/#6), Tennessee (#24/#23; #22/#21), Kentucky (#21/#20; #21/#22) and Auburn (#11/#13). The four ranked non-conference opponents were the most by a Commodore team since 1988, when Vanderbilt also played four (11/22 – # 2 Michigan, L, 66-91; 11/27 – #16 Ohio State, L, 82-97; 11/30 – #13 Louisville, W, 65-62; 12/7 – #8 North Carolina, L, 77-89).
  • Roberson was named to the All-SEC Second Team by the league’s coaches in 2017-18.  He finished the regular season fifth in the league in scoring (17.0), fifth in rebounding (7.2), second in free throw percentage (.852), fourth in field goal percentage (.484), fourth in defensive rebounds (5.3), and second in the SEC in 20-point games in SEC games only with nine. Roberson’s scoring average is the highest by a Commodore player since John Jenkins averaged 19.9 points per game in 2012.  Roberson also finished seventh on Vanderbilt’s all-time total rebounding list with 755.  

Home Openers
Vanderbilt’s record in home openers at Memorial Gym – the SEC’s oldest basketball facility is in its 67th season – is 59-7.  The Commodores have won 11 consecutive home openers, dating back to an 86-70 loss to Georgetown on November 15, 2006.

Three Commodores on NBA Rosters
Former Commodores Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, and Wade Baldwin IV are currently on NBA active rosters.  Jones is averaging 16.2 minutes and 6.0 points per game with the Golden State Warriors this season and has won two championships with the team in his three seasons in the Bay Area.  Kornet is averaging 3.7 minutes per game with the New York Knicks, and Baldwin is averaging 2.5 minutes per game with the Portland Trail Blazers.

NBA Pro Day
The Commodores held the program’s first NBA Pro Day on October 9 at Memorial Gym, with 29 of the NBA’s 30 teams represented and 54 total scouts in attendance.

Three Point U
The Commodores are one of only three schools (UNLV and Princeton) to have made a three-point basket since the inception of the three-point line in the 1986-87 season.

With a made three against Winthrop, Vanderbilt will move to 1,032 consecutive games with a three-pointer.

Ryan, Wetzell return to action
Juniors Matt Ryan and Yanni Wetzell will return to action after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.  Ryan, who comes to Vanderbilt from Notre Dame, played in two NCAA Tournaments and 72 total games with the Fighting Irish, while Wetzell averaged 13.6 points per game in two seasons at Division II St. Mary’s in Texas.  Both have been good shooters from beyond-the-arc at their previous stops – Ryan is a career 39.8% from three, while Wetzell has made 42% of his attempts from downtown.

Commodores in 86th SEC Season
Vanderbilt is now in its 86th SEC season and is a charter member of the league.  All time against current members of the conference, Vanderbilt is 715-706.

Against the Big South
The Commodores are 15-0 all time against members of the Big South.  Vanderbilt will face two other Big South opponents this season in UNC Asheville and Liberty.

Vanderbilt Basketball History

  • The Commodores have been named to 15 NCAA Tournaments and 12 NIT’s.  Vanderbilt advanced to the Elite 8 in 1965 (field of 23), and the Sweet 16 in 1988, 1993, 2004, and 2007.  The Commodores captured the NIT Championship in 1990 and finished runner-up in 1994.
  • The Commodores are a charter member of the SEC, with the 2017-18 season being the 85th year in the conference.
  • Vanderbilt is the only private institution in the SEC with the lowest enrollment of any of the 14 schools (6,738).
  • Vanderbilt’s Perry Wallace became the first African-American scholarship basketball player in the SEC when he took the court in 1967.
  • The Commodores have 48 career 1,000-point scorers, with Shan Foster (2004-08) the all-time leading scorer with 2,011 career points.
  • Vanderbilt has had 12 All-Americans since 1950.  They are:  Billy Joe Adcock (1950), Clyde Lee (1965), Tom Hagan (1969), Jan van Breda Kolff (1974), Will Perdue (1988), Billy McCaffrey (1993), Dan Langhi (2000), Matt Freije (2004), Derrick Byars (2007), Shan Foster (2008), and John Jenkins (2011).
  • Vanderbilt had two players selected in the 2016 NBA Draft – Wade Baldwin IV, Memphis, 17th pick and Damian Jones, Golden State 30th pick – one of only three schools with two or more players drafted in the first round.  In all, 37 Vanderbilt players have been selected in the NBA Draft since 1950.
  • Vanderbilt’s intercollegiate athletics teams are nicknamed the Commodores, in honor of the nickname given to founder Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made his fortune in shipping.  Vanderbilt donated $1 million to begin “Central University” in 1875 – the campus was later renamed for Cornelius because of his generosity.  Cornelius never stepped foot on the campus that bears his namesake.