NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith has decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.
Nesmith, a 6-foot-6 guard from Charleston, South Carolina, was one of the nation’s leading scorers and three-point shooters in the 2019-20 campaign.
“I want to thank God, my family for the sacrifices they have made since the minute I picked up a basketball, my high school coaches J.P., Saunders, and Travis, who have always pushed me to be my best, and my entire Vanderbilt family for an invaluable two years in Nashville,” Nesmith said in a statement. “To Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse, the coaching staff and trainers, and my teammates who will always be my brothers — you have all helped me to grow as a player and as a man, and for that I will forever be grateful. With that, I have decided to enter the 2020 NBA Draft and intend to hire an agent. I am so grateful for what life has brought me so far and I cannot wait for this next step in my journey. Most importantly, with everything going on in the world right now, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time.”
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Nesmith played and started in 14 games and averaged 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals and entered his sophomore campaign as a preseason All-SEC second team member. He was the SEC’s leading scorer at the time of his injury and made a team-high 60 3-pointers.
His 60 made 3s also ranked 10th in the SEC at the end of the regular season although he played in less than half of the season.
“I’m super excited for him,” Stackhouse said. “I think he’s absolutely the best shooter in the draft. There are things that he’s going to continue to work on and I’m going to be here to support him going forward as well. I know he’ll find his way back to Nashville, and we really appreciate what he meant to us.
“We’re just happy for him and hope he gets as high in the draft as he possibly can.”
The sophomore displayed his scoring prowess throughout the season in his limited time on the court. He scored 34 points in a game at Richmond, the most points by a Vanderbilt player since Shan Foster vs. Mississippi State (March 5, 2008) and the most points by a Vanderbilt player on the road since Billy McCaffrey at Georgia (35 on Feb. 24, 1993), and 34 in a game vs. UNC Wilmington.
He tallied 20 or more points in seven other games and made seven or more 3s in four games — Southeast Missouri State, Richmond, UNC Wilmington and SMU, with a career-high eight 3-pointers coming against SMU.
Nesmith was second in the nation in 3s made per game (4.28) and led the SEC in 3s per game, 3-point field goal percentage (.522) and scoring (23) at the time of his injury. He was fifth nationally in points per game. He also ranked eighth in free-throw percentage (.825) and field-goal percentage (.512) in the SEC prior to his injury.
At the time of his injury, he was one of two players in the nation to make seven or more 3s in a game four times (Dru Kuxhausen, McNeese State) and his 23 points per game scoring average would have ranked second all-time for a Vanderbilt student-athlete in a single season behind Tom Hagan’s 23.4 scoring average in 1968-69.
“He’s an unbelievable person, so I think that’s the most important thing when you talk about him,” Stackhouse said. “Through the whole process of everything he’s just been great. A kid that has the potential that he has of being able to be a draft pick, and once he got hurt he could have easily splintered and started focusing on his own thing and preparing for what he needed to prepare for. But he was always right there with these guys on the road. He didn’t have to travel, but he made sure he stayed with those guys.
“He was always in their ear. Even though he wasn’t on the court he was still the most vocal of anyone in that locker room. And they fed off of him. Even though he wasn’t able to do it on the floor, they fed off of his energy with him being the leader that he is. We’re going to miss that tremendously.”
Nesmith is aiming to be the sixth Commodore first-round NBA Draft pick since 2012, the second-most in the SEC in that time span. Nesmith would join Darius Garland (5th, Cleveland Cavaliers), Wade Baldwin IV (17th, Memphis Grizzlies), Damian Jones (30th, Golden State Warriors), John Jenkins (23rd, Atlanta) and Festus Ezeli (30th, Golden State) as former first-round selections. Garland, Jones and former standout Luke Kornet (Chicago Bulls) are all active players in the NBA.