'Pro System From Day 1'

Stackhouse's Commodores groomed to succeed in the NBA

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With NBA training camps beginning across the country, Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse and the program can puff their chest out a little bit more when when they see a trio of Stackhouse’s former Commodores playing the game at the highest level.

Vandy has three of its past superstars who played for Stackhouse —Aaron Nesmith, Saben Lee and Scotty Pippen Jr.—ready to make an impact in 2022-23.

“There’s a lot of pride,” Stackhouse said. “We just want them to play the right way and do the things that they’ve learned here. We’re super-proud of those guys.”

Nesmith, who played in 46 games for the Dores, will be starting his third professional season after playing two seasons with the Boston Celtics. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard has played in 98 career games and scored 414 points.

On July 1, Nesmith was traded to Indiana to play for the Pacers.

“I think it’s a fresh start for Aaron. He’s with a guy that I played for in Rick Carlisle who I think is going to be great for him,” Stackhouse said. “I think now he’s going to get some sets run for him where he knows when the ball is coming to him and he can be prepared to be who he is and knock down shots.”

In Utah, Lee joined the Jazz earlier this month when he was traded from the Detroit Pistons. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound guard played 96 games for the Commodores.

Lee appeared in 85 games over two seasons while with the Pistons.

“Saben has a change of scenery,” Stackhouse said. “There’s a lot of things up in the air. They’re in a rebuild system so he has an opportunity to really make a mark for himself.”

Pippen spent three seasons at Vandy and scored 1,577 points, including 736 during the 2021-22 campaign. He signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 1.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard and the son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, the junior Pippen was a First Team All-SEC selection earlier this year.

“Scotty is with that group that’s a little long in the tooth, so they’re looking for someone to inject some energy,” Stackhouse said. “I know he’s going to play in the G League quite a bit, especially with the depth they just picked up, but there’s room for him to come in and learn from all that experience that’s in that locker room and be able to be better from that going down the road.”

With three former players jumping to the Association in as many years, Stackhouse said his spread offense, the understanding of spacing and time and how his players defend allows them to adapt quickly to playing ball at the highest level. Seniors on this season’s squad, Jordan Wright, Liam Robbins, Quentin Millora-Brown, Ezra Manjon and Emmanuel Ansong, are all hoping they use their experience in Stackhouse’s system to increase their professional prospects down the road.

Wright said he speaks with Pippen almost daily and also stays in touch with Lee and Nesmith. Playing with each of those players during his time in Nashville, Wright said, motivates him to be the next in line of Commodores in the NBA.

“You’re in a pro system from Day 1,” Wright said of playing at Vanderbilt. “The terminology—Scotty and Aaron and Saben have all talked about it—it’s pretty much the same. The learning curve is a lot smaller for those guys because they’ve been in this system and with the development we have with the coaching staff which puts us in a position to succeed.”

While Lee and Nesmith will continue along their respective NBA journeys in October, the professional debut for Pippen remains unknown. But the Los Angeles native was interviewed on NBA TV during summer exhibitions and was asked how he has been able to transition so smoothly from the college game to the pros?

His response was rapid and confident.

“Playing for Jerry Stackhouse,” he said. “He’s an NBA guy, he taught me a lot of the sets that we ran today so I think I’m more prepared than a lot of these guys out here. I’ve just been playing with a lot of these sets, a lot of this terminology so I’m used to all of it.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.