Stallings Keeping Vandy A Secret

FAYETTEVILLE -- South Carolina coach Dave Odom let Vanderbilt counterpart Kevin Stallings' secret of out of the bag at Southeastern Conference Media Days.

"I talked to Kevin Stallings and he said he's got the best talent he's had since he's been there," Odom said. "I think the word was 'most SEC-like talent' he's had. He's got a right to feel good."

Stallings guided the Commodores to a Sweet 16 appearance last year, a surprise to most but not to the sixth-year Vanderbilt coach.

"Privately, and quietly, I thought that was probably the potential of that team," Stallings said. "I probably privately, quietly have an idea of what the potential is for this team.

"I would never throw that out there and ask them to live up to it. They just have to do the best they can and we've identified the areas they need to do that. If they do, I think we'll be in good shape."

The Commodores have been readily identifiable recently by Matt Freije, a four-year starter who averaged 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last year.

Freije is the only starter missing from the 2004-05 Commodores who went 23-10 and 8-8 in the SEC, giving Odom reason to put high expectations out there for Vanderbilt even if Stallings won't.

Returning for Vanderbilt are guards Mario Moore and Jason Holwerda and senior post players Corey Smith and Dawid Przybyszewski.

Moore, 5-foot-11, 181-pound junior, is the only double figure scorer returning after averaging 11.1 per game last year.

Corey Smith, 6-6, 242-pound senior, is poised for a good year as is sometime starter Julian Terrell, a 6-9 senior forward who averaged 6.4 points and started 17 games last year.

Standing 7-2, 261 pounds, Przybyszewski averaged 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds last year.

He shot 45.5 percent from 3-point range (51 of 112) last year, but Stallings would like to see him have more of an inside presence as well.

A strong shooter, Przybyszewski only attempted 29 free throws last year, hitting 20.

"If his rebounding numbers are going to change, it's going to be because his approach and his focus change that way," Stallings said. "We're still going to utilize him in the same places in our offense and hope he does a better job inside and does it more frequently.

"I'd like to see him get to the foul line more, but he is what he is."

Like Freije, who stood 6-10 but was primarily a perimeter player, Stallings believes Przybyszewski can create defensive difficulties for opponents.

"He causes some unusual matchup problems for people because of his shooting ability," Stallings said. "He is effective in the post.

"If you stick a small guy on him, hopefully you have to pay and sometimes those bigger guys don't get out and cover on the perimeter as well."

The Commodores relied on Freije for most of their offense and rebounding.

He took the big shots and usually made them.

Balance, Stallings said, will be the key with five returning players who started at least 15 games last year.

There are also six newcomers, five of whom stand 6-6 or taller.

The smallest, 5-11 guard Alex Gordon of Pensacola, Fla., brings the biggest prep scoring average at 26.3 points along with 5.9 assists at Pensacola High.

Vanderbilt is eager to show it's more than a one-man show after Freije was drafted by the Miami Heat.

"We don't have one guy we say, 'We have to put the ball in his hands,'" Stallings said. "We're going to be dependent upon our balance. We're going to be dependent on our system. I'd like to think we can trot five guys out there who started 15 games a year ago and can get a basket for us.

"Our team wants to prove they can play and be successful without Matt."

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