SEC Hoops Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

In a series of previews of Auburn's SEC basketball opponents, the Vanderbilt Commodores are featured.

Nashville, Tenn.--When Georgetown's Jeff Green banked home a buzzer-beater to send Vanderbilt home from last year's Sweet 16, insiders and outsiders alike thought they were watching the end of a magical Commodore run. SEC Player-of-the-Year Derrick Byars was moving on to the NBA, and with him went his team-high 17 points and four assists per game.

Six months later, and Byars is still gone, along with the sharpshooting and leadership of Dan Cage and the interior defense of Ted Skuchas. The cupboard is hardly bare in Nashville, though.

Coach Kevin Stallings and staff brought in a formidable recruiting class, highlighted by 6-11 Australian Andrew Ogilvy. Add the new kids to a talented core led by All-SEC candidate Shan Foster, and the Commodore faithful have reason to believe in a return trip to the Big Dance.

Foster, a 6-6 swingman, enters his senior season as Vanderbilt's leading returning scorer. Always one of the SEC's most dangerous perimeter shooters, Foster has the opportunity to increase last year's average of 15.6 points per game by rounding out his offensive game.

Vanderbilt's shooters, Foster included, found more open looks last season because of the playmaking of Derrick Byars. This year, Foster must take on a similar role if the Commodores are to remain near the top of the conference in scoring.

The Vanderbilt attack starts with a pair of competent point guards. Both senior Alex Gordon and sophomore Jermaine Beal will likely begin the year as starters, giving the 'Dores a backcourt capable of limiting turnovers in transition and creating for teammates. Along with Foster, Gordon will stretch opposing defenses with his three-point shooting, while Beal is more of a penetrating guard.

Coach Kevin Stallings

Hyper-athletic sophomore George Drake gives Vanderbilt a sparkplug off the bench. He and 6-8 freshman Andre Walker will battle for minutes at shooting guard. Freshmen Keegan Bell, a pure point guard with a sure shooting touch, and Charles Hinkle, another dangerous three-point shooter, provide backcourt depth.

The frontcourt has been an area of concern for the Commodores in recent years, but the strong play of senior Ross Neltner and the addition of Ogilvy have assuaged the fears of the Vanderbilt faithful. Neltner gave the 'Dores a tough presence on the glass that they sorely lacked, and he also proved to be a competent scorer, even hitting some clutch three-pointers last season.

Ogilvy has drawn comparisons to fellow countryman Andrew Bogut. He showed his skills last summer on the FIBA circuit and excelled in international competition. Vandy hopes the freshman can translate his strong performances into SEC success.

Bolstering the frontcourt are senior Alan Metcalfe, who has shown flashes in his career and looks to put it all together for his final campaign, and Darshawn McClellan, a bulky freshman who will play substantial minutes at power forward.

Ultimately, Vanderbilt's season rides on the capable shoulders of its star, Shan Foster. If he can make the same steps Byars did last season, rounding out his game and taking on more of a leadership role, the Commodores have enough firepower around him to make another run at the NCAA Tournament.


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