New Players (rankings from PrepStars)
Dan Cage 6-5 Freshman Unranked
Ted Skuchas 6-11 Redshirt Freshman #190 ranked in 2001
(1) Experience. The Commodores have eight players returning who saw substantial action in 2002-03. They are Matt Freije, 6-5 Jason Holwerda, 6-5 Scott Hundley, 6-0 Russell Lakey, 5-11 Mario Moore, Dawid Przybyszewski, 6-5 Corey Smith, and Julian Terrell. In addition, 6-3 Adam Payton and 6-10 Martin Schnedlitz saw limited playing time. (2) Matt Freije. Freije is arguably the best returning player in the conference and is likely to complete his career as the all-time leading Vanderbilt point producer. He can score from the inside or outside and passes the ball well. Holwerda, Moore, Przybyszewski, Smith, and perhaps Dan Cage and Payton, will help Freije with the three-point shooting.
(3) Size. Freije and Terrell (both 6-9, 240 lbs), Przybyszewski (7-1, 245 lbs), and newcomer Ted Skuchas (6-11, 245 lbs) give the Commodores perhaps the best frontline size in the conference. Terrell showed a lot of promise as a freshman, both as a rebounder and scorer, and there is always the hope that Przybyszewski will find himself. If these four score and rebound up to their dimensions, the unexpected departure of Brian Thornton (6-8, 255 lbs) may not hurt. Schnedlitz (6-10, 240 lbs) adds still more size, but an unreliable knee may continue to keep him on the bench.
(1) Finding the Best Combinations? Jason Holwerda is the best passer on the team, but has been playing on a wing. Russell Lakey and Mario Moore have done most of the ballhandling, but neither has yet distinguished himself as a playmaker, as shown by their poor assist/turnover ratios last season (1.17 for Lakey and 0.89 for Moore). Moore was the best outside shooter of the three last season, but the poorest defender. Scott Hundley, is a hustler who has done a good job of rebounding, feeding the low post from a wing position, and penetrating to the basket, but has not been an outside threat. Corey Smith is a strong defender and was the best three-point shooter on the team last season, but has played out of control sometimes. Coach Kevin Stallings's success in sorting all of this out is likely to be the key to success.
(2) Will Jason Holwerda play up to his potential?. He is not only an excellent passer, but the best finisher and defensive player. In high school he was an outstanding scorer. The development of his potential is extremely important.
(3) Coaching? It is no secret that Coach Stallings is on the hot seat after last year's overall 11-18 record (3-13 in conference play). In each of the past three years the Commodores have faltered badly down the stretch. Stallings's ability to effectively develop and utilize his players has yet to be proved at Vanderbilt.
Overall Prospects for 2003-04
The Commodores have experience and potential in every position: Freije, Przybyszewski, Terrell, and Skuchas at the posts; Holwerda, Hundley, and Smith (with some help from Cage and Payton) at the wings; and Lakey and Moore doing most of the ballhandling. There are some good individual defenders (Holwerda, Hundley, Lakey, Smith), but last year the team defense tended to break down at times. The Commodores appear, on paper at least, to have the ingredients to finish third in the Eastern Division, but recent disappointments make this a risky prediction.