Men's hoops: First practice report

Practice began on Saturday morning for Vanderbilt's 2003-04 men's basketball team. Here's a report on the first practice session, with exclusive photos and a late roster update.

NASHVILLE-- "I WANT MAXIMUM, MAXIMUM EFFORT!" Coach Kevin Stallings was heard yelling to his players, and perhaps that's the theme for the 2003-04 Vanderbilt men's basketball team. The team kicked off preseason practice Saturday morning with a spirited three-hour session at Memorial Gymnasium.

Thirteen team members participated in a three-hour-long practice session that emphasized fundamentals and team drills.

"We're very excited about this upcoming season," said Stallings afterwards. "Our trip over the summer has put us way ahead of where we would be normally at this time."

As has been his custom in previous seasons, Stallings eschewed a Friday night "Midnight Madness" practice for a down-to-serious-work session the following day.

All 12 scholarship players were present and appeared in good health. A thirteenth player, a newcomer wearing No. 5 identified only as "Lebron Andrews" from Memphis-Overton, was the only walk-on.

The team returns 12 players that finished 11-18 last season. The Commodores open play with two exhibition games, and open the regular season Nov. 21 vs. Belmont in the Bruins' new gymnasium.

Here are some individual practice notes:

- Matt Freije appears poised for a stellar season. The senior forward was hitting shots from all over the court with ease. Freije is receiving hype in some circles as SEC preseason player of the year. He and senior guard Russell Lakey will represent Vanderbilt at SEC Media Day for the second straight year.

- The only true freshman on the team is 6-4 guard Dan Cage of Indianapolis-Bishop Chatard High School. Cage's father was present for the first practice. Having not participated in the team's overseas trip in August, Cage seemed unfamiliar at times with the team's routines, but should catch on quickly. An excellent outside shooter, Cage will be counted upon to help spark a team that struggled last year with its outside shot. He will wear No. 20.

- Junior center Martin Schnedlitz's knee was heavily wrapped, as it has been for the last two seasons, but Schnedlitz exhibited good mobility.

- It was the first practice at Vanderbilt for assistant coach Tom Richardson, the former Illinois State head coach who accepted a job offer from Stallings over the summer. The two worked together previously when Stallings was head coach at Illinois State.

- Clent Stewart, a 6-4 guard from Tulsa (Okla.) Union High School, was on campus (right) for an official visit this weekend. Escorted by assistant coach Jeff Jackson, Stewart watched practice with his mother Vanessa Stewart from the sidelines, and in the downtime afterwards took a few practice jumpers on the baskets at Memorial Gym. The Commodores have four scholarships to offer for the early signing period, and have filled three.

- Geoff Peck, a walk-on on last season's roster, was not present for practice. His status with the team is not known.

- A group of coaches and players from Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis were present as Stallings' guests to watch practice.

- Vanderbilt has still not named a replacement for media relations person Brent Ross, but should do so soon. Ross left two weeks ago for a job at Texas Tech.

Practices will continue daily this week except Thursday.

Photos copyright 2003 by Brent Wiseman for VandyMania. Top Stories