High school All-Stater plans to walk on at VU

Vanderbilt men's basketball head coach Kevin Stallings will add a highly decorated high school prospect to his roster next season, VandyMania has learned. The even better news? Stallings won't have to use a scholarship to do so.

Derek Feussner is not your average high school basketball prospect. The 6-2, 190-pound shooting guard from Porter-Gaud High School in Charleston, S.C., is the progeny of two Charleston physicians, and is dead set on following in their footsteps. He plans on studying medicine in college.

But make no mistake, the Charleston resident can play some hoops-- he's not been named the SCISA Player of the Year in Class AAA the past two seasons for nothing. Feussner led Porter-Gaud to consecutive state championships, and though he had a strong supporting cast his junior year, he mostly carried the team on his back to this year's state crown, averaging 23.6 points and 6 rebounds per game.

Feussner (pronounced "FOISS-ner") possesses both the smarts and the wherewithal to attend Vanderbilt on his own-- he was accepted last fall under the school's early acceptance program. But Feussner also has plans on joining Kevin Stallings' basketball program as an invited walk-on, and his high school coach at Porter-Gaud, Randy Clark, feels Feussner has the ability to eventually become a significant contributor at the next level.

"I think it remains to be seen whether he can do that," said Clark. "Vanderbilt's very good. I watched them on TV yesterday-- what a great school.

"I think Derek is talented enough to do that-- it will be a matter of him making the commitment. Throughout high school he's been a bit of a gym rat. To do that in college... we'll have to see how that meshes with his desire to go to medical school, because that's a difficult thing to resolve sometimes.

"But we've got some Division I players here in Charleston, and he's by far the best player around here.

"Unlike me and some others, Derek's maturity level is such that he was determined to find the best university in the country for him-- which he feels is Vanderbilt. He wants to become a doctor. Me, I would be out there trying to find the best possible school I could go to to play basketball-- but he really is a very mature kid who knows what he wants. Basketball is just part of it for him."

Clark describes Feussner as a "tremendous 2-guard who's just very explosive." He shoots the 3-point shot with deadly accuracy, handles the ball well, and has improved his defense dramatically this season.

"Derek was the tallest player on our team this year, and had to make the switch to playing more of a post man defensively," Clark said. "He had some tremendous games guarding 6-7, 6-8 post men. He's very strong, blocks out really well."

In going the early acceptance route with Vandy, Feussner effectively removed himself early on from the recruiting process. Schools have continued to inquire about him throughout his stellar senior season, but Feussner's plans remain firm.

"The Ivy League schools came and looked at him last year, because he's such a great student," Clark said. "Initially I think he really wanted to go to Columbia (N.Y.). But once he visited Vanderbilt, he's never wavered and has not entertained any kind of recruitment.

"He made the Ravens team last year, sponsored by Nike, a team where everyone on the team is going Division I. But he decided to drop off that team because he had to travel to Columbia every day to practice. He's made his decision solely on what he wants to do after he goes to school."

Feussner capped off a brilliant high school career two weeks ago by scoring 30 points in the state championship game against Pinewood Prep, a team that had beaten Porter-Gaud twice in the regular season.

The postseason honors have come pouring in. The first team All-Stater was selected to participate in a Georgia-South Carolina all-star game, but elected not to participate. He was named All-Conference in the prestigious Roundball Classic over the winter holidays.

"Several times this season he literally took over the game," Clark said. "Probably his greatest game of the year was against a great Irmo team. We went down by two points with three seconds left, and Derek had the presence of mind to grab the ball out of the air and throw a perfect pass downcourt that allowed us to tie the game with a layup. He's got absolutely great court savvy."

Before last year, Porter-Gaud had never won a state championship. With Feussner, the school has now won two in a row, and has established a reputation for whipping up on the state's larger public school powerhouses.

Feussner moved to Charleston from the D.C. area before his junior year. With nine seniors on his team, Clark initially didn't give the new student, a youngish-looking Feussner, much of a shot at earning a share of the playing time.

How wrong he was-- Feussner turned out to be the missing piece on a state championship team that would finish 29-3.

This past season, with those nine seniors departed, much more rested upon Feussner's shoulders, Clark said. Porter-Gaud's starting five included two juniors and two sophomores besides Feussner.

"There was a lot of skepticism as to whether we could repeat again," said Clark.

The results? A 30-5 season and another championship.

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