Introducing David Vorhaus (AKA DavidDore), the newest addition to the VandyMania.com writing team. This week David held an extensive discussion with Kevin Stallings. The coach talked about the summer workout program and the outlook for the 2002-03 season.
Is there really an off season for Men's Basketball coach Kevin Stallings? Judging by his busy schedule one has to believe that there really isn't an off-season. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the coach about many different aspects of the team and the upcoming season. Apologies to Coach Stallings if I missed a word or two within his quotes, needless to say he called me (our schedules had a hard time crossing and he caught me off guard when he called) and we talked for about 20 minutes. He was very gracious and open about the team and answered my questions honestly and in a straightforward manner.
His expectations for the team during the off season were very reasonable. He told me that at the spring interviews with each player, he outlined three to four areas that he wanted each player to work on during the course of the summer. This could vary from strength training and general fitness to specific skills based upon what he thought would improve that individual player and help the team. He told me that most every player from last year's squad was on campus this summer (honestly I did not ask specifically), most going to classes and working on their individual skills. Four of the five freshmen were here talking summer courses to get a jump on academics and getting familiarized with life at Vanderbilt.
When asked about the incoming freshmen, coach Stallings replied "Quality, Quality, Quality. We've recruited five quality players that will improve our depth." Speaking of that, we talked about next year and who he expected to step up and lead the team. He said that leaders will come forward and show themselves, but he will not force a particular player to assume that role. He did mention that it is now time for the veterans to show the way. It was wonderful to hear that Scott Hundley, and Matt Carter have been very positive in helping out the younger players and continually working hard to help the team as a whole improve. To me it sounds like they are really important to the team chemistry and working to help the younger players understand the system. Russell Lakey has also been working with the younger players and deserves mention for his hard work.
We then talked about the up coming season, no specifics were discussed regarding wins or the NCAA's, just about what to look forward to with this team.
Coach Stallings started with Matt Freije. "Matt is a difference maker on the court" which of course we all know. Coach Stallings talked about his work ethic, his practice intensity and what he brings to this team. About the team coach Stallings was very enthusiastic. "The team will be better balanced this year. This is the most athletic team he has had since he has been at Vanderbilt. The players we have now will allow us to have greater physicality on defense, and to shoot inside more effectively. The team can play more aggressively on both ends of the floor."
I asked about practices and about all the athletes on the team whether it would help the team during the season (Okay a point I've made before, I couldn't pass up on that question). The coach was very positive about that aspect. Given that during every practice all the players would be fighting for playing time and positions, the quality of each practice would be improved because each player would be pushed.
When asked about what differences we would see in next year's team, Coach Stallings did say that there was going to be an increased effort to get the ball inside to the post players/ forwards. "Last year we were a perimeter oriented team, now we can be more aggressive because we are more athletic, and then score inside and kick the ball out for more open jumpers." I did ask about motion offense/defensive changes, and again some things will be apparent to us, the fans, some not, but overall the team will be exciting.
Finally, I asked specifically about recruiting, I didn't want any specific or names since I didn't want to place any expectations for us the fans or on him or the staff. He did say that recruiting is an ongoing process and that the staff is looking at players who can adapt to life at Vanderbilt, and replace the holes that will be left after the junior class graduates. He was very positive about the direction the staff is going regarding recruiting and that they are busy during the summer.
Overall, I stepped away from the conversation with Coach Stallings very happy and excited about what we will see in the upcoming season. I got the impression that in October and early November the practices will be something else with quality competition for starting slots at nearly every position. On a further note, I got the impression that the coach really appreciates all the Vandy fans and likes that there is such great interest at Vandymania. I don't think he ever checks out the board, but is pleased that we as fans have such continued interest year around with Vandy Basketball.