Men's hoops: First practice report

Kevin Stallings' team opened preseason practice with a grueling three-hour plus practice session Saturday afternoon. Here are a few random firsthand observations.

  • Noticeably absent from the practice session was freshman Bryson Krueger. No reason was given, and no one wanted to talk about why. All other players, including freshman walk-on Geoff Peck, were in attendance and in good health, from all appearances.
  • After about two hours on the Memorial Gym floor, Coach Stallings determined that the hardwood, which had recently been resurfaced, was too slick. To avoid injuries, he moved the remainder of practice into the practice gym. It was a luxury that he would not have had this time last year. (Women's hoops fans may recall that last year Tia Battle hurt her knee on the slick floor on the first day of practice and was lost to the team for a few months.)
  • Saturday's practice was closed to the public, but a number of onlookers managed to sneak in to watch. Among them was a high school team from Franklin. Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt's new baseball coach, brought by a few high school baseball prospects that were in town on an official visit. As far as I could tell, there were no basketball prospects visiting.
  • OK, so who looked good? Remember, it was only the first practice, and the team mostly did drills with little actual scrimmaging. Nevertheless, I can tell you that the two freshman guards, Mario Moore and Adam Payton, made the biggest early impression on me. Moore was easily the quickest man on the floor. Occasionally he made a bad pass or a freshman mistake, but he appears to be everything he has been hyped to be. Stallings will have to coach him on playing under control, but it is hard for me to see how he will not be getting considerable minutes from the get-go.
  • Payton, who may not have the quick-twitch muscle fiber that Moore has, nonetheless is an impressive athlete whom I also believe can log some minutes at the two-guard right away. In fact, Payton looked to be even faster up and down the court than Moore. I didn't get to see much of the reputed leaping and dunking ability-- it wasn't that kind of practice-- but Payton has a big body and should be able to defend well enough to work his way into the rotation. Which of the freshmen will make an impact this year, after a cursory look, my money is on Moore and Payton.
  • Ted Skuchas and Julian Terrell are impressive specimens, and will provide depth at the four and five positions, but neither was quite as impressive as the freshmen guards. Toward the end of practice, both began to tire, especially Terrell. (At one point Stallings gave him the stare, and said, "I know this is your first practice... but could you play hard? Please?")
  • Speaking of Terrell, I recalled that this time last year, he had been present and observed the Commodores' opening practice from the vantage point of a high school student trying to choose a school.
  • Matt Freije, as most anyone would expect, will carry the team this year in the frontcourt. He was hitting shots from everywhere and appeared to be in midseason form. Jason Holwerda appeared very confident and solid, handling the ball well and hustling after loose balls. Brian Thornton, as has been noted elsewhere, has put on 25 pounds over the summer and will play at about 265. If he can avoid foul trouble this year, he is going to be very hard for defenses to contain. Scott Hundley showed great hustle.
  • Martin Schnedlitz ran most of the drills with a large brace on his knee. He showed good movement up and down the court, and played very aggressively underneath. He did not, however, run sprints with the team at the end.
  • At one point Stallings had every player shoot ten free throws. Those who failed to make nine of ten had to run sprints. Only Freije and Holwerda didn't have to run.
  • Overheard from one of the managers: "This is the first day of no more life for a while." The team will practice every day this week except Friday.

Look for an interview with sophomore center Brian Thornton on VandyMania premium in a few days.

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