Vanderbilt opens with exhibition on Monday

NASHVILLE – The Vanderbilt men's basketball team plays its first and only exhibition game of the season when they take on Tusculum College Monday night at 8 p.m. CT at Memorial Gymnasium. The game is part of a doubleheader with the Vanderbilt women, who play Anderson (S.C.) College at 5:30 p.m.

The Commodores return six letterwinners and three starters from its 2007 Sweet Sixteen team, including senior swing man Shan Foster, who was recently named to the preseason All-SEC first team by selected media members and the league's coaches. A candidate for the SEC's top performer, Foster ranks as the conference's third-leading returning scorer after pouring in 15.6 points per contest as a junior. Known for his outside shooting prowess, the Louisiana native and three-time All-SEC selection is within striking distance of becoming Vanderbilt's all-time leader in points (needs 572) and 3-pointers made (needs 64). But during his time in Nashville his resume also has grown to include the duties of clutch performer and defensive stopper.

Senior point guard Alex Gordon and senior forward Ross Neltner also return as starters for Vanderbilt. Gordon proved himself as a trustworthy facilitator at the point last season, finishing fourth in the conference with a 2.22-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. A steady ball handler, Gordon committed only 51 turnovers on the season – the fewest among starting SEC point guards – and made just 12 miscues during 10 road games. Neltner provided head coach Kevin Stallings with a versatile option in the post last season – the forward's first at Vanderbilt since transferring from LSU following the 2004-05 campaign. The Kentucky native helped provide toughness and rugged play in the interior, leading all SEC newcomers with a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game. At the same time, Neltner showed Commodore followers he could connect from beyond the arc (11-of-28 attempts from 3-point range) and pass the ball to open teammates (74 assists).

Other letterwinners returning for Vanderbilt include guards Jermaine Beal and George Drake, and Alan Metcalfe. Newcomers for the Commodores include guards Keegan Bell, Elliott Cole, and Charles Hinkle, forwards Joe Duffy, Darshawn McClellan, and Andre Walker, and centers Festus Ezeli and A.J. Ogilvy

Head coach Kevin Stallings will begin his ninth year at Vanderbilt (144-108) and his 15th overall (267-171). Stallings was voted by his peers in the Southeastern Conference as the league's coach of the year in 2007.

The Commodores, after last season's Sweet 16 appearance, has now made two NCAA Sweet 16's in the last four years, one of only two programs in the Southeastern Conference to accomplish the feat (Florida). In fact, Vanderbilt is only one of 16 teams in the nation to do that. Besides Vanderbilt and Florida, UCLA, North Carolina, Georgetown, Memphis, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Duke, West Virginia, Texas, Villanova, UConn, Washington, Illinois, and Oklahoma State are the only teams to advance to two or more Sweet 16's in the last four years.

Tusculum ended the 2006-07 season with a 13-15 record and finished 6-10 in the South Atlantic Conference, and is playing their third game in five days Monday night. The Pioneers lost Thursday in Nashville to Lipscomb, 81-59, and were defeated Saturday evening by Kennesaw State in Kennesaw, Ga., 73-56. Tusculum coach Jim Boone, former coach at Eastern Michigan, is in his third season with the Pioneers and has posted a 27-30 record.

Tickets for Monday night's game are only $5 and are available by calling 615-322-GOLD or by logging on to Season tickets are also still available for as little as $75 by calling the same number or logging on to the Commodores' official web site, Top Stories