Vanderbilt’s basketball success over the past five years has been as good as any in school history.
For the Commodores, the best might be yet to come.
By adding guard Brad Tinsley to its 2008 recruiting harvest Friday, Vanderbilt’s incoming freshman class this fall might rank as the most promising the school has known.
All four incoming recruits are ranked among the nation’s top 100 players by most recruiting services. Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said VU’s class will likely rate among the nation’s top 15 this year.
“Vanderbilt has done a great job recruiting this year,” Meyer said. “This incoming class will win a lot of ballgames during their stay in Nashville, and the Commodore program is establishing itself nationally as a top program in the country.”
The 6-foot-3 Tinsley will join swingman Jeff Taylor of Hobbs, N.M., and forwards Steve Tchiengang of Montverde, Fla., and Lance Goulbourne of Princeton, N.J., at Vanderbilt this fall.
Tinsley, who visited the VU campus last month, was the final piece in the puzzle. The Commodores are razor-thin in the backcourt, opening the possibility for Tinsley to start alongside returning point-guard starter Jermaine Beal.
Tinsley’s father, Carl Tinsley, said his son’s official visit to Vanderbilt all but sealed the deal.
“After he visited Vanderbilt, he decided Wake was the only other school that had a shot at him,” Carl Tinsley said. “It was a matter of coaching staffs, players and the depth chart. Those schools are pretty similar. There’s not a lot of difference between them.”
Vanderbilt made no secret of its desire to recruit Tinsley. On Feb. 27, the day after the Commodores upset then-No. 1 Tennessee at Memorial Gym, VU assistant coach King Rice was in Oregon City to watch Tinsley's practice session.
“That tells you something,” Carl Tinsley said. “Wake wanted Brad, but Vanderbilt really wanted him.”
Adding Tinsley to its roster in the spring, when most top prep seniors have already signed, was seen in the recruiting world as a coup for Vanderbilt.
“Brad Tinsley is a smart, savvy player who will give Vandy’s backcourt a boost of toughness and scoring,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “The kid has intangibles and finds a way. Super late addition.”
Tinsley shared Oregon class 6A Player of the Year honors this past season after averaging 24 points and seven assists per game.
“Brad felt he could go in and contribute right away at Vanderbilt,” Carl Tinsley said. “He’s always played the point, but he’s a point guard who can score in a lot of ways. He’s a good shooter and very versatile. He has a good feel for the game and loves to pass.
“Vanderbilt will use him in both [guard] positions and use Brad with what he does well.”
Added Meyer: “I’d be surprised if Tinsley didn’t start. I think you will see Beal and Tinsley in the backcourt together alternating at the point guard position depending on matchups and depending on fatigue issues due to a lack of backcourt depth.”
Tinsley is also excited about joining a recruiting class comprised of other top prospects.
“Brad doesn’t know those other three guys, but he knows they’re good players,” Carl Tinsley said. “We’re hoping this recruiting class can get Vanderbilt to the next level.”
The best ever?
Nearly 40 years ago, Vanderbilt reeled in a basketball recruiting class that eventually helped lead the school to a Southeastern Conference championship. It's still regarded by most as the best group of rookies in VU history.
Jan van Breda Kolff, Bill Ligon, Terry Compton, Lee Fowler and Haworth Parks arrived in the fall of 1970. Freshmen were ineligible to play in those days, but the group made its presence felt in the 1971-72 season before leading the Commodores to the 1974 SEC title.
The 1974 team finished 23-5 overall and 15-3 in SEC play and won 11 straight league games at one point. After beating Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, VU’s season came to an end with a 118-88 loss to Notre Dame in the Midwest Regionals.
Compton, van Breda Kolff and Ligon were selected in the 1974 NBA Draft. From 1994-99, van Breda Kolff was head coach at Vanderbilt. With 1,326 points, Compton currently ranks as the 18th-leading scorer in Vanderbilt history. Fowler is currently athletics director at North Carolina State.