No one was happier to see A.J. Ogilvy arrive on the Vanderbilt campus this summer than Ross Neltner.
Last season, the 6-foot-9 Neltner played center in VU’s perimeter-oriented lineup. Game after game, he traded shoves and elbows with the meaty behemoths of the Southeastern Conference.
For Neltner, a forward by trade, Ogilvy could help restore things to their natural order this season by manning the center position.
Such a scenario is what Commodores coach Kevin Stallings is banking on.
“What we’ve seen so far suggests that A.J. is going to be a factor,” he said.
All the while, Neltner is smiling.
“That’s exciting for me just knowing I won’t have to be guarding Big Baby and Randolph Morris and all these guys night in and night out,” he said.
Players such as former LSU big man Glen Davis (Big Baby) and former Kentucky center Randolph Morris enjoyed success in recent seasons against Vanderbilt’s mostly thin and undersized frontline.
The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Ogilvy will be given immediate opportunities to crack the starting lineup while battling for playing time with senior Alan Metcalfe.
Ogilvy, a native of Canberra, Australia, arrived at Vanderbilt with a summer of international experience. He averaged 22.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 69 percent from the field and 78.8 percent from the foul line in nine games while representing Australia at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in July.
Those already in the VU program describe Ogilvy as a freshman mature beyond his years.
“The thing I like most about him is his competitiveness,” Neltner said. “He wants to do well. He’s an unselfish guy. He’s a good rebounder. He’s active around the block. He finishes well over both shoulders, left hook and right hook. He has a lot of things in his game that will definitely help our team out this year.”
Added Stallings: “His body is readier than most freshman bodies. His experience is more than a typical freshman. He’s played on the international scene quite a bit. And the third thing is his skill level. Those three things give him a great chance to be a factor right away.”
Ogilvy has no expectations and notes that he’s just one member of a six-man freshman class that might be counted on heavily this season.
Nonetheless, if Ogilvy can produce in the pivot, Neltner will be freed to play more often on the perimeter, where he can more frequently utilize his jump shot and solid passing skills.
“I think I have a good chance to come in and play early,” Ogilvy said. “Starting or not starting, it doesn’t bother me. I just want to have an impact on the team straight away.”
Ogilvy’s size and skill are no secret outside Nashville. NBADraft.net already projects him to be the No. 16 pick of the first round in next June’s NBA Draft.
However, Stallings told The City Paper this summer that he’s certain Ogilvy will not be a “one and done” player.
For the Commodores, the arrival of a legitimate center prospect has more to do with the here and now.
“He’s going to be a great player,” VU senior swingman Shan Foster said. “He’s going to be sight to see. He’s going to be a great post presence for us this year.”