For the last six months leading up to this season, most of the attention has been focused on Vanderbilt’s superstar trio of Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor.
Not to be forgotten is senior Lance Goulbourne. Certainly, the Commodores hope he doesn’t disappear into the background with the 2011-12 campaign beginning at 9 p.m. Friday against visiting Oregon.
His performance in a 102-62 exhibition victory over Xavier (La.) on Monday was a promising sign for a team that will be searching for a center with Ezeli (knee) out for at least six weeks.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward over matched a smaller Xavier squad, scoring eight points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out three assists and picking up two steals in just 18 minutes.
“Lance is really important for us on both ends,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He is easily our best defensive rebounder. There are a lot of things that are different when [Ezeli] is around but Lance is probably our best defensive rebounder when Fes is around. That is saying something because Fes is a good defensive rebounder.”
Goulbourne, who shot 4-of-5 from the field, made his presence known right from the start. On Vanderbilt’s first possession, he got the ball at the top of the key. He breezed by his defender with two dribbles and elevated for an easy lay-in on the left side of the basket.
“We moved it to him in our motion offense and he takes one or two dribbles going left and looks like a condor going in there and finishing at the goal,” Stallings said. “That just sort of got us going right away.”
Hampered by injuries and illness his first two seasons, Goulbourne emerged last year. He started 21 games, averaging 6.9 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds.
With his vertical leap and length, he is a weapon at power forward — especially when attacking the glass. He grabbed at least 10 rebounds in nine games last season. Against LSU last February, he came off the bench to snatch 17 — the most in Stallings’ 13 years as head coach.
With Ezeli out, though, he’ll be asked to do even more. At times, depending on who else is on the floor, he might be moved into the center spot. Senior Steve Tchiengang started there on Monday and 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman Josh Henderson could see extended minutes.
Goulbourne isn’t the traditional post player — which he hopes to use to his advantage.
“I think I can hold my own down there against bigger guys,” he said. “Use my quickness and strength against them.”
If he does hold fort down low, he knows he’ll have to “lock in” defensively as the 6-foot-11 Ezeli won’t be back there as the “bailout guy,” as Taylor put it. Ezeli set a school record with 87 blocked shots last year.
“Fes is like a Venus fly trap back there on defense,” Goulborune said. “So you have to lock in on defense back there and not get beat as much. You try not to get beat at all. But usually he is back there to clean it up.”