Prior to last week’s season opener and long before practices officially began in mid-October, questions arose about Vanderbilt’s offense.
Who would replace the 28 points a game Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy took with them when they left? Would there be a dominant post presence? How strong would the point guard position be?
After two exhibitions against Division II opponents and a season opener against a program (Presbyterian College) just four years into the transition to Division I status, it is still hard to gauge just how good the offense will be.
The Commodores most likely will get more of a challenge this weekend at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vanderbilt (1-0) begins the tournament against Nebraska (2-0) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPNU.
While the concerns about the offensive consistency will linger well into the heart of Southeastern Conference play, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is ready to close the book on one question.
“Everybody had big questions about us going into the season. About, well can Brad Tinsley handle the point?” Stallings said. “My comment about that all along has been not only can he handle it but I think that will be a strength for us. So far it has proven to be a strength.”
It is hard to argue after Tinsley made history against Presbyterian on Friday. The junior guard recorded the first triple-double in school history, scoring 11 points and setting career-bests in both assists (10) and rebounds (10).
The modest Tinsley downplayed his historical night right after the game, giving credit to this teammates. Before practice on Monday, though, Tinsley said the magnitude of what he achieved began to sink in over the weekend.
“It was a great experience and a lot of fun for us,” the Oregon City, Ore. native said. “I was pretty excited. I was more excited for my team, just how well we played. ... I love giving assists. That is probably what I get the most joy out of, setting up another player for a great shot and seeing him finish it. It is a great feeling.”
Tinsley, who was named the SEC’s Player of the Week on Monday, is transitioning back to the point guard spot after Beal held down those duties the last two seasons.
Even with a nagging foot injury, Tinsley appears to be comfortable back in that role, with 27 points and 16 assists in the two exhibition games and lone regular-season game.
“Brad leads by the way he plays,” Stallings said. “He doesn’t say much – sometimes much to my disliking. He does a great job with the ball. The guys know if they run, he’ll get it to him. The post players know if they make themselves available, he’ll throw it into them inside. I’m really excited about where Brad is at right now.”
Along with Tinsley, Stallings has been pleased with the other eight players he will turn to the most this season.
Tinsley, John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, Andre Walker and Festus Ezeli make up the starting five but Steve Tchiengang, Lance Goulbourne, Kyle Fuller and Rod Odom will be the first four off the bench.
Each of those nine have played at least 12 minutes in all three games so far. They will most likely see that same amount of action against a Nebraska squad that Stallings says has 12 players who have played “meaningful minutes.”
The Cornhuskers were just 15-18 last year and 2-14 in the Big 12 but they have four players at least 6-foot-10. Andre Almeida tops the list at 6-11 and 310 pounds. The Brazilian scored 20 points in 19 minutes off the bench in Nebraska’s season opener against South Dakota last week.
Not to be outdone, German Christian Standhardinger (6-9, 215) followed up Almeida’s performance with 20 points and 11 rebounds in a victory against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Monday night.
“They have four big guys who are all quality big guys. They are very big and deep inside,” Stallings said. “They are deep on the perimeter it looks like to me too. They have a number of guys they can run in and out. They have some guys who can shoot, some guys who can really defend and pass. They are a deep team.”
• Vanderbilt has received a national letter of intent from forward Shelby Moats. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward averaged 21 points as a junior last year Waconia High in Minnesota. He received more than 20 scholarship offers.
He is the third prep standout to officially sign with the Commodores. Point guard Kedren Johnson, out of Marshall County, and shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker, a native of Georgia, sent in their letters of intent last week.
• The Commodores’ home game on Nov. 27 against Appalachian State has been set for a 1 p.m. tip-off.
• The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team will host Samford at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
• The Commodores (1-0) are coming off a 80-55 season-opening victory against Howard on Sunday. Freshman Stephanie Holzer led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds and was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week.
Senior guard Jence Rhoads is listed as day-to-day. She is expected to miss her second straight game after straining her hamstring during an exhibition game against Union last week.