Lance Goulbourne remembers the fractured foot and the pneumonia-like symptoms.
How could he forget?
The Vanderbilt forward played through the pain in his foot for the last two months of last season after he sustained the injury in January. Prior to that, last November when the Commodores traveled to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, Goulbourne said he couldn’t “hear anything for like three weeks after that because everything was clogged up in my left ear. I was really sick.”
Goulbourne knows he is leaving out something, though.
“I don’t even remember what else. I hurt something else but I try to forget about it,” he said. “Personally, I want to put that behind me. But team-wise, no. Because we had a great year.”
Off to an 8-2 start heading into Tuesday’s road game at Middle Tennessee State (8 p.m., CSS), Vanderbilt appears to be on track for another great season. Meanwhile, Goulbourne couldn’t ask for a better start to his junior campaign.
With the injuries and illnesses apparently behind him — “I’m feeling pretty good this year; knock on wood,” he said — Goulbourne is starting to ease into his role with the Commodores.
So far, this season, he has been primarily Vanderbilt’s sixth man. Recently, however, Goulbourne has started for Andre Walker, who has missed three games — and will most likely not play against MTSU — due to mononucleosis.
Goulbourne is taking advantage of the opportunity. Through 10 games, the 6-foot-8, 225-pounder is averaging 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and nearly 23 minutes a game. His scoring average is the fifth-highest on the team and his 67 total rebounds are second only to Festus Ezeli, who has 78. Plus, the 6-11 Ezeli is three inches taller but Goulbourne doesn’t plan to let height stop him.
While he is a good shooter (he has made 52 percent of shots from the field) and speedy up and down the court, his athleticism is really on display when the ball bounces off the rim.
“I want to really show my dominance on the rebounds because I’m tall, I’m athletic, I’m fast, I take the ball pretty strong,” Goulbourne said. “I wanted to improve that and Coach [Kevin Stallings] challenged me at the beginning of the season to be the best rebounder in the SEC, or the best offensive rebounder. But I kind of just took that to just be the overall best rebounder. It is probably hard to do. There are a lot of big guys out there but I try to attack the glass as much as possible.”
Goulbourne already has more rebounds than he did last season (64) in 31 games and in the next couple contests he should pass the 75 boards he grabbed his freshman season.
Obviously, his rebounding and scoring averages have increased due to more playing time but Goulbourne says his approach has changed too.
“I think I am working a little harder than I have in the past two years,” he said. “The game is just coming to me a little bit easier. I am not trying to force things like I used to and I kind of found my niche with the team and understand my role. It has been two years but I have learned the game a lot better through the coaches. I just try to do everything they ask of me and maybe sometimes a little more.”
Goulbourne, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a consensus Top 100 recruit out of The Hun School in New Jersey and received offers from Rutgers, Notre Dame, Marquette and Virginia. A packed Vanderbilt roster, though, and a “hard” transition from high school to college basketball, kept Goulbourne from showing off his explosiveness earlier.
“He had struggled with consistency in the past and now he has been a very consistent guy in practice, a very consistent guy in games,” Stallings said. “I think guys sort of get it at different times. Lance has kind of gotten it. He has a mature attitude relative to whether he starts or whether he comes off the bench. He is unfazed if he plays 12 or 14 minutes in a game, then 28 minutes in a game, then 14 minutes in a game. Those things don’t affect him. He just keeps going and does what he needs to do and practices and plays with a very good level of consistency and has a mature outlook to it.”
That is good news for the Commodores, who appear to have two athletic weapons at the ready.
In addition to Goulbourne, junior forward Jeffery Taylor is averaging 13 points a game and often gets many of his buckets from drives inside or from highlight-reel worthy dunks.
While Taylor might be flashier, the jury is still out on who is more athletic.
“Probably Jeff but it is close,” Stallings said.
“It is between me and Jeff,” Goulbourne said. “I don’t know how to measure that. It is an opinion thing. He is a little bit quicker laterally than me. But, otherwise, I’m not sure. We are both pretty athletic. Jeff has showed he is pretty explosive and athletic. I haven’t showed it as much. I’m looking forward to catching people off guard. They are not going to expect what I want to be doing.”