The fallback plan is to play basketball overseas.
But Steve Tchiengang doesn't even want to think about that. In fact, as far as he’s concerned, it’s not an option at all right now.
The former Vanderbilt player's sights are set on the big fish — the NBA.
“That’s always been my dream and I don’t like to settle for less,” Tchiengang said. “So I’m going for the big leagues and I know I have everything that is expected to make it. It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity to showcase what I have and can bring to a team.”
While former Commodores Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor were expected to be drafted Thursday night, they weren’t they only ones auditioning for NBA teams.
The other half of Vanderbilt’s top six players from the 2011-12 season — Lance Goulbourne, Brad Tinsley and Tchiengang — hope to extend their basketball careers and make a living in the process.
Goulbourne has received two offers, including one from the Denver Nuggets, to play in the NBA’s summer league, which runs July 13-22 in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward plans to wait until after the draft to weigh his options and sign with the best offer.
Performing well enough with a summer league team could earn him an invite to training camp or a spot in the NBA Development League.
Goulbourne was back in Nashville on Thursday, along with former Vanderbilt forward Andre Walker, to watch the NBA draft with Taylor and his family. Since graduating in May, Goulbourne, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., has spent most of his time training in Nashville but had a workout with the Oklahoma City Thunder and a group workout in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“When I heard the news that a team wanted me to play for them I was very excited,” Goulbourne said. “I figured I had an uphill battle to climb with the type of career I had in college. Anything that’s given to me, I’m going to try to take as best advantage of it as I can. It’s very exciting. I really can’t wait to get out there and show what I’ve got.”
While Goulbourne struggled to be a consistent scoring threat — he averaged 6.1 points in his career — he was arguably the team’s second-best defender behind Taylor. His huge wingspan and athletic ability posed problems for opposing guards and forwards and aided him on the glass.
Goulbourne led the Commodores in rebounding the last two seasons and his 623 rebounds sit just outside the top 10 in school history. As a junior, he grabbed 17 rebounds against LSU — the most in Kevin Stallings’ 13 years as coach.
“My rebounding is pretty instinctive so there’s not really much you can do to improve that,” Goulbourne said. “I’d play a [small forward] in the NBA if I was so lucky to make it. I just need to improve my jump shooting, getting it back to being consistent like it was when I was younger. I need to get my ball-handling tight and be more aggressive.
“Mentally, I’m prepared for whatever comes my way. I’ll be excited with any situation I’m in.”
Tinsley, a 6-foot-3 point guard, told Goulbourne last week that playing overseas is more likely. Tinsley, who could not be reached for comment, ranks second all-time in assists with 482 and has the only triple-double in school history.
After graduating last month, Tchiengang returned to Houston, where the Cameroon native moved in 2004. The 6-foot-9 forward is trying to lose his weight — he’s up to 250 pounds — and stay in basketball shape. He frequents the John Lucas Skills Academy twice a day, six days a week.
He recently had a workout with the Houston Rockets and his agent has talked to several NBA teams. He could get a phone call about playing on a NBA summer league team as early as Thursday night.
In 126 games, including 30 starts, Tchiengang averaged 3.8 points and shot 43.6 percent from the field. Though he struggled from behind the arc as a senior (6-of-22), the Commodores’ sixth man was good for the occasional 3-pointer for much of his career, shooting 35.4 percent (45-of-127).
“I think I have some skills that have always been underrated,” he said. “I can stretch the court. I have some low-post moves and also can knock those mid-range [jumpers] on a pick and roll. Stuff like that I didn’t quite put at use at Vanderbilt because I had a different role for the team and I just kind of embraced that role.
“But what I think I bring to an NBA team is toughness, fearlessness ... and be a selfless guy.”