What you need to know as Vanderbilt basketball heads to Paradise

What you need to know as Vanderbilt basketball heads to Paradise

By Russell Lorentz, for Vandy Insider

Vanderbilt’s 2017 Roster Ready to Roll into the Season 

Vanderbilt’s 2017 roster looks to be complete as the ‘Dores look to return to the NCAA Tournament in the upcoming season. The Commodores will tip off a period of 10 practices on July 10, which is permitted by the NCAA for offseason international trips. Vanderbilt will play in the Paradise Jam summer tour in the Virgin Islands Aug. 13-19.

Most would believe the Commodores (19-16) overachieved in 2016 after a rocky start by reaching the NCAA Tournament, as the roster suffered early departures of Wade Baldwin IV (17th overall, Memphis) and Damian Jones (30th overall, Golden State) in the NBA Draft.

The Commodores season turned the corner after a nerve racking 68-66 victory over an eventual Elite Eight Florida Gators squad in Gainesville –  in which the Commodores earned a three game sweep in 2016.

Jeff Roberson’s thunderous dunk signaled that Vanderbilt was finally here, where they hoped to be all season – the NCAA Tournament.

The Commodores earned a nine seed, earning a date with No. 8 seed Northwestern, eventually falling to the Wildcats 68-66 – the Wildcats first tournament victory in school history.  A mental breakdown from Fisher-Davis sealed the contest. However, Fisher-Davis great 22-point effort kept the ‘Dores in the game the entire way.

GUARDS

Larry Austin (Jr., 6-2): After transferring from Xavier University, Austin returns to the floor as he brings an athletic skill set paired with speed and shear athleticism, which will contribute to Drew’s fast-paced attack.

Maxwell Evans (Fr., 6-2): Evans, an athletic, rangy combo guard brings explosiveness to the Commodore backcourt, however Evans will see limited minutes in a packed field of guards.

Matthew Fisher-Davis (Sr., 6-5): Fisher-Davis returns for his senior season as part of a tandem of two of the best three-point shooters in the country alongside Riley LaChance. Fisher-Davis averaged 13.9 points per game paired with a career-best 33-point night on seven threes against Auburn in 2016.

Riley LaChance (Sr., 6-2): Combo guard Riley LaChance led the SEC in three-point percentage (48.6) and averaged 10.5 points. LaChance should spend more time as a shooting guard in 2017.

Saben Lee (Fr., 6-2): Lee, a highly touted prospect from Tempe, Arizona should compete immediately at point guard.

Isaiah Rice (Fr., 5-11):  Rice, is a Walk-on guard from Park Tudor High in Carmel, Ind., just outside Indianapolis.

Payton Willis (So., 6-4):  Willis started 12 games at point guard as a freshman. Will battle LaChance, Austin and Lee in a suddenly crowded field of point guards, but showed spurts of impactful play last season.

FORWARDS

Jeff Roberson (Sr., 6-6): Roberson is Vanderbilt’s most versatile player. Roberson averaged 10.8 points last season and led the team in rebounding (7.0) and steals (29). Look for a big senior year.

Matt Ryan (So., 6-8): Ryan, a Notre Dame transfer will sit out this season and debut in the 2018-19 season. He possesses size and shooting range, making 43.4 percent from behind the 3-point arc last season.

Joe Toye (Jr., 6-7): Perhaps has the highest ceiling of any returner, Toye  is a jack of all trades. He can play above the rim, knock down 3-pointers, rebound and defend multiple positions, and was a spark off the bench last season.

POSTS

Djery Baptiste (So., 6-10): Still a work in progress, Baptiste will be relied upon to contribute more. With Kornet gone, Baptiste must stay out of foul trouble and play his role of an energy guy. His shot-blocking is needed most.

Clevon Brown (So., 6-8): Brown is still trying to find his role, although showed signs of promise as both a three-point threat and traditional post player in limited action.

Ejike Obinna (Fr., 6-10): Obinna arrives with raw ability and room to develop, but excels as a rebounder and finisher. He will get an opportunity to play as Vanderbilt adjusts to playing with traditional big men.

Yanni Wetzell (So., 6-10): Set to arrive on campus in July, Wetzell is similar to Luke Kornet skill wise. He was one of the best Division II players in the country, but he must sit out this season to fulfill NCAA transfer rules.

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