Commodores adjusting to Bryce Drew as Vanderbilt's new coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Vanderbilt Commodores have their first new coach since the turn of this century, and Bryce Drew already is making quite an impression.
He was hired away from his alma mater Valparaiso in April to replace Kevin Stallings, who left for Pittsburgh despite being the winningest coach in Vanderbilt history over his 17 seasons. The Commodores have been adjusting to the change since summer workouts.
''Pretty much night and day from how Stallings was,'' junior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis said. ''I think it'll be good for us. Everybody's working hard, and it'll be a good season.''
The Commodores disappointed last season going 19-14 after some very high expectations with a roster that had two players taken in the first round of the NBA draft in June. They also lost to Wichita State in Dayton to open the NCAA Tournament, and Stallings bolted shortly after despite going 332-220 at Vanderbilt since 1999-00.
Fisher-Davis said the attitude all starts with Drew with he and his assistants bringing positive energy every day.
Drew knows he takes over a bit of a challenge. The Commodores have been picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference, but he not only has to win games but lure fans back to Memorial Gym after attendance has dropped in recent seasons.
''We want to work extremely hard,'' Drew said. ''We want to play a style of basketball that's exciting for the fans, the passion that we put out and the work that we put out. We might not be the tallest team or we might not be the most athletic team, but hopefully when we leave, our fans' hearts will be captured by how hard we're playing.''
Here are some other things to know about Vanderbilt this season:
NBA DRAFT PICKS: The Commodores were one of only three schools with not one, but two players taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Guard Wade Baldwin IV, a starter for both of his seasons, was the 17th pick overall by Memphis, while center Damian Jones was the 30th pick by Golden State. Vanderbilt also lost its top two scorers with Baldwin leading the team scoring 14.1 points per game and Jones adding 13.9.
RETURNING STARTERS: Vanderbilt still has some size in 7-foot-1 senior Luke Kornet, who ranked fourth nationally in blocked shots. Drew has plenty of experience too in junior Matthew Fisher-Davis, who led the SEC shooting 44.6 percent from 3-point range, in averaging 9.7 points per game. Junior Riley LaChance added 6.9 points. Redshirt senior guard Nolan Cressler played in 30 games last season after sitting out a transfer year from Cornell.
NEWCOMERS: Drew will have only 10 scholarship players available, which luckily includes redshirt freshman Djery Baptiste, a 6-10, 240-pound center who picked Vanderbilt over Connecticut, SMU, Oregon and Southern California. Drew also has a pair of freshmen in forward Clevon Brown and guard Payton Willis. Larry Austin Jr. is sitting out this season after transferring from Xavier.
SCHEDULE: The Commodores open the season Nov. 11 playing Marquette in Annapolis, Maryland, and it doesn't get any easier. Vanderbilt also plays Belmont on Nov. 15 and Chattanooga on Dec. 17 while visiting Middle Tennessee, the team that upset No. 2 seed Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament, on Dec. 8. The Commodores also play Butler in the Las Vegas Invitational with a possible game against Arizona State, and a neutral site game with Minnesota in North Dakota. Vanderbilt also has its usual home-and-home with Kentucky starting with the Wildcats visiting Memorial Gym on Jan. 10 with in-state rival Tennessee in Nashville on Jan. 14.
SEC TOURNAMENT: Once again, the Commodores will have to travel only a couple miles for the league tournament being held once again at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
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