- Vanderbilt warded off several national powers in convincing one of the nation's top prospects to stay home, which may be Bryce Drew's best win yet in Nashville.
Prospects of Darius Garland’s caliber tend to flock to perennial national championship contenders in bunches. But on Monday afternoon, Garland announced he would play for a program that has not advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament since 2011–12, choosing Vanderbilt over finalists Indiana, UCLA and Kentucky.
A shrewd playmaker and gifted scorer, Garland is rated third among class of 2018 point guards and 11th overall in the latest version of the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), a composite that incorporates data from multiple services. The 6' 2", 170-pound Brentwood Academy (Tenn.) standout averaged 16.4 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 33% from three-point range over 22 games in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League this year. He has been named Mr. Basketball in Tennessee the last two years.
Garland, who lived in Gary, Ind. until he was in the seventh grade before moving to Nashville, visited each of his four finalists before Monday’s announcement. Duke, which secured a verbal commitment from fellow five-star point guard Tre Jones in August, had been pursuing Garland, but Garland reportedly canceled a planned visit to Durham last month. The other 2018 PG ranked ahead of Garland, John Carroll (Md.) School’s Immanuel Quickley, issued a verbal pledge to Kentucky in late September.
Vanderbilt’s 2018 recruiting class grows to two with Garland’s decision. Four-star Porter Gaud (S.C.) School small forward Aaron Nesmith signed with the Commodores last week, and they remain in pursuit of other highly touted prospects in the class, including shooting guard Romeo Langford and center Simi Shittu, both of whom rank in the top six of the class of the RSCI. Vanderbilt’s 2017 class did not include any top-100 prospects.
Head coach Bryce Drew delivered a promising debut season in 2016–17 when he lead Vanderbilt to 19 wins and an NCAA tournament berth, but the addition of Garland may be more significant than any single victory he’s notched on the court so far. The point guard is one of the most highly touted recruits in program history, and he projects as a high-level starter in the SEC right away, one who can help account for the loss of starting perimeter players Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis, a first-team all-conference honoree last season.
Drew may whiff on Langford and Shittu, but that won’t diminish the significance of reeling in a player like Garland, who was recruited by big-time programs across the country. And though the Commodores shouldn’t expect to begin routinely plucking prospects in Garland’s orbit—he’s a local kid, after all—this is the sort of recruiting triumph that could attract more elite talent to Nashville.