Men's Hoops: First practice report

Kevin Stallings instructs. (VM/ Bryce Wells)

NASHVILLE-- Vandy fans can breathe a sigh of relief... hoops season is finally here! The Vanderbilt Commodores men's basketball team opened preseason practice Saturday morning at Memorial Gymnasium. VandyMania's Bryce Wells files this in depth report on Vanderbilt's "Fiery Foursome", "New Looks Down Low", and the "Fear Factor".

The Commodores officially started the 2004-05 season with a 10:00am practice this morning at Memorial Gym. Many of the players found their way into the gym about an hour before the official start time and worked on shooting and individual drills. Then Head Coach Kevin
Stallings Speaks with team. (VandyMania/ Bryce Wells)
Stallings spoke with the team for about 10 minutes to welcome them to a new season of Vanderbilt basketball.

Notable Absences

Transfer Derrick Byars did not participate in drills this morning, but rode the stationary bike along the side of the court. DeMarre Carroll did not attend practice due to personal reasons but will return soon.

Fiery Foursome

In group drills, the most animated and competitive group consisted of Senior SG Jason Holwerda, Junior PG Mario Moore, and freshmen Alex Gordon and Shan Foster. And when this group practiced 2 on 2 rebounding drills (2 on 2 until someone got the rebound, then it moved into a quick game of 21 with the rebounder trying to score against three defenders), their side of the court looked like a small group of Mexican jumping beans - each player trying to out-jump the other reaching for the ball.

Highlights from this short drill include Moore head-faking Foster at the top of the key after grabbing a long rebound, then fooling two defenders with a cross-over dribble and finger-rolling a left handed lay-up just out of reach of a fast-recovering Foster. Not to be outdone, Gordon tracked down a long rebound in the corner and then faked a baseline drive before pulling up and nailing a three pointer over a charging Holwerda.

And if fans were looking for a complement to Moore's effusive antics when he's fired up, they may find it in the guttural roars Gordon releases anytime he's displeased with his performance.

New Looks Down Low

It might be hard for some to believe that senior center Dawid Przybyszewski can get any bigger, but he's been working all summer on his physique and his rebounding, and he's made a visible improvement in both areas.

Ted Skuchas takes a shot. (VandyMania/ Bryce Wells)
Not only is Vandy's resident 7 footer standing tall at a whopping 263 pounds, he's using that bulk to effectively block-out and pursue loose balls.

And the biggest difference? He's getting up high and grabbing the rebound with his hands - plucking the ball out of the air like many Vandy fans are used to seeing from Junior PF/C Julian Terrell.

Freshmen Davis Nwankwo and Alan Metcalfe made their first appearance in a Vandy uniform and gave the coaches a glimpse at what the low-post is going to look like over the next 4 years. Metcalfe seemed to struggle against smaller, more athletic rebounders in the smaller group drills but held his own against the bigger bodies he'll more likely face. Nwankwo wrestled with Terrell in most of the small group drills and proved to be a long and wirey foe, effectively using his wing span to get his hands in on the action and steal a few boards.

And on the Perimeter

Sophomore SG Dan Cage is expected to have a larger role in the outside shooting responsibilities this season and will be joined by Foster and Gordon - both of whom showed great mechanics and a soft touch in knocking down three pointers in both the pre-practice shoot-around and the three man fast-break drills.

No one was especially sharp this morning from beyond the arc - several

Alex Gordon takes a shot. (VandyMania/ Bryce Wells)
veterans failed to make a three in the fast-break drill - but their form looked good and their frustration was palpable. After Gordon and Foster hit back-to-back threes on a trip down the court, Gordon clapped his hands and screamed "finally!".

Highlight of the Practice

When the team switched to 5 on 5 rebounding drills, Moore would have had a dramatic one-handed slam put-back over another player going up for the rebound . . . would have, if the basket wasn't covered by a wire cover that prevented the ball from going through the hoop. The very next play Moore sliced through two defenders who had position and skied for a rebound along the far baseline. He got his hands on it and knocked it towards the sideline. Not giving up, Moore raced to the sideline and nearly attempted a dive to get the ball back in bounds. Coach Stallings screamed enthusiastically about his hustle on the play.

Fear Factor

Many fans know of the numerous accolades bestowed upon Alex Gordon in both basketball and football throughout his high-school career. Besides his physical abilities, his fearless attitude certainly had a lot to do with those accomplishments. During 5 on 5 rebounding drills, Gordon didn't back down from trying to block-out Przybyszewski on two separate occasions. The ball never bounced their way to see if his effort would have made a difference, but it was nice to see the mettle he displayed in dealing with that mismatch.


Davis Nwankwo and Julian Terrell during rebounding drills.


Mario Moore and Dan Cage.


Team practices group rebounding.

******

Photos by Bryce Wells, Copyright (C) 2004 by VandyMania.com.

VandyMania.com Recommended Stories