Flashback: Vandy's greatest players, by decade

Earlier this week resident hoops historian Howell Peiser offered his choices as the SEC's best players in each of the last five decades. Now, Peiser picks the ten best Vanderbilt players from the same five decades. Did your favorite Commodore from yesteryear make the list?

1951-1960

Dan Finch: Vandy's first consistent 20-point scorer, Finch averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game his junior and senior seasons.

Charlie Harrison: Prior to Clyde Lee's arrival, Harrison owned the single-season rebounding mark at Vandy. He wasn't a big scorer, as his tenure in the black and gold coincided with those of Rochelle, Taylor, and Thym. Harrison pulled down over 14 rebounds per game his senior season.

Jim Henry: Vandy's first outstanding long-range shooter, Henry could run the fast break equally as well. He averaged 20 points per game his last two years after taking over for Rochelle and Taylor. Henry was the first Commodore to hit for 40 points in a game.

Dave Kardokus: To look at him, you would never guess he was a basketball player, much less a consensus All-SEC star. Kardokus was double-jointed and walked with a unique gait. He could grip a ball like he had 10 fingers on each hand. When he shot a driving lay-up, he arrived at the basket before the ball. Kardokus was the star of the 1951 SEC tournament Championship team.

George Kelley: Kelley was a muscle man for the 1951 tournament champs. He had a knack for getting to the foul line, where he scored more than half of his points. After graduating, his florist shop was the most popular in Nashville for years.

Al Rochelle: The best ball handler in Commodore history, Rochelle played like Marques Haynes of the Globetrotters. He could shoot from the perimeter; drive amongst the trees and score inside; outrun the opponents on the fast break; and pick his opponent's pockets. Adolph Rupp heaped huge praise on him after he torched them in 1956. He had a personal high of 37. Rochelle scored between 16 and 19 points per game from 1955 through 1957.

Ben Rowan: Like Harrison, Rowan never scored a lot of points, but he controlled the boards, finishing his career with a 10-rebound average. He played for Dan Finch at Peabody Dem School (today's University School of Nashville).

Babe Taylor: A fine complement to Rochelle and Thym, Taylor was sneaky quick and had a good outside shooting touch for the 1950's. He was awarded with 2nd team All-SEC honors.

Bobby Thym: Vandy's all-time leading scorer prior to Clyde lee, Thym was an inside and outside force for Coach Bob Polk. Starting as a freshman, he averaged 13.5 points per game. For the next three years, he consistently averaged around 17 points per game. Only 6-02, Thym played both guard and forward; as a freshman, he averaged almost 10 rebounds a game and continued to average 10 rebounds from there on.

Al Weiss: The starting center on the 1951 championship team, Weiss was the leading scorer in the regular season with 14 per game. He teamed with Kelly to form a formidable one-two punch inside.

1961-1970

Bill Depp: The Dipper was an All-SEC center just prior to Snake Grace's arrival. Depp averaged 17 points and 13 rebounds per game as a senior, garnering 1st team All-SEC honors.

Bob "Snake" Grace: One of the most popular players in Memorial Gym history, Grace was a bruising power forward and center from Guthrie, Kentucky. He cleared enough space to let Clyde Lee operate without heavy interference. Prior to Lee's arrival on the varsity, Grace led the SEC in rebounding as a sophomore in 1963 at 13.4 per game. For his career, he averaged 11 boards per contest.

Tom Hagan: Tommy Gun was the best offensive ace in Commodore history. He could score points in bunches. A deadly outside shooter, teams that tried to zone Vandy usually paid a major penalty. He saved his best for his swan song, tossing in a school record 44 points at Mississippi State. His 23.4 average in 1969 is tops in Vandyland.

Clyde Lee: Big Clyde was the best player ever to wear the black and gold. He was a consensus 1st team All-American and 3-time 1st team All-SEC player. He averaged just under 16 rebounds all three years on the varsity, and scored 19, 23, and 23 points per game each year. The enlargement of the capacity at Memorial Gym is credited to the increase in fans during Lee's tenure.

John Ed Miller: The fabulous point guard on the 1965 SEC championship team, Miller could score 30 points and dish out 10 assists. He was a deadly outside shooter who could drive by most opponents. His handling of the fast break often put opponents away in the first half. Although his biggest claim to fame was a last second game winner against Kentucky in 1964, it was his sterling 39-point effort earlier in the season that toppled undefeated Duke.

John Russell: The best defensive player in Vanderbilt history. He stayed with his opponent like a magnet. Russell wasn't a one-dimensional player; he led the team in scoring as a junior in 1962 before turning over the offensive ace role to Roger Schurig in 1963.

Jerry Southwood: Southwood was the biggest burr in Ray Mears' saddle. The starting point guard in 1966 and 1967, Southwood directed the Commodores like a coach on the floor (much like Jan VBK). When needed, he could score points as well.

Keith Thomas: The perfect outside compliment to Clyde Lee, Thomas was an exceptional outside shooter who could also kill an opponent on the fast break. KT took over for Schurig after Roger could no longer play mid-season 1965. He hit better than 50% from the field and 80% at the foul line.

Bob Warren: His patented baseline drive and reverse lay-up brought Captain Bob a cult following in Commodore Country. Warren started his last two seasons and averaged double figures both years. After graduating, he spent eight years in the ABA.

Bo Wyenadt: Wyenadt started all three seasons on the varsity. He was a multi-tooled player who could shoot from outside, rebound against bigger opponents, play excellent defense, and handle the ball well. His biggest asset was his ability to finish on the fast break. Teaming with Kenny Campbell, Hagan, and Warren, these four were the best fast-breaking quartet in Commodore history.

1971-1980

Terry Compton: The gunner from Horse Cave, Kentucky, Compton was a fine shooter, hitting many shots from his favorite top of the key spot. As a sophomore, he teamed with Bill Ligon to form one of the most potent outside games in Vandy history. His shooting percentage dropped each of the next two years, but the rest of his game picked up. He was a master at intercepting passes and turning them into Commodore buckets.

Charles Davis: Charlie D was one of the biggest fan favorites to wear the black and gold. He started as a freshman, dominated as a sophomore and junior, and appeared headed to the top of the Commodore career scoring chart in his senior season. Then, he ran smack dab into Coach Richard Schmidt's doghouse. Schmidt benched Davis (and Mike Rhodes) in a power drive that eventually sent him packing. He left with a 16-point career average and led the Commodores in rebounding all four of his years (he missed 1980 due to injury).

Butch Feher: Feher was a combination of Snake Grace and Tom Hagan. His outside shooting ability improved every season, and his ability to penetrate a defense for an easy inside shot made it tough to stop him. Feher was an excellent defender, who like Compton, came up with a lot of steals. He was fouled frequently, and his free throw percentage after his first season stayed around 80%. He topped 30 points four times in his career.

Joe Ford: Ford started his career as a good-passing point guard and ended his career as a dangerous outside shooting, slash driving shooting guard. He was exceptionally strong for a 6-02 player, and one of the most athletic players of his time. He was one of the best clutch players, often hitting crucial foul shots to either win or clinch a game. As a senior, he became more of a go-to guy averaging 16 points a game on 52% shooting. He was also a career 80% foul shooter.

Jeff Fosnes: Fosnes was a leopard on the hardwood. He might look invisible to an opponent at the start of a game, but BAM! He would pounce on that opponent and go for the jugular. His 6-06 frame was rather small, and he tended to break down at the end of his last two seasons; of course, he was also carrying a full pre-med load in the classroom. Fosnes's junior season saw him threaten the all-time scoring mark for a Commodore, as he averaged 22.1 per game on 55.1% shooting. He could sit outside at 20 feet and bury jumpers from the wing, and he could take it to the hoop with lightning quickness. His career high of 39 points came in a game in which teammate Feher scored 34 (and Vandy lost!).

Mike Rhodes: The outside complement to Charles Davis, Rhodes formed half of the "Town and Country" duo (he was the country). Rhodes loved to take the bank shot from the deep wing, and he was quite accurate doing so. As a freshman, he led the team in scoring with a 19-point average. Like Davis, he was headed to the top of the career scoring chart at Vandy, when he was benched by Coach Richard Schmidt halfway through his senior year. He actually came off the bench to toss in 34 points in a loss at Kentucky. I'd guess up to half of his 683 field goals made came from more than 19 feet 9 inches, meaning he could have averaged more than 20 points per game playing by today's rules.

Perry Wallace: Not considering the fact that he had to endure all the hardships of being the Jackie Robinson of the SEC, Wallace was the best rebounder after Clyde Lee. It took him two seasons to develop an outside game after seeing the dunk outlawed in 1967-68. As a senior, he became the go-to guy and scored 18 points per game. He led the team in rebounding all three seasons, with averages of 10.4, 10.5, and 13.5 per game. Included in his senior season run was an excellent 20+ points and rebound game.

Thorpe Weber: One of the most highly sought recruits, Weber chose Vandy over Kentucky, UCLA, and several other biggies. He was a muscular, left-handed 6-07 forward who maneuvered well near the basket, playing similar to the way Kevin McHale played with the Celtics. Weber could rebound the ball against bigger opponents, and he left Vandy with an average of nine per game. He had an interesting way of defending the taller shooters; instead of trying to block shots, he put his hands in front of the shooter's eyes trying to block his vision.

Tommy Springer: Springer was the sparkplug who ran the Vandy offense in the late 1970's. He was one of the best at driving hard down the court and pulling up for a 15-foot jumper. His fast break baskets often broke the hearts of opponents, especially LSU. In consecutive seasons, he started major spurts that sank the top 10-ranked Tigers. His 4.3 assists per game led the Commodores in their surprise 1979 run at the title.

Jan van Breda Kolff: He came to Vandy as a 6-7 guard and left as a 6-8 center. In between, he played all five positions at one time or another. Having VBK on the floor was like having an assistant coach in the game. He could move a teammate two or three inches, and that movement would end up being the difference in a score or crucial defensive stop. VBK was the king of the assist as a playmaker, but it was when he was converted to center that he really began to play like an All-Star. As a senior center, he averaged 10 boards per game and unofficially blocked about two to three shots a game.

1981-1990

Barry Booker: The Ace of the Bomb Squad, Booker came to Vandy from Battleground Academy in Franklin. After a learning experience in his freshman campaign, Booker emerged as a vital cog in the Vandy offense his last three seasons. In the first year of the three-point shot, Booker hit an incredible 50% from behind the arc. He continued to lead the way from the perimeter, helping keep double team pressure off Will Perdue. He sank three treys in the big upset over Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament and then hit six more, en route to a 22-point effort, in a losing cause against eventual champ Kansas.

Brett Burrow: The son of a Kentucky Wildcat All-American, Burrow started at center ahead of Will Perdue for two seasons. As a junior, he emerged as a fierce in the post. The 6-10 Burrow possessed a shooting range almost as deep David Przybyszewski, but he wasn't afraid to jostle inside, averaging eight boards a game as a junior. Burrow was a potent weapon at the foul line as well; he connected on 84% in his final two seasons.

Phil Cox: Secret Agent 00, Cox made a huge splash in his very first collegiate game. He came off the bench at Duke and simply led the Commodores to an upset win. After scoring just one bucket in the first half, Coach C.M. Newton told him to take over the game. He responded with 28 second half points to end the game with 30. Cox hit the first three-point basket in Vandy history; he did it in the Great Alaska Shootout in November of 1982, when the shot was part of the pre-season experimentation. Although he left Vandy as the career scoring leader (since passed by Matt Freije), he averaged a full six points less per game than Clyde Lee. Next to Rudy Thacker, Cox may have been the next best foul shooter. He reeled off several long streaks of consecutive made free throws and hit over 86% for his career.

Barry Goheen: John Havlicek and Larry Bird had nothing on this cult hero. Goheen was given seven chances to win ball games at the buzzer in his four-year career, and he was successful every time! In one game his senior season, he hit buzzer beaters to end both halves! Goheen was far from just a last-second hero. He was a member in good standing in the Bomb Squad, the group of three-point shooting stars form 1987 to 1989. In his final two seasons, Goheen hit 44% from behind the arc, while scoring 13.5 points per game. Another in a long line of great foul shooters, he hit 80% for his career.

Willie "Hutch" Jones: Jones had the misfortune of playing two years for Richard Schmidt. Schmidt did not like his playing style; he had already chased off center Jim Lampley, who transferred to Arkansas-Little Rock and went on to the NBA. Jones had transferred to Vanderbilt after his first school, Buffalo State, dropped their program. Luckily, C.M. Newton took over as coach his senior season and Jones was allowed to fully use his talent. His reward was a selection as a 1st Team All-SEC center. In his regular season finale, he blitzed Alabama with 37 points, many of those coming on spectacular dunks. He ended his career as one of two 60%+ shooters in Vandy history (leading the SEC in 1981 at 66.7%). He had a brief NBA career with the Sand Diego Clippers.

Frank Kornet: Vandy grabbed Kornet right under the eyes of The Kentucky Wildcats. Kornet played Snake Grace to Will Perdue's Clyde Lee, except, he was one year behind Perdue. After battling injuries early in his career, he emerged to become a star as an upperclassman. He moved over to center in 1989 and earned 1st Team All-SEC honors, averaging 17 points per game on 57% shooting. He was the Milwaukee Bucks lone draft pick in 1989.

Al Miller: Miller, a 6-4 swing player from Louisville, was the highest-rated recruit to sign with Vanderbilt post-Roy Skinner. Listed as a one of the top 10 players his senior season, he joined high school teammate Jimmy Lenz and chose to play with his former high school coach. In his freshman season in 1980-81, he took over after Coach Schmidt benched Charles Davis and Mike Rhodes, leading the team with a 15-point average. He slumped under C.M. Newton's style of ball and transferred after his sophomore season, joining Schmidt at Tampa.

Will Perdue: Perdue came to Vanderbilt as a virtual unknown, not being a top recruit. Thanks to the tutoring of assistant coach Ed Martin, he left Vanderbilt as the SEC Player of the Year in 1988 and was a lottery pick in the NBA draft. He played sparingly as a freshman, then red shirted a year. In his sophomore season, he showed glimpses of greatness in a backup role. His final two seasons saw him emerge as the dominant big man in the conference, garnering 1st team All-SEC acclaim. As a senior, he averaged 18.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per outing.

Jeff Turner: A 6-09 forward-center, Turner could hit the outside jumper and take it to the hoop equally well. His rebounding ability was streaky; he might get one rebound on Wednesday night and 12 on Saturday. As a freshman in 1981, he showed signs of future greatness, earning a starting spot late in the season. His scoring average increased every year, reaching a high of 17 points per game as a senior. Along with his average, his foul shooting improved with age. After hitting a mediocre 65% his freshman season, he improved to 84% by his senior year. Turner was selected to play on the 1984 Olympic Basketball Team that won the Gold Medal. He spent a dozen seasons in the NBA.

Derrick Wilcox: Wilcox was a bigger Tommy Springer and Mario Moore. He was a member of The Bomb Squad, hitting over 42% from behind the arc in his four seasons, with a high of 47% as he led Vandy to an NIT Championship in 1990. He was an excellent floor leader from his point guard position, and he averaged almost five assists per game in his last two years. Vandy was 9-3 in the postseason in his tenure.

1991-2000

Kevin Anglin: Coach Eddie Fogler placed Anglin in the starting lineup as a freshman, and he took his lumps. By his senior year, he was another VBK on the floor, as his leadership played a huge part in the Commodores' conference championship run. As a junior, he was forced to take over the offense as the number one option, and he responded with a 17-point average including a 38-point outburst in the Music City Invitational against New Hampshire. After graduating, he spent a year as a graduate assistant, and after a few years out of the game, he returned to coaching. He now serves as the head coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville.

Scott Draud: The last playing member of The Bomb Squad, Draud was also the deadliest. He hit over 40% from treyland all four seasons, finishing with a career mark of 44%. In his final two seasons, Draud averaged 15.5 points per game and was a deadly 87.2% foul shooter. He was also a top-notch tennis player.

Bruce Elder: A transfer from Davidson, Elder was a key member in the 1993 SEC title team. Asked by Coach Eddie Fogler to play the power forward position, the slim 6-05 natural wing player filled the roll with excellence. He schooled bigger, but slower big men and beat them to the basket. Elder consistently averaged between 11 and 13 points per game in his three years at Vandy. In 1993, he connected on just under 60% of his shots, while leading the team in rebounding.

Steve Grant: I had a hard time choosing him over Todd Milholland, but I picked Grant because he played very much like Snake Grace, while Milholland was more of a perimeter player like David Przybyszewski. At 6-07, Grant had the build of a defensive end. He was strong, but with that strength came exceptional agility. In Goheen-like fashion, he sank his lone career three-point attempt to bury Georgia in the last second of play. In his final two seasons, the sharp shooting power player connected on an incredible 65% of his shots (too few shots to qualify for career leader). No slouch at the charity stripe, Grant was a career 80%+ foul shooter. He led the Commodores in blocked shots as a junior and senior.

Chris Lawson: A 6-10 transfer from Indiana, "Red" took up a lot of space in the post. He opened the perimeter for the Commodores' excellent outside shooters, as teams had to double down on him in the low post. His offensive rebound and tip in at the buzzer beat Louisville in 1993. In eight post-season (NCAA/NIT) games, he averaged 14.3 points per game. After graduation, he made headlines during the Bobby Knight choking incident that occurred at Indiana by revealing incidents that occurred in his two-year stay in Bloomington.

Drew Maddux: The only third generation Commodore, his grandfather Ed and dad Ray both wore the black and gold. Maddux was a hometown favorite who grew up at Memorial Gymnasium. Thought to lack the speed to star in the SEC, his court intelligence and sneaky quickness made up for it, as he was one of the best Vandy defenders of the decade. His effective shooting range was the longest since the Roy Skinner days, as he could sink 25-foot jumpers with a hand in his face. As a senior, he averaged 17 points per game, including a 33-point outburst against Alabama. Among his other talents were exceptional passing and ball-hawking skills. He graduated as the career steals leader (although steals were not officially kept before 1980 and players like Terry Compton, Keith Thomas, and Al Rochelle probably averaged more).

Billy McCaffrey: The best Commodore player of the decade and one of the five best ever, Billy Mac is also the only former Commodore to play on a NCAA championship team, as he starred in the 1991 finals for Duke against Kansas (The Blue Devils' #2 scorer). One of the best ever at shooting off screens, he was the perfect weapon for the motion offense. He scored at a 21-point clip both seasons with Vandy, but his junior year was the more impressive, as he connected on better than 51% from behind the arc and 87% at the foul line. He earned SEC Co-Player of the Year honors with Jamal Mashburn. Overlooked by the NBA, he played professionally in Germany, Italy, and Australia before coming back to the states. He joined former Commodore coach Jan VBK as an assistant coach at St. Bonaventure and actually was named acting head coach following VBK's dismissal (never coaching a game).

Ronnie McMahan: The American League has the designated hitter; for four years, Vandy had a designated shooter. McMahan had no conscience when he had the ball. He shot and made more three-pointers than any other Commodore. A 6-05 swingman from Athens, Tennessee, McMahan knew how to get open and shoot quickly. In the 1993 NCAA Tournament, he shot Illinois into submission with 21 points on 4 of 5 shooting from behinds the arc, and against Temple in the Sweet 16, his 21 points on 7 of 11 3-point shooting kept Vandy in the game. IN the 1994 NIT semis and finals, he tallied 47 points in the two games in New York.

Frank Seckar: Another in the mold of Keith Thomas, Phil Cox, and Scott Draud, Seckar was a fundamentally sound player. A former Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin, Eddie Fogler convinced him and his parents to come to Vanderbilt by turning on a radio in their house and tuning in WLAC (Vandy's flagship station in those days). He had a brilliant game in the 1994 NIT finals, scoring 30 points (one of three 30-point games) in the loss to Villanova. Seckar was a career 42% three-point shooter. As a senior, the playmaker averaged almost six assists a game.

Pax Whitehead: Whitehead was the player the current Vandy team needs the most. He could slash through defenses and get to the basket. His outside shooting ability forced defenders to play him on the perimeter, and his quickness allowed him to drive by them. A transfer, who followed COACH VBK from Cornell, Whitehead led the Commodores with 16 points per game as a senior in 1997. He later starred in the European Pro League while playing in France.

The Stallings Era 1st Team

Picking a starting five for the period 2000-2005 is not that easy. Yes, there are five or so players who stand out in the last six seasons, but slotting them into the proper slots is the rub. I will go with a 3-guard, 2-forward set.

Post #1: Dan Langhi: With just a little more help inside in 2000, Langhi might have been good enough to shatter the all-time single season scoring mark and earn All-American honors. As it was, he was selected SEC Player of the Year. The 6-10 forward exploded as a junior after teasing his first two seasons. As a senior, he averaged 22.1 points per game, shooting all over the floor. He drained the three to the tune of 40.3%, hit 87.1% at the charity stripe, and still found time to bang it inside with the musclemen of the SEC. Seven times in his career, he topped 30 points, next most after Clyde Lee.

Post #2: Matt Freije: Kevin Stallings plucked this hidden gem out of Kansas, and he sprouted baskets like his home state sprouted wheat. Freije's scoring average increased every season improving form 10.4 to 18.4. With an NCAA at-large bid on the line and Vandy needing to beat Tennessee to stay ahead of the Vols in the SEC East, Freije responded with a 28-point effort to lead the Commodores to a narrow win in Memorial Gymnasium. When the Commodores needed a lift, Freije knew how to pump up the home crowd.

Perimeter #1: Chuck Moore: A transfer from Seton Hall, Moore was an excellent complimentary player who was asked to lead during a major rebuilding phase. A natural two-guard, he too frequently had to play the point, as Kevin Stallings was strapped for talent. He averaged 12 points per game as a junior and 13 as a senior. His excellent play in the SEC tournament almost led the Commodores to an upset over LSU; Moore finished with 21 points

Perimeter #2: James Strong: One half of the thieving duo who sent Vandy to the top of the SEC charts in steals, Strong was a tough perimeter defender. Strong teamed with Atiba Prater to give Vandy one of its most athletic backcourts in recent history. He possessed some of the slashing ability of Pax Whitehead, and he could tussle with bigger players under the basket. As a senior shooting guard, he averaged close to four assists per game. His 2.65 steals per game led the SEC in 1999, and his 1.86 steals per game in 2000 finished near the top.

Perimeter #3: Atiba Prater: In my opinion, Atiba Prater was the most misused player at Vanderbilt in the last 20 years. As a point guard, he was an above-average playmaker, who had a ton of assists, but also committed a good deal of turnovers. Prater should have been a 2-guard, because when he set up on the wing, he may have been one of the best outside shooters in Vanderbilt history. When he didn't handle the ball and played on the wing, he hit about 55% from behind the arc, most of those shots coming on a 45-degree angle from the basket. When he played out front and was forced to handle the ball too much, his shooting accuracy dropped more than 20 percent. Like Strong, Prater was an excellent passer and ball-hawk. He owns Vanderbilt's career assist mark (although that stat wasn't kept when Al Rochelle, Bobby Bland, John Ed Miller, and Jerry Southwood played and they would all be ranked above him).

Note: Some statistical information came from: the Vanderbilt Athletics Department, the Southeastern Conference, and the NCAA.

Next: Vanderbilt's big wins at the Loveliest Village on the Plains.