Feb. 2, 2012
Nashville sports historian Bill Traughber has recently written another book, Vanderbilt Football: Tales of Commodore Gridiron History. The 160-page paperback book can be ordered on historypress.net for $19.99.
Commodore History Corner Archive
If anyone was destined to play basketball for Vanderbilt University it was Drew Maddux (1995-98). Maddux was a third generation Commodore basketball player with his grandfather (Ed-1943) and father (Ray-1971-73) preceding him. He was a Vanderbilt basketball season ticket holder at nine months old.
“Vanderbilt basketball in our house was as important as anything that we did,” said Maddux. “It was so big to us. The stories of the players that played there were heroes and almost immortal. When I heard my dad and granddad speak about their coaches and teammates it was like a fairy tail. At a very early age my father made a strategic decision that he wanted Vanderbilt basketball to be seen in person to us as kids growing up.
“Back then television and the access to watch teams play weren’t as visible. We were season ticket holders from a very early age. I can’t remember missing games growing up. If Vanderbilt played in Memorial Gym, we were there in section 2B, row four, seats 1-6. It was not even a question. We loved going to those games. It was something we did as a family. It was built into the DNA of who we were. We bled black and gold.
“There’s no telling how many goals we went through in our driveway. Literally every single night my dad was out there rebounding for my brother and me. It was an important time for us. I was taught at an early age if you wanted to pursue a dream, and my dream was to play basketball at Vanderbilt, that you couldn’t jump to the reward without the hard work. I worked really hard and all of it started in my driveway with my father there to support me.”
Maddux prepped at Goodpasture Christian in Nashville. His coach at the time was former Vanderbilt basketball player Steve Reese (1984-87) who played for C.M. Newton. At Goodpasture, Maddux was a three-time All-State selection and Honorable Mention All-American. As a senior, Maddux set 13 school records including career points (2,539), assists (523), steals (380) and averaged 22 points per game as a junior and senior.
“I would not be a high school basketball coach today if it weren’t for the influence that Coach Reese and his assistant Jeff Forehand [current David Lipscomb University baseball coach] at the time had on me,” said Maddux. “I respected Coach Reese in so many ways. He was a brilliant coach. He had this presence with his height of 6-foot-8 and you knew his pedigree.
“Not only was he trained to be a great coach, but he was also a great player at the institution I wanted to play. It built in that value of everything that he said to me was important. Coach Reese was a guy that had been there, done that. I better make sure I am in tune to what he was asking me to do.”
One obstacle for Maddux in his journey into a Vanderbilt basketball uniform was the sudden departure of Commodore head basketball coach Eddie Fogler (1989-93). Fogler replaced the retiring C. M. Newton, who became athletic director at Kentucky in 1989.
When Fogler suddenly resigned to coach at South Carolina, Maddux was feeling emotional about at the unexpected change at head coach. Former Vanderbilt player and Cornell University head coach Jan van Breda Kolff replaced Fogler. This occurred in Maddux’s junior year in high school and after he accepted an earlier scholarship offer from Fogler to play at Vanderbilt.
“I am very relational and very loyal to people that I trust who have invested in me,” Maddux said. “Coach Fogler and his staff represented Vanderbilt, and they believed in me as a player. So naturally I built that relationship with them in that affinity and affiliation. I got to be very close to them. I can still remember sitting in Coach Fogler’s office in McGugin Center at the end of my freshman year when he offered me a scholarship. I accepted on the spot. It wasn’t even a question. That was where I wanted to play.
“When all that happened, and he went to South Carolina, it broke my heart. Naturally being a sophomore kid with the coach you’d grown and aspired to play for was now leaving to go to another institution, it created confusion and anxiety for me. It was a confusing time for me because I loved Vanderbilt, but I loved this group of men that believed in me. So I did open up my recruitment at that time.
“South Carolina was a consideration, but it really didn’t meet the other criteria I was looking for in a school. I was hoping to leverage my four years in not being a professional basketball player, but to set myself up for success in other areas of life. I did consider being a South Carolina Gamecock for a split second.
“I never went on an official visit because of the timing of Jan van Breda Kolff. I made several unofficial visits to Wake Forest who in those years were very good with Coach [Dave] Odom, and they had Tim Duncan. My second school was Indiana. I made several trips to Bloomington and met with Bobby Knight. They recruited me really hard starting before my freshman year. I liked Wake Forest, Indiana, Virginia and Florida as my other schools.”
Maddux followed his heart and did join van Breda Kolff in his second season coaching the Commodores. One tradition that Maddux opted to continue was to wear his father’s Vanderbilt jersey No. 45.
“When I decided to play at Vanderbilt they asked us about jersey numbers,” said Maddux. “I thought what better way to honor the man that really had the most influence all my life and still today. He was my hero and the guy I looked up to. I was honored to join the Vanderbilt family, but to specially honor him by wearing that number was so very important and meant so much to him when he got to see me wear that number.”
Maddux vividly remembers walking out onto the court in Memorial Gym for the first time to practice wearing Vanderbilt gear as a Commodore basketball player. A dream was about to be realized.
“I get chill bumps thinking about that time,” said Maddux. “In those days we did a Midnight Madness. We had such great fan support and walking out on that court for the first time was exciting. We were just doing fun exercises, lay-up lines, scrimmages and going through some shooting drills for the fans. I can still remember shooting my first layup nearly over the backboard. It was so exciting for me dribbling the ball on that court for the first time as a player.”
In van Breda Kolff’s inaugural season with Vanderbilt and without Maddux, the Commodores were 20-10 (9-7 SEC) and a runner-up in the NIT finals. Maddux became a starting guard midway during his freshman season, but had to discover his comfort level in the beginning of the season.
“I don’t know if you are ever comfortable with that,” Maddux said about adjusting from high school to college. “It was against Arizona State that for the first time in my athletic career I did not participate in a game. It was a coaches decision. There was no injury. I had to come to the realization that maybe I wasn’t living up to my end of the bargain to work as hard as I possibly could. We came back and played a top five Alabama team for our first SEC game.
“We won in overtime that night and they had a few NBA players on that team. I contributed in a mighty way. My first start came at Rupp Arena on national television on a Saturday. My first assignment was to guard All-American Tony Delk. I had great support from my family, coaches and teammates that allowed me to be successful the rest of the season.”
That Vanderbilt team finished the season 13-15 (6-10) and Maddux was named to the Freshman All-SEC team. His stats included 27 games (16 starts), averaged 9.5 points per game, 2.9 rebounds and was second on the team in steals. He cracked the 20-point barrier for the first time at Auburn with 23 points. During his high school recruiting process some critics believed Maddux was not SEC material. Making the SEC All-Freshman teamed changed some minds.
“I looked for motivation in any direction that I can receive it,” said Maddux. “When you have critics that say you can’t do something, and you are a competitor, it is going to motivate you. There were those critics who said that I wasn’t good enough, athletic enough and no way could compete at that level. It did make me work harder.
“When I got on campus in my first semester and I realized how physical, athletic and talented the players are at that level, it made me step up to that level. I spent a lot of extra hours in the gym doing extra work hoping to prove that I belonged at that level.”
The 6-foot-4, 200 pound guard made a noticeable improvement during his sophomore season. The team improved to 18-14 (7-9) and received an NIT bid. The Commodores began that season winning two-of-three in the Maul Invitational in Hawaii. One of the wins was over No. 4 ranked UCLA.
“That was our biggest win that season and winning at Bud Walton Arena [Arkansas],” Maddux said. “We were the first SEC team outside of Kentucky to win there. We had a very talented team that year. We came out of the Maui Tournament playing really well. We played North Carolina very close and lost, then beat Chaminade and beat UCLA, which was coming off a national championship team.
“We suffered tons of injuries that year. In fact, against Rice, Malik Evans and Howard Pride nearly had season-ending injuries in that same game. And they were both starters. It called for us to revamp our lineups. We felt if they had not missed so many games we were an NCAA team.”
Maddux scored in double figures in 21 of the first 22 games of that season. He ranked fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage (76.4), 13th in 3-pointers per game (1.8) and 15th in scoring (14.0). Maddux made at least one 3-pointer in his first 23 games of the season. He recorded a season high 22 points against Tennessee State.
As a junior, Maddux was able to fulfill another dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Though the Commodores (19-12, 9-7) made a one-and-done appearance (loss to Xavier, 80-68), Maddux enjoyed the tournament environment.
“If you are a college basketball player, you dream of playing in that tournament,” said Maddux. “You dream of seeing your name called on that special selection Sunday broadcast and celebrating with your teammates and coaches. I can still remember being in Coach van Breda Kolf’s living room that night.
“We were on the bubble as to getting in or not. We made a great late season run to win some important games. We thought we had a good indication we were in. But still when our name was announced on that bracket there was utter joy in the room with all of us jumping up and down. That was a significant thing for us to accomplish.”
Maddux would become a co-captain as a senior with Austin Bates and Billy Di Spaltro. Maddux was described as “an inspirational leader that wants the ball late in the game in pressure situations…is a clutch performer when the game is on the line…can create his own shot and is an amazingly accurate off-balance shooter in traffic.”
Maddux was the leader of the Commodores and the go-to guy on the court.
“That was a great year in my life,” Maddux said. “Just being a senior at Vanderbilt and playing my last year with nothing to lose and giving everything I had. I also got engaged that season during Christmas. That added to the joy that on a personal level. We were disappointed that we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. We did get upset by Alabama in the SEC Tournament and played poorly. The goal came for us to win 20 games. To get to that milestone was hugely important.”
The Commodores finished that season (20-13, 7-9) with an appearance in the NIT. They defeated St. Bonaventure and Wake Forest before being eliminated from the tournament at Georgia. Maddux led the team in scoring (16.8), steals (68) and minutes played (36). He averaged 38 minutes per SEC games, which led the conference.
Maddux was one of the top 3-point shooters in Vanderbilt history ranking seventh in career 3-pointers (226), sixth in attempts (641) and seventh in a season (79). He ranks seventh in career assists (394) and is tied for first with Frank Seckar with 214 career steals.
Maddux graduated from Vanderbilt as the fifth all-time leader scorer (1,689) and before the 2011-12 season was listed at the seventh all-time leading scorer list. He fell short of Phil Cox’s (1,724) record at the time. Maddux would also earn as a senior First Team All-SEC and Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Through the MTSU game in 2012, Vanderbilt’s 3-point streak has reached 817 games. It is well known that the Commodores, UNLV and Princeton are the only three schools to record at least one 3-pointer in every game since the rule was inserted in 1986. But that sacred streak almost ended in Maddux’s era.
“We were at Florida and played very badly at the O’Connell Center,” said Maddux. “We had a terrible shooting night. I believe Frank [Seckar] had zero points and he was our senior leader. It wasn’t just him. We were all missing shots. I remember being at the free throw line talking across to each other saying, ‘We’ve got to get a 3-pointer. We’ve not made one.’ You could see the stats on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t want to be the team that was responsible for that thing ending. Inside of the final minute, Florida put in their entire second unit with the game almost over. As they are coming into the game, they were very aware that we had not made a 3-pointer. Billy Donovan [Florida coach] was telling his players, ‘no 3-pointers.’ They were very aware of it, too. We knew and were starting to panic.
“I remember they missed a free throw and I got the ball on the right side and I dribbled down the court. We were down to our last opportunity. I probably pulled up from about 25 feet and by some miracle that shot went into the basket. It was a terrible shot. I did not have any rhythm all night. Coach van Breda Kolff didn’t say anything to us like in a timeout about the 3-pointers. We finished with one 3-pointer.”
His father, Ray, was one of legendary coach Roy Skinner’s players. Obviously, the senior Maddux had a great influence on his son.
“Being a student-athlete at Vanderbilt is difficult since you are playing in a challenging conference,” Maddux said. “The SEC is one of the highest conferences you can play in basketball. There were the social pressures of being an 18 to 22-year old on the campus like that for the first time. You have all this newness coming into play.
“My father was somebody great to have that was close to me and had been through all those things. He had lived on campus and knew what I was going through. He knew what it was like to balance academics and athletics. The daily encouragement I received from him was a sounding board and a support system. He helped me put excellence in everything that I did. It was just incredibly helpful to have that guy in my corner.”
After graduation, Maddux did consider a professional basketball career overseas, but decided to enter the business world since he was married. Maddux worked for his father in business and for five years at a health care company. For the past six years, Maddux has been a very successful coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Williamson County.
Maddux looks back on his Vanderbilt basketball days with pride.
“If it were not for Vanderbilt basketball, I would not have the lifelong friends that I have today,” said Maddux. “I learned what it meant to pursue excellence and to stretch yourself. Things in high school athletically and academically had been easy for me, but playing at Vanderbilt really stretched me.
“I learned to be more dedicated and work harder. You’ve got to be inspired to work beyond what you think you are capable of doing. Vanderbilt inspired me to compete at that level. I played against guys that now play in the NBA. We played in some of the best arenas in the country, the cathedrals of college basketball. I have a Vanderbilt degree on my wall that says I did it. I made it.”
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.