VUcommodores.com sat down with basketball head coach Kevin Stallings for a three-part Q&A session as the Commodores prepare for the first day of practice this Friday. In part three, Stallings gives his thoughts on success, the three-point line change, Jamie Graham and more.
Is this the longest team you've ever had?
"Yeah, probably. We've got a bunch of guys in that 6'3 to 6'8 range. We've had some small guards around here for the last seven or eight years, and this year, other than Elliott (Cole), we don't have anybody that's small. Jermaine is 6'2 or 6'3, George is 6'3 or 6'4, Brad's 6'3 or 6'4, Charles is 6'5 or 6'6, and those are our smallest guys. But, it's a long team, even when you get into the inside guys. Festus is really long, Steve is long, Darshawn is long...we've got some long guys. We have a team with some length and hopefully some physicality to us. It will be interesting to see this team grow up and become a team and see what these guys can do and how we're able to put that together."
Is this a versatile team?
"I don't know. I'm not ready to say that yet. I think the good news is that we've got two , three, or four guys who can play multiple positions, and so that flexibility might enable some versatility. We'll just have to see. What we have to do as a coaching staff and as a team is that we've got to get good at a few things. We have to get really good at two or three things and really be good at them. And as we go along, we can get better at other areas and make those areas technically sound."
Could we see both Ezeli and Ogilvy on the floor at the same time?
"I think we'll be able to play them at the same time. AJ's dexterity to make some shots and to handle the ball could allow us to do that. For this year's team, it may be a very viable option, but we'll just have to wait and see how that works out in practice."
What about Jamie Graham? What did he bring to the team last year and what are you expecting out of him this season?
"He wants to play again and from every indication from him, he's going to be back. Jamie brought a lot of things to the team last year. He brought energy. He brought an unbelievable team attitude. He's another guy with an unbelievable passion for other people. He brought some discomfort. He made other people uncomfortable because of his presence and physical, aggressive, competitive, all-out nature in practice. It made some guys uncomfortable. If you want your day to be comfortable, then you don't want Jamie Graham to be guarding you. If you came in for an easy day, and you look across and Jamie's guarding you, it's not going to be easy. He was an absolute delight to have on our basketball team."
Adjustment for him easier after doing it last year?
"I think we'll be able to work him in easier, and he'll be able to impact our team more quickly."
What about the three-point line change? How does it affect the game in general, and how will it affect Vanderbilt?
"I think it affects the game because marginal three-point shooters become way less than marginal because that extra foot makes a huge difference. To Shan Foster, it wouldn't have made a single-bit of difference. But, with marginal guys, it will make more of a difference. I think you'll see more of a zone, and perhaps with good shooting teams, you'll see more opportunities for good post play because the spacing should be a little bit better. I'm hopeful we can utilize that three-point line like we have in the past to our advantage, and continue to be proficient back there. And all the while we think that our post game continues to get better and with the guys we can throw inside now, hopefully it gives us a double-edged sword."
Your impressions ofthe SEC TV Contract?
"I think it's a landmark deal and I commend Mike Slive and the people in the conference office that had a lot to do with the composition and terms of the agreement because I really think from a TV standpoint, it puts us head and shoulders above every other league in the country. It's a phenomenal deal from a financial point of view, obviously, but the exposure is what ultimately impacts recruiting. The biggest part is the additional exposure is going to be absolutely incredible and really give us an opportunity to sell something that no other league can sell. Just the fact that the primary sports network in our country has bought into our league in the way that they have is absolutely phenomenal. When I was in college, if you got a game on CBS or NBC it was a huge thing. Now, there are games on the major networks, but kids are so used to turning into ESPN, that's generally where they go first anyway. We're absolutely thrilled to have the new TV deal."
Success... what does it mean to you?
"I think what means something to me is the general direction and the momentum in our program right now. I think everybody who's on the inside of this program feels the momentum. Most of the people on the outside see the direction it's heading. That's not to say we might not take some lumps this year, which we very well could, I don't know. But, I think that the future of the program is very, very bright, as bright as it's ever been, and we're coming off of some pretty decent successes in the last three or four years. And so, if you take that success that we've had - two Sweet 16's in five years and 26 victories last year - and you carry all of that to this season, I think the bar has been raised in this program in a very positive way. Guys like Jermaine Beal, George Drake, AJ Ogilvy, they've had a lot to do with our most recent success. I just think it's an exciting time to be involved with Vanderbilt basketball because of the success and the direction. We're getting in front of and signing high profile guys and higher rated recruits, and not as if that makes you have a better team, because it doesn't, but it certainly means you're getting some good players. If the present team, not only this year but as we go forward, keep that team orientation and the selflessness that the two Sweet 16 teams had, that last year's team had, then things will continue to get better in this basketball program. And that's the direction I think that we're headed. I think that we're attracting guys that have an opportunity to be NBA players, and I haven't always been able to say that in the past. We've had two consecutive Players of the Year in the league, three in the nine years I've been here. We've had a lot of success, but I think we might be on the verge of even more of that. When you combine the momentum in our program with not only the kind of players and the kind of guys and people we're attracting to the program, as a coach, it makes it a lot more exciting."