MBB freshmen arrive at VU

June 13, 2018

By Zac Ellis

NASHVILLE – Darius Garland’s road to Vanderbilt has been a long, well-documented journey.

Now, after much anticipation, one of the most highly touted recruits in Commodore history is finally on campus, soaking in the black and gold lifestyle.

“It’s really fun,” Garland said before a recent workout at Memorial Gym. “I’m enjoying the guys, we’ve been bonding on and off the court. The coaching staff, we’ve been going in their office almost every day. We’ve just been enjoying the process.”

Earlier this month, Garland officially moved into his dorm at Vanderbilt, enrolled in summer classes and suited up for his first practice as a Commodore. The five-star point guard from Nashville’s Brentwood Academy is the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with the Commodores, and he joins another five-star signee in 6-10 power forward Simi Shittu (Burlington, Ontario, Canada) and 6-5 wing Aaron Nesmith (Charleston, S.C.), a four-star signee, in comprising one of the best recruiting classes in Vanderbilt history.

That trio expects to make an immediate impact on Vanderbilt basketball under head coach Bryce Drew. But for now, they are busy acclimating to the student-athlete experience in the SEC.

“I went to my first college class ever this week, so that was fun,” Nesmith said. “As far as basketball, it’s been great to be pushed everyday. I had my first individual workout the other day, which was pretty tough. But I’m loving the competitive nature we have at Vanderbilt and everything this place has to offer.”

Garland, Nesmith and Shittu join a Vanderbilt team that should look very different in 2017-18. Gone are seniors Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson, all three 1,000-point scorers. Plus, transfers Matt Ryan (Notre Dame) and Yanni Wetzell (St. Mary’s) are eligible and expect to compete for playing time. The 6-8 Ryan is a sharpshooting forward while the 6-10 Wetzell will bolster Vandy’s big men.

But Vanderbilt’s freshmen should garner a bright spotlight next season as the program bounces back from missing the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Those expectations come as no surprise to the newest Commodores.

“I’m 18 years old. I do look at social media,” Nesmith said. “I acknowledge it, but I just go in and take it day by day and do what we do. You can set high expectations for yourself, but at the end of the day you’ve still got to go out there and get it done with your brothers.”

In fact, Garland said the freshmen feel ready to return the program to SEC prominence.

“We all like it,” Garland said of the hype. “Everybody’s trying to bring Memorial Magic back. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time, one day at a time. It’s going to be a long summer, so we’ve just got to get ready for the season.”

This summer is the first step in a lengthy process for three of the most highly anticipated Commodores in recent history. Though it will be months before their first game at Memorial Gym, the group can hardly wait to tip off the season.

“Finally walking onto the court for a game with these guys, it’s going to be really fun,” Garland said.

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.


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