Progress Review: Brad Tinsley - Did He Improve or Regress in 2010?

With basketball season over, now seems like a good time to take stock of the Commodores' returning players. The 2010 squad featured several young players laced with talent but who were also relatively unproven. The backcourt was led by graduating senior Jermaine Beal, but the rest of the guard rotation was composed of just two underclassmen - Brad Tinsley and John Jenkins.

True guards were the weak link in Vanderbilt's otherwise considerable depth, but with the sustained play of Jermaine Beal (32.5 minutes per game), a primary three man rotation between the two guard spots worked well for the Commodores. However, with Beal graduating, the onus will be on Tinsley to step up at the point and  Jenkins to develop a more well rounded game as a shooting guard in order to facilitate the offense. Shifting Jeffery Taylor to the 2 spot for short minutes is also an option, and that plan may depend on the abilities of Lance Goulbourne and 6'8" four-star recruit Rod Odom to play alongside him at small forward. 2010 recruit Kyle Fuller will also be in line for big minutes as soon as he steps on campus, as he might be the team's truest point guard for the 2010-2011 season.

Today, we'll focus on Brad Tinsley, and get to John Jenkins and the primary small forwards later on. Tinsley and Jenkins are the future of this team's backcourt - but with BT in line to handle the point, he'll be more important than ever before on the court. Without Jermaine Beal as a safety net, the team will rely on Tinsley's leadership to initiate the offense.

Brad Tinsley -

Observational: Anyone who watched Tinsley's play from 2009 into 2010 saw a regression. With John Jenkins on board, Tinsley faced serious competition for his starting spot for the first time at Vanderbilt, and it seemed to have an adverse effect on him. His scoring average and shooting percentages went down, including a drop from 41.1% to 29.5% from three point range. The sophomore from Oregon often forced his game, playing stiffly and putting up bad shots in an extended cold streak that seemed to last the whole season. However, it wasn't all bad. Tinsley also had moments where he let the game come to him naturally, and his biggest impact on the court came as a facilitator, spotting open players and controlling the ball.

Tinsley's 2010 wasn't entirely encouraging, but his passing and ability to protect the ball was the silver lining on a down year. While all fans hoped he would break out of his continuing slump, he never seemed to find his range or return to the form he showed as a freshman. While part of this was due to his lessened role in the offense, the drop in overall shooting remains a mystery. If he can't be effective from the perimeter next year, opponents will have a much easier time devising a useful defense against the 'Dores.

Statistically Speaking: Tinsley's 2009-2010 can be broken down into three parts: the out-of-conference schedule, the first half of SEC play, and then the point at which John Jenkins took over the starting role (against Arkansas) to the end of the season. Let's examine the basic statistics:

Brad Tinsley Stats Record MIN  FGA  FG% FTA  FT% 3PA  3PT% PTS  TOT  AST  TO  A/T
2009-2010 *19-12 31 8.3 41.9% 2.2 82.4% 5.4 41.1% 11 2.5 2.8 2.1 1.34
2010 Out-of-Conference *11-3 27.8 5.8 40.7% 1.1 68.8% 3.8 32.1% 6.7 2.6 3.1 2.6 1.22
2010 SEC - Starter *10-3 28.2 6.5 41.2% 1.9 92.0% 3.0 25.6% 7.9 3.0 3.0 1.6 1.86
2010 SEC - Reserve *3-3 17.2 4.0 37.5% 1.7 100.0% 2.2 30.8% 5.3 1.3 1.8 0.5 3.67

The stats showcase Tinsley's drops in shots taken and shooting percentage in 2010, but also support the observation that there was a late season emphasis on protecting the ball - almost as if his play off the bench was predicated on quarterbacking the offense. Given his awful shooting, this would make sense as a strategy, since it helps groom Tinsley for his role as a junior while playing to his strengths for the season. The stats also suggest less of a reliance on long range shooting and a preference to put the ball on the floor and drive. After a rough shooting performance in the out-of-conference schedule, his free throw numbers jump and represent a greater share of his overall scoring as the season progressed.

Despite the issues, it is apparent that Tinsley understood what wasn't working for him and then adjusted his game to have a maximum effect on the court. While his shooting makes a strong case against his progression on the court, his adjustments speak highly of his basketball IQ. While Tinsley showed in 2009 that he has the tools to be an effective starter in the SEC, he couldn't get over the mental block he dealt with as a shooter - possibly due to the presence of John Jenkins breathing down his neck. While Jenkins stepped up as the better shooting guard this season, Tinsley will have 2010-2011 to raise his stock and prove that he belongs in the starting lineup alongside the freshman sensation.

Progression, Regression, or Static?: Regression. An uptick in ball protection can't make up for Tinsley's abysmal shooting in 2010. Though there were minor strides in leading the team as a point guard behind Beal, this year was one to forget for the young guard. If he can't get his shooting back on track it would be a deficit in an area where the Commodores have excelled under Kevin Stallings. Fortunately, he'll have all summer to learn how to create a productive backcourt with John Jenkins, and there's no reason to believe that two former highly rated recruits can't pull it together to become one of the SEC's best - but it's going to take some work.

Tinsley's all-around play kept him afloat, and though concerns about his defense and shooting will linger into 2011, he's going to be the guy the team relies on initiate the offense unless Kyle Fuller comes on stronger than anyone expects. His straight-arm dunks and slick ball-handling have earned him support at Memorial Gym, and he'll be given every chance to turn himself into an All-SEC starting player. However, he'll have to get past the mental blocks that have stunted his growth in 2010 to get there.

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