There's a Jeffery Taylor-sized hole at the 3 spot for Vanderbilt in 2012 - can Sheldon Jeter fill it?
Last night, news broke that Vanderbilt's rebuilding efforts on the hardwood would get a bit easier with the addition of Rivals150 forward Sheldon Jeter to the Commodore list of commitments. Jeter, a 6'7" wing, will bolster the team's depth in the wake of losing six key players - including all five starters - from last year's squad. So far, he's the top-rated player in an underwhelming three-man recruiting class for Kevin Stallings and his crew.
The key to Jeter's success at Vandy, as Jason Fukuda pointed out, will be his ability to continue the growth that raised him from an above-average high school guard in Pennsylvania to one of the country's top forwards in his senior season. Jeter's physical and mental evolution raised the level of his game considerably, and that's apparent when you look at the highlight reels from his games at Beaver Falls. Here's his best moments as a sophomore - according to commentary, he averaged about 18 points per game that season:
Now here's Jeter's highlight reel from his senior season in high school. The difference in styles is apparent from the start.
That new highlight reel eschews the midrange jumpers for drives to the basket and two-handed dunks. Jeter is still able to use his speed to get into the lane and disrupt opponents on defense, but he's able to supplement these skills with Division I finishes. He also shows off some stronger decision-making (fewer long twos), a nice stroke from behind the three-point line, and a few solid drives to the basket.
The difference between his sophomore and senior season? Strength and size. Jeter was a nice player in the backcourt, showing off good speed and a solid jumper as a player who could have projected out as a low-major shooting guard. In that second clip, you can see a marked difference in height, bulk, and explosiveness. This may be just an editing trick, but Jeter's senior year appears to show marked improvement from his earlier highlight reel. While he maintains the skills that made him a solid player in the backcourt, he tacked on the ability to be more effective as a slasher, shooter, and finisher at the rim.
Of course, that's not unexpected for a kid growing up from 16 to 18 years old and working full time to improve his game. Still, Jeter took his genetic advantages and built them up to become a high-level recruit. He'll still have plenty of work to do in Nashville, but the tracks have been laid for the incoming freshman to make an impact.
There are aspects of his game he'll need to correct. While his highlight reels show good speed on breakaways, there isn't much in there to suggest that he can break high-level opponents down laterally to get into the lane. He's also got to continue building muscle to hang as a forward against tough NCAA frontcourts.
Additionally, many of his three-pointers are the result of him being able to shoot over smaller high school opponents. That's something that is out of his control at that level, but he'll find much more difficulty in getting off a set shot against defenders that can match up with his size and athleticism. Will he be able to create his own shot at the next level? That's something that could take a while to develop for the youngster.
Even with these flaws, Sheldon Jeter will come to Nashville with the chance to make an immediate impact as a player with the skills of a guard but the body of a small forward. If he can continue to grow, he'll improve his chances for playing time amongst a shallow rotation of big men at Vanderbilt. While questions remain about whether or not he has the athleticism to be an impact player in a major NCAA conference, he'll fit nicely into Kevin Stallings system and should be a contributor for the Commodores throughout his time in Memorial Gym.
Of course, if he can continue the upward path he started in high school, he could also continue Stallings's lineage of small forwards that includes players like Jeffery Taylor and Derrick Byars.