Eric McClellan won't be returning to the hardcourt for Vanderbilt this season. The team's leading scorer has been suspended by the university for violating academic policy. He will have an opportunity to rejoin the team next fall.
McClellan was scoring 14.3 points per game as a Commodore, and his offensively-focused game gave the 'Dores the firepower they needed after losing a handful of scorers from the 2012-2013 squad. Without him, the team will have just seven scholarship players available for the rest of the season. That includes only two players who primarily handle duties at the guard positions - Dai-Jon Parker and Kyle Fuller.
Here's the McClellan's statement on the issue, courtesy of VUCommodores.com:
I want to apologize to my family, coaches, teammates, and the entire Vanderbilt community for my actions that have led to this suspension. I take full responsibility for what has happened. I look forward to returning to school this summer and of continuing my goal of earning a degree at Vanderbilt and playing basketball for this coaching staff and with these players.
The news is another blow in this trying rebuilding year. The 'Dores had lost four players heading into this season due to transfers (Sheldon Jeter, AJ Astroth), personal issues (Kevin Bright), or undisclosed suspensions (Kedren Johnson). It is the second time in eight months that the team will have to deal with losing their leading scorer as well. Fuller, Rod Odom, and true freshman Damian Jones stepped up to fill McClellan's absence admirably against Alabama on Tuesday, but their efforts fell short in a 68-63 loss.
Vanderbilt will either have to turn to walk-ons Carter Josephs and Nathan Watkins in his absence, or hire a separate conditioning coach to ensure that Fuller and Parker can give this team a combined 80 minutes per game in the backcourt. Like Kedren Johnson, McClellan will aim to return to the team in good standing to begin the 2014-2015 season.