John Jenkins arrived at Vanderbilt as the most highly rated recruit in Kevin Stallings' tenure as head coach. Brad Tinsley came in the previous year as a four star prospect in Vanderbilt's most highly rated recruiting class. Tinsley came in and started almost immediately for a short-handed squad in 2008, while Jenkins slipped right into the rotation of a more experienced team a year later. The immediate expectation was that SG Tinsley, building off a strong 2009 where he shot over 40% from three point range, would continue to grow as a player and feed off the competition for the starting spot in the backcourt with Jenkins right behind him. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case.
Tinsley is hitting a wall in the first half of his sophomore year, while Jenkins is growing into the college game and looking like the player scouts expected him to be. Their performances in the first game of SEC play vs. Florida could hardly have been more different - Tinsley missed open looks all day (0-6 shooting) while Jenkins drained open 3s when the team needed him and hit two big free throws to help seal the game late in the second half. While Tinsley had very impact - either positively or negatively - Jenkins was much more active on both sides of the ball, registering two steals and a block. Clearly, Jenkins was the more effective player - and that has been a recurring theme as the season wears on.
So when does Coach Stallings make the switch in the starting lineup to the more effective player? Jenkins has started one game this year - alongside Tinsley - and played poorly in the loss to Western Kentucky (0-5 shooting), but it's tough to take a game where everyone on the Vandy squad underperformed as an indicator of future performance. Meanwhile, Tinsley has been shooting poorly (32.1% from 3, 40.7% overall) and has had problems with turnovers (2.6 per game - Jenkins averages 1 per game in 7.5 fewer minutes). Most importantly, Tinsley just doesn't seem to have much of an impact on a game in general; he tends to just fade into the background. Jenkins, on the other hand, garners more attention from both opposing defenses and the media, and as his confidence builds has been playing better and better. While Jenkins is living up to his five star recruit ranking, Tinsley seems to be shrinking from the spotlight.
Is a shakeup in order? It seems likely, with Tinsley logging only 16 minutes to Jenkins' 26 in the most recent game. This number fits with an ongoing trend of the sophomore ceding minutes to the freshman despite starting games. More notably, Jenkins was the player closing out the game against the Gators, not Tinsley. Maybe a little system shock will jolt Tinsley's shooting and playmaking abilities back on track. Locking up playing time relieving Jermaine Beal and Jenkins would afford Tinsley plenty of minutes with less pressure, which could be the change he needs. If he excels, he could always challenge for his starting spot back, and possibly spark a practice rivalry that would drive both Tinsley and Jenkins to push this team to new heights.
But whether or not that happens in unclear. What does seem apparent is that John Jenkins brings more to this lineup as a starter than Brad Tinsley currently does. Every game sees Jenkins grow his confidence and knock down more and more big shots. With three straight games against lower-tier SEC teams coming up, the Commodores have an excellent opportunity to pump up their young shooting guard. Look for Coach Stallings to make the switch to the John Jenkins era sooner rather than later.