John Jenkins doesn't have a spot on Vanderbilt's all-time scoring leaders list. Yet.
The junior guard is 36 points away from 1,000 on his career. If he scores as many points as he did last year, he'll end the season as Vandy's ninth-most prolific scorer in school history. If he keeps that pace up for his senior year, he'll eclipse Shan Foster's career record by over 200 points and likely get his number raised to the rafters at Memorial Gym.
Of course, that fourth year is the tricky part.
Jenkins enters his third season in black and gold as a trendy pick for SEC Player of the Year and a borderline NBA Draft first-round pick. If he can showcase his developing abilities to create his own shot and defend, then he could conceivably play his way into the Lottery and into some fat professional paychecks. His rising stock, combined with the upcoming departures of Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang, make the probability of his return to campus for a senior season increasingly slim. Vanderbilt fans may have to address a tough reality this preseason - the only way we'll get JJ23 back for 2013 is if he stinks in 2012.
The 2011-2012 season may be the beginning of the John Jenkins farewell tour, but the expectations are high for what kind of show he'll put on. The Hendersonville native has progressed in each of his years in Nashville, developing into a preseason All-American behind a scoring game that's evolved from just long-range shooting. However, the presence of a high-profile recruit should help free up Jenkins's game even more. Even better, Dai-Jon Parker could ensure that the shooting guard position is secure for another three years into the future.
The Starter: John Jenkins - Jenkins may be the best pure shooter in college basketball today. His lightning-quick catch-and-shoot technique means that opposing defenders have to stay in his pocket all game. His expansive shooting range means that they'll be chasing him through screens and across the court for 35 exhausting minutes per game.
Jenkins's shooting form is a masterpiece of efficiency. His compact release gets the ball from his hips to the air in one quick motion, making his perimeter shots difficult to block. He's also shown an increased ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. Though it's not his primary weapon, he can exploit a defender's over-committal to get to the rim and finish efficiently. This has helped him get to the line more (he increased his attempted free throws from about two per game to five last season), where he's nearly automatic (89.4%).
Defensively, he doesn't have the lateral quickness or tenacity to be an elite guard, but he plays well enough that it isn't a detriment for this team. However, being paired up with another average defender in Brad Tinsley made the Commodore backcourt the team's weakest link when it came to getting stops in 2010-2011. The pair allowed marginal players like Bruce Ellington and Rotnei Clarke look like All-Americans in upset losses last season. Fortunately, the arrival of Dai-Jon Parker should help ease the burden on Jenkins to create defensive pressure this season.
The Back-up: Dai-Jon Parker - Parker comes to Nashville with some lofty expectations to live up to. He's the team's highest-rated recruit since John Jenkins and potentially the second-best high school player to come to Nashville in the past decade. His reputation as a hard-nosed player who loves to play defense made him a must-get for a team whose toughness has been questioned repeatedly. The fact that he's a top-level recruit at the team's thinnest position didn't hurt either.
Parker will be called upon to fill rotation minutes from his first game on campus. He's a bit undersized for a shooting guard at 6'3", but his quickness and physical play make up for this limitation. His lateral speed may be the best on this team's, and he and Jeffery Taylor should make a dynamite wing combination when the Commodores need a stop.
Offensively, he's a streaky shooter whose high school game resembled Alex "F-ing" Gordon's (though without the same level of ballhandling). He can pull up and hit threes from almost anywhere inside half court, and his ability to get down the court will make him an explosive option on fast breaks. His quickness gives him the ability to get to the rim on drives or create space for step-back jumpers. While it's yet to be seen how this will translate to NCAA play, it's a safe bet that he'll provide a strong change-of-pace option to Jenkins.
That will be Parker's main objective his freshman season. He'll be called on to defend to remove some of that pressure from Jenkins and used to open the floor with his attacking offense if Jeffery Taylor can't get to the rim. His goal will be to keep other teams off-balance while creating an atmosphere in which guys like Taylor and Jenkins can thrive. His success probably won't be accurately gauged by statistics, but in how this team executes down the stretch. If he can pull it off, he could end up being as important to this team as any of the five seniors.