Things had been relatively quiet for Vanderbilt basketball on the recruiting trail over the past couple of weeks. On the other hand, Kevin Stallings is on Twitter now, FINALLY:
#WinningThoughts pic.twitter.com/60hcTjbNMk— Kevin Stallings (@KevinStallings) October 6, 2015
It could have meant a lot of different things. It could have nothing to do with the recruiting process, or it could have EVERYTHING to do with the recruiting process.
With a limited number of scholarships available, the early bird gets the worm, so to speak. If a program has one scholarship available, or intends on taking one player at a particular position, and has offered scholarships to multiple players -- your scholarship offer only exists so long as one of the other players doesn't beat you to it. That happened over the summer when Stallings was hot and heavy for PG Carsen Edwards, but Edwards hesitated to commit, Vanderbilt offered another PG (Peyton Willis), and Willis took the offer. Suddenly, Edwards was no longer a priority for Vanderbilt's coaching staff; he might have been told the offer was off the table. (Edwards has since committed to Purdue, for those wondering.)
Or, sometimes the coaches move on from a prospect because they don't think they'll land him. That happened with another summer target, Javin DeLaurier. DeLaurier looked like he would end up going to Vanderbilt, and then Duke came in with an offer. Stallings, perhaps (correctly) sensing that DeLaurier was going to Duke, simply moved on to other prospects, and ended up getting a commitment from Clevon Brown.
James Banks Commits to Texas
The big news of the week came on Thursday, and it wasn't necessarily the best news for Vanderbilt as big man prospect James Banks committed to Texas. 247 Sports's crystal ball had Banks as an 83% likelihood of ending up at Vandy, so this news was a bit of a surprise.
Or, it might not have been. Braxton Key (formerly known as Braxton Blackwell) officially visited Vanderbilt last weekend. Key, a Nashville native who now plays at Oak Hill Academy, has been a Vanderbilt target since his sophomore year and while his stock has dropped, he's still graded as a four-star prospect and could be a difference maker for Vanderbilt.
The more important takeaway is that with, presumably, only one scholarship remaining in the 2016 class, Stallings couldn't take both Key and Banks; it had to be one or the other. And given how much energy the Vanderbilt staff has invested in Key, to not wind up landing him would have to be considered a loss. There is no word on when Key will make a decision but the general consensus is that he is choosing between Vandy and Alabama, with Texas as a third possibility. (It is actually strange that Vandy is competing with Texas for several prospects as it's hard to imagine two coaches with more different coaching philosophies than Stallings and Shaka Smart.)
The other remaining option for the third scholarship is Richard Freudenberg, a 6'8", 190-pound small forward from Munich, Germany. But it seems that Stallings will only take Freudenberg if Key falls through.
What About 2017?
With the staff close to putting the wraps on the 2016 recruiting class, the focus will then shift to 2017.
In 2017, Vanderbilt will have, at a minimum, two scholarships available with Luke Kornet and Nolan Cressler scheduled to graduate. (Damian Jones is also scheduled to graduate but the assumption is that he will leave for the NBA in 2016; this is, perhaps, why Vanderbilt is even offering a third scholarship this season.) Transfers after this season could increase that number, but based on what we know right now, two is the absolute minimum that will be available.
One consequence of Banks' decision to go to Texas is that Vanderbilt will almost certainly use one of the available scholarships on a big man. With Kornet graduating, Vanderbilt would return, presumably, Djery Baptiste, Samir Sehic, and Clevon Brown in 2017-18. That's a pretty thin frontcourt, and exactly none of those players are proven as of right now. Stallings is currently targeting Alex Reese (6'9"/225 PF, Pelham, AL) and Garrison Brooks (6'9"/215 PF, Auburn, AL). Both are currently rated as four-star prospects; Alabama is seen as the main competition for Reese and Mississippi State is viewed as the competition for Brooks, though this early in the process everything is subject to change. Stallings also offered five-star center Ikechukwu Obiagu (7'0"/230 C, Decatur, GA), who took an unofficial visit to Vandy back in August. Obiagu would be a game-changer in the 2017 class, but it's too early to tell whether Vanderbilt has a realistic shot at landing him.
In fact, so far most of Vanderbilt's offers in the 2017 class have gone to big men, which makes sense as that figures to be the one pressing need for the team. Even that far out, Vanderbilt projects to be pretty well set at guard and on the wings, so Stallings will perhaps wait to see what additional needs pop up before making other offers in the 2017 class.
Finally, there's another potential program-changer in the 2018 class in Darius Garland (5'11"/145 PG, Brentwood, TN), a five-star recruit who's a local product. With four players on the current roster expected to graduate in 2018, that class figures to be a big one for Stallings and Vanderbilt.