Vanderbilt had to replace their leading scorer from 2013-14 when Rod Odom graduated. Fortunately, Jeff Roberson arrived on campus in time to fill Odom's shoes, if not his scoring.
Roberson developed into a key glue guy as the Commodores gelled into one of the nation's hottest teams at the end of last season. He played solid defense that clamped down opposing wings and turned explosive scorers into frustrated chuckers with his physical, long-armed approach. He also took advantage of his scoring opportunities; while Roberson didn't come to Nashville with the reputation of a long-range shooter, he finished the season having made 45.5 percent of his three-pointers.
He was the team's only true small forward last year, but he'll have some backup this winter. Chicagoan Joseph Toye stepped on campus this summer and immediately became one of the team's most explosive athletes. He'll give the team a dynamic platoon on the wing if he can adjust to the pace of the college game as a true freshman.
Here's who the Commodores can expect to press into action at small forward this winter.
The Incumbent: Jeff Roberson
Roberson was the least-heralded of Kevin Stallings's 2014 recruiting class, but circumstance pressed him into action for nearly 20 minutes per game and the true freshman performed well enough to hold his own. The team's lack of small forwards made him a starter from day one, and though he struggled on offense (3.7 points, 25% 3-pt shooting in the team's first seven games), his defensive effort made him a key part of the Vanderbilt rotation.
Roberson's season picked up through the 18-game slog of the SEC season. The freshman wasn't asked to do much with the ball, but he picked his spots well. His true shooting percentage (.551) was on pace with Wade Baldwin (.556) and Riley LaChance (.552) and better than Matthew Fisher-Davis (.514) and Damian Jones (.534) thanks to his three-point shooting and ability to get to the free throw line.
Roberson has bulked up from 204 pounds to 220, and that should help his already-solid defense. He's already proven that he can be an SEC-caliber player - and the first game of his sophomore season ended with a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds - but 2016 will give him a chance to prove that the small sample size of his shooting prowess was no aberration. If he can reliably catch-and-shoot three-pointers he'll be a major two-way threat for the Commodores as a sophomore.
The New Guy: Joseph Toye
Toye is an exciting prospect who should be able to add athleticism and slashing drives to the basket from his spot on the perimeter. He isn't afraid of taking on defenders in the paint and his big finishes will evoke memories of Jeffery Taylor in Memorial Gym. His mix tape shows a solid three-point stroke as well, though scouts have questions about his consistency from behind the arc.
Toye should slide into rotation minutes thanks to the team's lack of depth at small forward. His game is very different than Roberson's, and Kevin Stallings could turn to him in stretches where he needs someone to create chaos off the drive. However, he was able to rely on his athleticism throughout his high school career, and he may need some time to fine tune his game when he's tasked with one-on-one duty against some of the SEC's high-flying wings.
The Part-Timer: Matthew Fisher-Davis
Three-guard sets could push the 6'5" Fisher-Davis to a de facto small forward spot in 2015-16. While he has the length to guard opposing 3s, he's still a skinny 185 pounds and that will keep him from bodying up any bigger forwards that try to drag him into the post. There's no denying the extra dimension he'll bring to the offense, though. Placing Fisher-Davis at the position would allow the Commodores to put three elite shooters in the backcourt and create plenty of space for Vandy's big men to work in the paint.