While Shelton Mitchell's departure from the basketball program does leave Vanderbilt with a scholarship to give for the 2015-16 basketball season, we're going to go ahead and guess that Kevin Stallings is done recruiting in this class. He'll probably just give that last scholarship to Carter Josephs again, and have it available to give next year.
Here's a visual breakdown of Vanderbilt's basketball scholarships and the year that the player is expected to depart. Obviously some of them will depart before that (and some may redshirt and end up departing later than projected), but thanks to our administration's scholarship rules Stallings isn't allowed to over-recruit to account for potential departures:
|Josh Henderson||Damian Jones||Wade Baldwin||D'jery Baptiste|
|Carter Josephs||Luke Kornet||Matthew Fisher-Davis||Camron Justice|
|Nolan Cressler||Riley LaChance||Samir Sehic|
|Jeff Roberson||Joseph Toye|
As you can see, Vanderbilt projects to have two scholarships available to give in the fall. Obviously, another one could open up later if Damian Jones decides to go to the NBA or if somebody decides to transfer (and if another player leaves this offseason that will open up another one for the fall), but it's also tough to project the spring of 2016 -- and whether there actually will be any scholarships to give then or not. For right now, we're just looking at what could happen in the early signing period and this summer.
What Are the Team's Needs?
But just figuring out how many scholarships will be available is only half the equation. The other important part is just where players will be needed. Here is a positional breakdown of Vanderbilt's players, not counting the two expected to depart after 2016:
|Wade Baldwin (Jr.)||Riley LaChance (Jr.)||Jeff Roberson (Jr.)||Luke Kornet (Sr.)||Damian Jones (Sr.)|
|Nolan Cressler (Sr.)||
Joseph Toye (So.)
|Samir Sehic (So.)||
D'jery Baptiste (So.)
|Camron Justice (So.)||Matthew Fisher-Davis (Jr.)|
Assessing the team's needs beyond 2016 can get pretty dicey. While Wade Baldwin, on paper, will be the team's only true point guard on the 2016-17 roster, Riley LaChance is capable of filling in at the point as needed. Having LaChance play 5-10 minutes a night at the point actually reduces the need to bring in another point guard as well as opening up more playing time on the wings, where there is a deluge of talent and only a limited amount of playing time.
Likewise, the potential hole at center if Damian Jones departs for the NBA after next season is mitigated by the fact that Luke Kornet can fill in at the five if needed. But this is a bit more iffy: Vanderbilt not having a hole up front in 2016-17 rests in large part on D'jery Baptiste developing into someone capable of starting in the SEC by his sophomore year, and that's not a given. Dividing up minutes at the four and five becomes much more difficult if Baptiste (or Samir Sehic) isn't capable of playing big minutes. Assuming Jones does leave for the NBA -- which, again, is not an automatic assumption -- it may be wise to have a contingency plan if he does leave. So it seems likely that one of the two available scholarships will go to a big man. Unfortunately, Stallings will have to make this assessment before the season even begins and before he can see how well the two freshman bigs develop over the course of 2015-16. Of course, having too many bigs isn't exactly a problem.
Where the other scholarship will go is a matter of debate. Convincing a point guard worth his salt to come in and back up Wade Baldwin for (presumably) two years seems to be a losing proposition; but then playing time on the wings isn't going to be readily available, either. The sheer number of bodies available on the wings does up the odds that somebody will transfer out over playing time after next season; I'll let everyone speculate as to who the candidate for that is. You can make an argument either way; perhaps the best argument is to go with the best player available in the recruiting season, regardless of position.
Speculating over whom, exactly, Kevin Stallings will target in the 2016 recruiting class is difficult with no glaring immediate needs. We can get some idea from 247 Sports, but as this is still a developing situation (for example, it's only been within the last week that Vanderbilt not having a backup point guard lined up for 2016-17 has become a reality) the recruiting list is bound to change a lot between now and the fall.
Braxton Blackwell (6'8"/220 SF, Nashville, TN/CPA)
Abdul Ado (6'10"/230 C, Chattanooga, TN/Hamilton Heights Christian by way of Nigeria)
And in somewhat of a fun twist, the two top in-state recruits in the Class of 2016 are not from the Memphis area, where Vanderbilt has long struggled to recruit. While Vanderbilt isn't exactly hurting at the small forward position right now, Braxton Blackwell is one of the most blatantly obvious Vanderbilt targets. Vanderbilt extended a scholarship offer to Blackwell in June 2013, after his freshman year of high school, and aside from being close to home Blackwell's high school coach just happens to be Drew Maddux. Depending on who you ask, Blackwell is a high four-star or low five-star recruit. But the depth chart makes this something of a good news/bad news situation: the good news is that, at least in the near term, Stallings can probably survive not landing Blackwell; the bad news is that the sheer number of bodies on the wing makes it less likely that he would come here. Of course, players like Blackwell typically find depth chart talk to be demeaning to their talent, and adding Blackwell to the projected returning players could make Vanderbilt a legitimate contender for a deep NCAA Tournament run in 2017.
Ado, a native of Nigeria who's playing his high school ball in Chattanooga, is even more highly-sought after than Blackwell. While more raw offensively than Damian Jones at the same stage, he's got a 7'5" wingspan and is a ridiculous shot blocker. But Ado seems like a bit more of a long shot than Blackwell: most recruiting analysts seem to think he's headed for Louisville, or maybe Tennessee, although the recent coaching change at the latter makes that seem less likely. Ado would be a ready-made replacement for Jones but I'm not holding my breath for him coming to Vanderbilt.
Javin Montgomery-DeLaurier (6'9"/205 PF, Charlottesville, VA/St. Anne's-Belfield)
Aside from having what has to be the most Vanderbilt name ever (seriously, Montgomery-DeLaurier?!?!), JMD is probably the most likely player to wind up signing with the Commodores in the class of 2016. A high three-star recruit, Montgomery-DeLaurier is considering (among others) Princeton and Wake Forest -- which should tell you why he's considering Vanderbilt, and why he's unlikely to be rattled by Luke Kornet and Samir Sehic being around. For what it's worth, all six of the crystal ball predictions at 247 Sports have JMD coming to Nashville, although that comes with the contingency that his hometown Cavaliers haven't offered him yet -- and things could change if Tony Bennett decides to extend him an offer.
Nolan Narain (6'9"/210 PF, Hamilton, ON, Canada/La Lumiere School)
Perhaps Stallings extended an offer to Montgomery-DeLaurier last week because Narain, a native of Canada whom Stallings offered in December, seems to be less and less likely to wind up a Commodore. Narain is a higher-rated prospect but used official visits to Gonzaga and San Diego State earlier this year -- suggesting that the Bulldogs and Aztecs are the real contenders for his talents.
Quentin Goodin (6'2"/165 PG, Campbellsville, KY/Taylor County)
Goodin is one of three point guards whom Vanderbilt has offered, having done that in January 2014 when Goodin came in for an unofficial visit, but he's probably the most likely of the three to come here -- the other two (Derryck Thornton and Kobi Simmons) have offers from schools like Kentucky and Duke. And Goodin himself is hot and heavy for Kentucky, but so far John Calipari hasn't extended an offer. Rick Pitino has, though, and while the four-star point guard lives just a couple of hours from Nashville, I have my suspicions that if Stallings does land a point guard in the 2016 class it won't be somebody who's currently on the radar.
That's an early look at some of the targets for the 2016 class, and of course we'll take another look over the summer when the coaching staff starts hitting the recruiting trail. There may be some players who wind up in a Vanderbilt uniform not on this list -- and it's also, of course, possible that none of these players will come to Vanderbilt.