Thanks to the presence of underclassmen like Riley LaChance, Wade Baldwin IV, and Joseph Toye, Vanderbilt's future is bright. 6'4" combo guard Payton Willis added a few more watts when he committed to the Commodores on Tuesday.
Willis is the first member of Vandy's class of 2016. He took his official visit to Nashville on Tuesday and liked his experience so much that he committed nearly as soon as he had a scholarship offer. He chose the Commodores over offers from schools like Minnesota, Dayton, and Western Kentucky.
The three-star prospect from Arkansas is a wiry athlete who excels in catch-and-shoot situations from behind the three-point line. He has a quick, mechanically sound release that will translate well to NCAA play and give him one of the most important tools to have in Kevin Stallings's offense. He's also a solid enough dribbler to bring the ball upcourt as a point guard, but it's unclear whether or not he'd be able to handle that role full time in the SEC.
He's got a solid handle moving in either direction when he drives to the rim, but his highlight reel suggests that he's not the pass-first guard that this team often excels with at the point. However, having another set of able hands to break full court presses is an asset in Nashville, and Willis seems capable of handling those duties. At around 170 pounds, he'll need to bulk up if he's going to have any prayer of being an effective defender against the NCAA's bigger guards. With a stacked rotation of backcourt players on the roster for the 2016-17 season, Willis may wind up redshirting his first year on campus. Here's the depth chart he'll he trying to break into (based on primary positions)
While that leaves an opening at the point (thanks in part to the departure of Shelton Mitchell), the abundance of pure shooters like LaChance, Fisher-Davis, and Cressler could make it difficult for the young prospect to shine through in 2017. A year in the weight room could be the key to improving his stock as a player and keeping the Commodore roster balanced though 2020. Willis will have to prove his value as a defender and distributor to make an instant impact in Nashville.
Stallings and his crew will continue to work tirelessly on the recruiting trail to flesh out the class of 2016. The Commodores officially have one open scholarship remaining for an incoming freshman, but that could change if Damian Jones decides to jump to the NBA after his junior season. He's currently projected to be a first round pick by both Draft Express and NBADraft.net. The team's top two targets right now are forwards Braxton Blackwell and Javin Montgomery-DeLaurier. They are also pursuing Texas point guard Carsen Edwards.