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Joe Toye has one final season to put everything together

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It only feels like Vanderbilt fans have been waiting three years for this.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

For a brief moment toward the end of 2016-17, Joe Toye looked like he was about to break out. Then a sophomore, Toye ended the season on a tear, averaging 9.3 ppg over the final six games of the season while shooting 48 percent from three-point range. Obviously, the latter number was not sustainable, but Toye seemed likely to assume an expanded role for the Commodores in 2017-18.

And then Toye started his junior season in a funk. Through the first ten games of the season, Toye was averaging 6.0 ppg, but that wasn’t even the entire story. He shot 5-for-27 from three over that span, and he had 21 turnovers in 10 games — an awful number for a guy who was (a) not his team’s primary ballhandler and (b) was playing just a shade under 20 minutes a game.

It got to the point that Toye lost his starting job — permanently — after the SEC opener against Florida and played a grand total of 23 minutes over the three games following that. It’s unclear whether Toye’s extremely limited role was intended to be permanent, but what we do know is that after Matthew Fisher-Davis was lost for the season, Toye was more or less forced back into action. And things did get considerably better. After spending a few games on the bench, Toye finally started getting his jump shot to fall — he shot 34.2 percent from three in SEC play, still not as good as the performance he showed during his sophomore season (when he shot 39.7 percent for the season), but better than how he’d played in November and December. He was a key factor in late-season wins over Mississippi State (16 points) and Florida (13 points.)

So what should we expect from Joe Toye this year? Nobody really knows. The early reports from practice indicate that he’ll be coming off the bench to start the season, with Matt Ryan, Simi Shittu, and Yanni Wetzell claiming the starting spots in Vanderbilt’s frontcourt. That might honestly be the best role for him: Toye seemed to thrive in his sophomore year role, when he wasn’t expected to do much aside from providing an occasional offensive spark off the bench.