Back in November, Vanderbilt signed Darius Garland, Simi Shittu, and Aaron Nesmith to National Letters of Intent. With the 2017-18 at the limit of 13 scholarships, and just three seniors on the team, Vanderbilt was done with the signing class, right?
Except that Romeo Langford announced a top three of Indiana, Kansas, and Vanderbilt in November, and should he end up at Vanderbilt — well, somebody else would have to leave for that to happen. That question was answered last week when Payton Willis and Larry Austin Jr. announced that they’d be leaving the program. That gives Vanderbilt two available scholarships. One of those will go to Langford, should he want it.
Now, the first question to ask is whether everybody else will be back next year. We don’t have any inside information, but Austin and Willis might be the end of it. Joe Toye will be the team’s only senior next year, and it’s fairly safe to assume he’ll be back — players who don’t fall under the graduate transfer rule and only have one year of eligibility remaining just don’t have very many options if they want to transfer, because coaches are reticent to give a scholarship to a guy for two years and only have him play one. The same logic, by the way, applies to Djery Baptiste — who, while he’ll be a junior on the court, has already used a redshirt year and would lose a year of eligibility were he to transfer. Matt Ryan and Yanni Wetzell, the two transfers sitting out this season, obviously aren’t about to transfer and sit out another year somewhere else.
Freshman Saben Lee, who grabbed the starting point guard job early on and never let go, is almost certainly not going anywhere. Maxwell Evans and Ejike Obinna started 15 and 14 games, respectively, as freshmen and don’t appear to have any clear reason to leave the program (though Evans might see less playing time as a sophomore, particularly if Langford signs.)
That’s seven of the eight returning players who either don’t have any glaring reasons to want out or would have severely limited options if they left. That leaves Clevon Brown, a rising junior who would certainly have options if he transferred -- but Brown was sixth on the team in minutes played in SEC play, so there aren’t any major playing time concerns.
I suspect that Austin and Willis will be the extent of the departures. Who will take the remaining two scholarships?
Langford, again, is obvious, but that still leaves one scholarship to fill. Vanderbilt has kicked the tires on five-star E.J. Montgomery, who decommitted from Auburn after the FBI investigation dropped, but his Crystal Ball suggests that he’s Duke-bound.
One thing to note about next year’s Vanderbilt roster is that as of right now, Joe Toye will be the only senior on the team. That might be fine if Vanderbilt were in for a rebuilding year anyway, but with Garland and Shittu (and possibly Langford) in the fold, adding some experience might be a good idea, so expect Vanderbilt to look into possible graduate transfers.
A countervailing factor, though, is that Vanderbilt’s incoming class may have multiple players who won’t be in college for four years. (That is still a very weird sentence to write.) So adding a guy who might be here four years and develop could help, too. We’ll find out over the next few weeks.