(I swear, at some point I’m going to finish this series.)
When Bryce Drew took the Vanderbilt head coaching job in April 2016, the Commodores didn’t have a point guard on the roster. Wade Baldwin IV had just entered his name in the NBA Draft. Riley LaChance could kinda-sorta fake point guard at times, and then-incoming freshman Payton Willis was seen as a combo guard at best, and really more of a shooting guard.
That problem wasn’t fixed in time for his first season in Nashville, but Drew addressed it for 2017-18 with the addition of Larry Austin Jr. as a transfer from Xavier, and a couple of weeks later, landing a commitment from Saben Lee. It’s long since been forgotten, but Austin opened the 2017-18 season as Vanderbilt’s starting point guard.
That didn’t last very long. Austin started the first two games against Austin Peay and Belmont, played 32 minutes and scored 13 points in an overtime loss to USC, and then started his final game for the Commodores in a loss to Seton Hall. That game — in which Austin went 0-for-3 from the floor and had three turnovers in 16 minutes of action — was the last really significant action Austin saw during the season. He had a few moments here and there, but Austin spent most of the conference schedule buried deep on the bench; he played 73 minutes total and didn’t appear at all in seven games. He ended the season scoring the fewest points (58) on the team and playing the second-fewest minutes.
While the emergence of Saben Lee had something to do with that, Austin’s own play in limited minutes didn’t really suggest that he should have been seeing the floor any more than he was. On the season, he shot 42.9 percent on twos (and only attempted four threes) and shot just 56.5 percent at the foul line. That would have been fine if he’d managed to create some offense otherwise, but he had 24 assists to 15 turnovers.
That a player the caliber of Austin was in a position where you’d even consider starting him early in the season was a pretty solid indication of how bare Kevin Stallings had actually left the cupboard. Remember: Kevin Stallings decided that he’d rather have Payton Willis than Carsen Edwards. That decision ultimately left Drew in a spot where he had to choose between a guy who transferred out of Xavier for more playing time, and a freshman. (That Drew didn’t choose Lee from the beginning is kind of disturbing, though I get the logic behind bringing a freshman point guard off the bench early in the season.)
In any case, Austin will not be a member of the 2018-19 Vanderbilt team; in perhaps the least surprising news of the season (what with Lee returning and Darius Garland coming in), Austin elected to transfer out of the program shortly after the season ended. Honestly, that’s probably the best for all parties involved.
Grade: D. I’m not trying to be mean-spirited here, but this just didn’t work out. At all.