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Braelee Albert is Vanderbilt’s overqualified 14th man

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We open our Vanderbilt basketball preview with the walk-on.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

By the Numbers

Player GP GS ORtg Poss % MPG PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% 3FG% FT% 3PA% WS
Player GP GS ORtg Poss % MPG PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% 3FG% FT% 3PA% WS
Braelee Albert 20 6 81.6 10.60% 14.2 1.8 1.8 0.2 0.2 0.2 26.32% 30.00% 100.00% 78.94% -0.1

A rather persistent annoyance of mine while watching the Bryce Drew-era Vanderbilt basketball team was that, even with a bench that was often spectrally thin and players who occasionally appeared to be giving about 20 percent effort (okay, that was one guy, but that’s not the point), the walk-ons on the roster barely got off the bench. In fact, non-scholarship players saw a grand total of 18 minutes of floor time under Drew, or 33 minutes fewer than Jon Jossell, a senior manager who got added to the roster, saw in 2019-20 — and Jossell was only the third-most-used walk-on last season.

So that brings us to Braelee Albert. Albert, who joined the team at semester break, was probably a bit better than a typical walk-on: the 6’5” sophomore from Brentwood School in Los Angeles was good enough to get recruited by Brown, and managed to play 284 minutes in 20 games as a freshman, starting six times. That said, his usage looked like that of a typical walk-on: he attempted just 38 field goals and 7 free throws. To put that in perspective, Clevon Brown, who played 34 fewer minutes on the season, attempted 56 field goals and 20 free throws. His usage rate was lower than any of the scholarship players on the team and that includes players like Oton Jankovic and Matthew Moyer. Albert was basically an extra body on the floor, a guy who was there to draw charges and take the occasional three-pointer (30 of his 38 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc) and really just buy Stackhouse a few minutes of rest for other players. That said, by the end of the season, Vanderbilt’s roster was depleted enough that Albert was playing a lot: he started the final three games of the season (and, well, I would point out that Vanderbilt won two of those), and incredibly, he was the starting power forward in a lineup with Max Evans, Saben Lee, and Scotty Pippen Jr.

Ahem.

So what to expect from Albert in 2020-21? Well, the big difference this year is that Vanderbilt will have a full complement of scholarship players and it’s entirely likely that all 13 of them will be eligible to play (pending Issac McBride’s waiver request.) Last season, Vanderbilt started the season with 10 scholarship players available and that number ultimately dropped to seven as Clevon Brown, Aaron Nesmith, and Matthew Moyer’s seasons ended due to injury (hell, Vanderbilt had one game in which six scholarship players were available.) I might expect that number to drop by one or two because of redshirts, and who knows if injuries will strike again (and, ahem, Albert might actually be a better player than one or two scholarship players on the team, though we’ll get to that later.)

The point is, though, as fun as it is to see the walk-ons playing their hearts out, Vanderbilt probably won’t have a depleted roster again this season, which means that Braelee Albert will end up being something like the 12th or 13th man on the roster. Stackhouse will still put him out there if the team isn’t giving the effort he likes, but we probably won’t be seeing him start this season. And that’s fine.