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Vanderbilt Basketball Player Preview: Trey Thomas

What is Trey Thomas’s role on this team?

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Georgia vs Vanderbilt Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe one of the most surprising things about the 2021-22 Vanderbilt Commodores was that Trey Thomas played the fifth-most minutes of anyone on the team.

That wasn’t something that we thought would be the case. Entering the season, Thomas was a guy who had showed himself to be a useful, if limited, player during his freshman year, but the thought was that he might have been recruited over. Over the offseason, Vanderbilt had added a talented transfer in Rodney Chatman, a couple of promising freshman guards in Peyton Daniels and Shane Dezonie, and also had a healthy Tyrin Lawrence — all of that in addition to the return of Scotty Pippen Jr.

What actually happened was that Daniels left the team three games into the season, Chatman missed 20 games due to injury, and Dezonie, while showing promise, was not ready for prime time. Walk-on Drew Weikert would up playing real minutes for last year’s team. The point was, the things that we thought would relegate Thomas to a minor role last season didn’t materialize, and he averaged 18.3 minutes per game — right in line with his freshman year playing time.

So for this year... lather, rinse, repeat. Thomas has his uses as a guy who can get hot from three-point range; though he shot just 33.6 percent from deep last season, that was dragged down by an awful stretch early in the season. Once SEC play hit, he was a 41.1 percent shooter beyond the arc. He’s also, essentially, a 5’11” shooting guard who can’t really play the point and is a defensive liability; per sports-reference, Thomas had a 104.7 defensive rating on a team that posted a 97.8 team defensive rating, meaning that Vanderbilt’s defense was about 7 points worse per 100 possessions with Thomas on the floor.

So what is Thomas’s role for the 2022-23 Vanderbilt Commodores? Chatman, Pippen, Dezonie, and Daniels are all gone (and so is Drew Weikert, for that matter.) Ezra Manjon is in to start at the point, Tyrin Lawrence is probably in line to start at the two-guard spot — though so far, Lawrence playing ahead of Thomas has been in effect sacrificing offense for defense. Thomas’s inability to play the point probably means that Vanderbilt will need one of two freshmen (Noah Shelby or Paul Lewis) to function as the backup point guard; what happens to Thomas’s minutes will depend on whether the other is ready to play (and, frankly, whether Lawrence has improved enough on the offensive end to make it worth having him on the floor for 30-plus minutes a game.) If all of that happens, Thomas’s role on the team will be minimal. But all of that probably won’t happen, and chances are we’ll see him a decent amount again.