As Vanderbilt enters the offseason, and the search for a new head coach drags on, let's take a look at who's coming back for 2016-17 and what questions remain to be resolved. First, the handy scholarship chart:
|Senior||Nolan Cressler||Damian Jones||Luke Kornet||3|
|Junior||Wade Baldwin IV||Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis||Jeff Roberson||4|
|Sophomore||Camron Justice||Joe Toye||Samir Sehic||3|
|Freshman||Payton Willis||Clevon Brown||Djery Baptiste||3|
(You can quibble with the positions I've placed some of the players in on the chart. Don't. I'm not interested in debating whether Matthew Fisher-Davis is a two or a three. Unless you want to argue that he's really a five...)
At the moment, Vanderbilt projects to be at the scholarship limit for the upcoming season. If that holds, the roster is set. But it probably won't hold, for three reasons.
Draft decisions. Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones are listed in italics above, because, well, they might declare for the NBA Draft. We think, anyway. Or we've been told. Baldwin's position is odd, because it's come out twice in the past week that he's declared for the draft and hired an agent, and that's been denied by Baldwin himself. Despite the denials, a lot of internet sites insist that he's going to declare for the draft. Some even continue to insist that he already did and hired an agent, because sources. I'll believe it when I see it at this point, though.
Damian Jones is a different matter. Like with Baldwin, with Jones there seems to be a disparity between the dark corners of the interwebs (who all insist that he's "likely" to enter) and people close to the situation (who think Jones is much more on the fence than commonly believed.) The general sense from people who cover the draft is that Jones would be stupid not to enter the draft, because who cares about school? The reality seems more like Jones is legitimately struggling with the decision; he wants to come back but realizes that it may be in his best interests as a ballplayer to enter.
This is all complicated, of course, by the new draft rules. Both Baldwin and Jones can submit their names for evaluation, get invited to the combine -- and if they don't like what they hear from NBA teams, they have until May 25 to return to school (so long as they don't hire an agent.) So if either one drops their name but doesn't sign with an agent, their situation with Vanderbilt will sit in limbo until May 25. You can't give their scholarships to someone else as long as there's a chance they might come back (I mean, I suppose they could and then, if they do come back, hope someone else decides to leave), but you can't exactly plan as though they're going to be back, either. It puts Vanderbilt's new coach in an awkward situation, to say the least.
Recruits. Kevin Stallings signed two players to Letters of Intent in the fall, Clevon Brown and Payton Willis. At this point, all we really know is that neither player has asked out of his Letter of Intent yet, which is a good sign. But both are almost certainly waiting to see who the new coach will be prior to a final decision. I get the sense that both players really do want to come to Vanderbilt, independent of Kevin Stallings being the coach here, and if that's the case it would take a real instance of not meshing with the new coach (or his playing style) for them to go, but I could be wrong.
Transfers. Who really knows? The nine players projected on the roster who aren't going to the draft and aren't new to the program could all come back, or there could be some attrition. You never know if the players recruited by the last coach are going to like the new coach. So I'm not going to speculate on who will or won't be back with the team next year. The only player whom I would be very surprised if he does not return is Luke Kornet, and that's mainly because of his clear reasons to stay at Vanderbilt independent from the basketball program.
If there are any defections, the new coach does have some opportunity to get out on the recruiting trail. Some have suggested adding a graduate transfer point guard; but part of the problem with that is the situation with Wade Baldwin IV outlined above. If he's hanging in limbo and might legitimately come back, well, who's going to come here when they might have to sit on the bench? (Never mind that there might end up not being a scholarship available.) So these are the challenges that the next coach will face in his first month or two on the job.