Bisons get to face VU team returning all starters

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 1:15am

The difference between last season and this one for the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team is that the players are the same. 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-style-parent:""; font-size:12.0pt;"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-"Times New Roman";}


In 2008-09 coach Kevin Stallings and his staff integrated six freshmen into the program, and three of them were starters for more than half the season.


When the Commodores open the 2009-10 campaign Monday against Lipscomb (7 p.m., Memorial Gymnasium) they will have 14 letterwinners and all five starters back. They also will have the benefit of a little extra practice time courtesy of an offseason exhibition tour of Australia.


“I think that there should be a much greater degree of feeling for one another and playing chemistry,” Stallings said. “I think the guys should have a much greater understanding of what the other guy’s getting ready to do.”


The only significant departure was that of George Drake, who completed his undergraduate degree and transferred to Alabama-Birmingham for his final season of eligibility. Drake started just five games in three seasons and averaged 3.3 points per game at VU.


The only notable addition is that of John Jenkins, the highest-scoring high school player in the country a year ago.


At least the top three in every significant statistical category is back for a second tour around the Southeastern Conference preceded by a non-conference schedule, which includes a trip to Hawaii later this month.


“We know each others’ games,” junior center A.J. Ogilvy said. “The only thing we have to add is John, and I think he’s going to be really good for us. … He’s a guy who can really shoot the hell out of the ball. He’ll be able to stretch out a defense and maybe give me more space to work inside.”


Point guard Jermaine Beal worked well enough with those around him last season that he led the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.02:1. However, that was down from 3.06:1 (also best in the conference) a season earlier.


“Last year was like an adjustment,” Beal, a senior, said. “Now, I have a year under my belt with them, so I know what those players like and don’t like. … So it really helps out.”