Vanderbilt should be able to replace A.J. Ogilvy’s size. The offensive production the 6-foot-11 center brought to each game is a different matter.
Ogilvy, currently playing in Turkey, averaged 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game last season. When he didn’t score in the low post, he often drew contact as he went to the free-throw line (he attempted 216 foul shots).
Expected to fill that void down low will be the junior tandem of Festus Ezeli (6-11, 255 pounds) and Steve Tchiengang (6-9, 245 pounds).
With their length and size they harassed opponents on defense last year and gave the Commodores valuable minutes when Ogilvy got into foul trouble. But the duo only averaged a combined 7 points and
6 rebounds in a total of 24 minutes a game.
“Are they going to score as many points or are they going to get fouled as much as A.J. got fouled? Probably not,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “But that is OK. If they can be productive in their way, then that is what our team needs.”
Ezeli, a native of Nigeria, should get most of the starts at center. His forte is his defense: He blocked 43 shots last year — only five fewer than Ogilvy.
Tchiengang is a forward from Cameroon. He’s shown in two years that he is not just an inside presence but someone who can shoot from 3-point range.
“Steve can be a threat on the perimeter as well, and that is a part of the game I think A.J. might have lacked a little bit,” Ezeli said. “He had some of that, but not as much as Steve does shooting 3s.”
While the pair will contribute in their own ways, having a solid big man the Commodores can rely on in tough Southeastern Conference games will be important.
“Festus and Steve will have to pick up a lot of responsibility with A.J. gone,” guard/forward Jeffery Taylor said. “They have improved [over the summer] in a lot of areas that a lot of people thought they needed to get better at. So I definitely feel that they are ready for that responsibility.”