SEC Basketball Notebook: Vandy transitioning to new look post-Kornet

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

CatsIllustrated.com takes an in-depth look at the lay of the SEC basketball landscape following the league's summer teleconference with head coaches (and assistants, in a couple of cases).

We're going team by team through the conference, so stay locked in for the entire series for a good idea of where things stand in SEC hoops.

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Drew has praise for Calipari

John Calipari, always the headliner of any SEC basketball event, led off the teleconference and not surprisingly the 'one and done' questions followed.

Vanderbilt's Bryce Drew was up next, and he immediately offered words of praise for Calipari following the recent NBA Draft outcome, which saw three more Kentucky players selected in the lottery.

"Congrats on all the draft picks," Drew said to Calipari, who had just ended his call. "Great for Kentucky, great for the league."

Of course, Kentucky has always put players into the lottery under Calipari. Later coaches appearing on the teleconference spoke at greater length about the talent Cuonzo Martin has amassed at Missouri, or how much overall talent the league seems to have.

Life after Luke

Late last week reports emerged that former Vanderbilt star Luke Kornet had signed a deal with the New York Knicks. He's working for an NBA future, and his absence will be felt in Nashville.

Kornet averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and two blocks per game as a senior for the Commodores last year. While he only shot 33-percent from long range, he had a quick trigger from outside and could stretch a defense.

With Kornet gone, Vanderbilt figures to look a lot different.

"We're going to really miss Luke," Drew acknowledged on the teleconference. "Obviously he's a special player with a special skill set. ... Our posts are definitely going to be more traditional, back to the basket guys and more bangers on the inside paint."

That, Drew believes, will make life different for Vanderbilt's guards as well. They were used to playing with a stretch big man last season, which created more space in the lane. With Kornet gone, and more of a traditional look inside, there's more likely to be less space in the paint.

But who will step up inside in Kornet's absence?

Vanderbilt recruited three-star center Ejike Obinna, a 6-foot-9 center from Virginia. Djery Baptiste, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound rising redshirt sophomore, played only sparingly a year ago.

The Commodores will lean more heavily on Jeff Roberson on the glass, who led the team with seven boards per game last season. Joe Toye, who like Roberson is more of a forward than a true big, will also take on an expanded role. Clevon Brown saw a little bit of time as a true freshman and could be asked to step up as well.

In the big picture, even minus Kornet the Commodores bring back a majority of production from last year's team, with players like Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Roberson as a solid core.

Kentucky fans should remember Kornet well. He shot better than 50-percent against the Cats, averaging 18.5 points in Vanderbilt's two meetings with Kentucky last season. Both of those games were won by UK (87-81 in Nashville, 73-67 in Lexington).

LaChance's role in '17-18

Riley LaChance has been a major contributor for Vanderbilt and had a lot of the distribution duties a year ago. He led the Commodores with 3.9 dishes per game.

He'll still probably be the lead guard in a lot of instances, but Drew should have more flexibility on that point this year.

The Commodores recruited a pair of quality guards in Maxwell Evans and four-star Saben Lee, and the hope is that will give Vandy the possibility for some different looks in the backcourt.

"We've done it all," Drew said. "Riley's played on the ball, he's played off the ball. ... I think Riley improved dramatically at that point guard position, so we obviously want to get him more shots off the ball but we feel very comfortable with him being at the point."

LaChance was a dead eye shooter from deep last year, with a .486 clip from long range. He made two of his 4.1 attempts per game, so it's easy to understand why Drew would want to look for ways to get him more looks.

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