January 10, 2009

Maddux says VU freshmen best class ever

Former Vanderbilt guard Drew Maddux has remained one of the most active and vocal basketball minds in the Commodore nation. Maddux is the head boy's basketball coach at Nashville Christ Presbyterian Academy, and also coaches the Tennessee Tigers AAU team, which includes 2009 signee John Jenkins He is also a popular color commentator for Vanderbilt hoops television broadcasts, as well as a media commentator for Nashville's 104.5 The Zone.

Maddux has been a long-time member of VandySports.com, and for the last two years has been a partner with us in our coverage of Vanderbilt basketball. Our new SEC season begins today, as does our conversations with Drew about the 'Dores.

Drew, you've watched Vandy play this year, been to some practices, and talked with the coaches. How good can this Commodore team be this year?

I think they are very good and have a great opportunity in the league this year. It may be one of the top defensive teams, particularly in the half court, I have seen at Vanderbilt. Right now they are in the Top 10 in defensive field goal percentage in the country and the improvement

Defense has been a real surprise, I think even for the coaches. How have they become such a good defensive team?
Vanderbilt's ability to close out possessions by securing rebounds (+5.7 margin) has been a major factor in their defensive improvement.

What do they have to do to have a special season this year?
The freshmen have been a welcomed addition and provided length and athleticism. And A.J. Ogilvy continues to be a dominant inside force. (But) the x-factor for Vanderbilt this year inside the league will be if they can continue to improve their perimeter shooting. Jermaine Beal has dramatically improved in this area as he is shooting 47% from 3 and Brad Tinsley has been a steady force as he has shot almost 43%. If they continue to make shots, Vanderbilt will be very tough to defend as it will force other teams to make a decision on how they guard Vanderbilt.

You watch basketball every day, including other SEC teams. How big is their up side, and what has to happen to get there? Best and worst case scenarios.
I think they have unbelievable potential to make a great run inside the league this year compared to what most people thought coming into the year. Most of the so-called experts thought with the exit of Foster, Gordon, Neltner,etc. and the addition of so many new faces that Vanderbilt would be rebuilding this year. I thought otherwise as I saw their practices early and I saw how long and athletic Vanderbilt was and the emphasis this coaching staff placed on the defensive side of the ball.

That investment is paying big dividends now and will continue to as now this team can compete in games where they are not necessarily making shots, particularly on the road.

The only question that remains is how will that inexperience play out when you are on the road in the SEC. It could go two ways: play well because you do not know any better, or you struggle because you are not comfortable in your surroundings.

Talk about the freshmen.
First of all, let me say on the record that I think this is the best freshman class I have seen at Vanderbilt top to bottom and I think this class, if they stay together, will accomplish so much over the next several years.

Jeff Taylor is the most explosive athlete I have seen in a Vanderbilt uniform and if he continues to improve on his perimeter shooting, he will go on to be a pro one day. Brad been a steady force and just an amazing young man. He works really hard and has been a great addition with not only his shooting ability but, his confident ball-handling skills as well.

I was excited to see Lance Goulbourne recover from his sickness as he is really long and has the ability to make shots. And I think once Steve gets comfortable playing big-time college basketball, he will be a big-time player because of his versatility.

How far do you think they will go?
This team will definitely play in post-season. I think we are several weeks away from knowing which tournament they will play in.

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