The Curious Case of Vanderbilt’s 2018 Recruiting Class

The conference standings for the SEC are starting to clear up early in the season, with teams like 8. Kentucky, 9. Texas A&M and 20. Tennessee remaining at or near the top of the conference. What’s most impressive is that all but one team is at least .500 through about nine or ten games, which is extremely impressive. However, that one sub-.500 program – the Vanderbilt Commodores – is currently working on a feat that rivals that of in-conference foe Kentucky and several other big blues across the country.

Vanderbilt is a school that’s known for baseball and has produced major league talents like David Price and Dansby Swanson. They even sent Jordan Matthews to the NFL just recently. However, it’s never been known as a basketball school – the most notable NBAers they’ve got are DeMarre Carroll and Festus Ezeli. This brings me to my point: come next season, Vandy is poised to have one of the top basketball programs in the country. They’ve already secured two five-star recruits in PF Simisola Shittu and PG Darius Garland, who rank 6th and 11th in ESPN’s 2018 top-100, respectively. Additionally, they’re firmly in the mix for another five-star, SG Romeo Langford, who ranks fifth on that same list.

Two or three five-star recruits on the same court, and they won’t be wearing some shade of blue? It’s not uncommon to see Duke or Kentucky pull off a feat of this magnitude, but VANDERBILT? REALLY? How did head coach Bryce Drew – whom I needed to google, by the way – pull this recruiting coup d’état off?

It gets even more interesting when you look at their other offers. Garland also reportedly got offered by Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA, while Shittu received offers from Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina and Notre Dame, among others. Langford has offers from some of the same schools who offered the other two, but Vandy is also on the list. For some reason, the Commodores appear to be peaking all of their interests as a one-and-done option.

I would be wondering if something illegal was going on behind the scenes, but with how hard college basketball cracked down this past year on illegal recruiting, I tend to believe otherwise. Going under that presumption, the University of Vanderbilt is legally acquiring three top-11 prospects in next year’s class (assuming Langford signs). The only other school capable of pulling that off is Duke, who has gotten top recruit R.J. Barrett and third overall prospect Can Reddish and is in on dunking legend and the number two recruit in the country, Zion Williamson. Duke and Vandy as the top-two one-and-done destinations for 2018; seeing the latter mentioned in the same breath as the former is just weird.

Maybe this will turn out to be an illegal recruiting scam. Maybe Bryce Drew is the next great college basketball coach. Most likely, it’s just something no one can explain. Vanderbilt is putting together an elite recruiting class that should put them in the National Title conversation next season. How they’re doing it – well, neither I nor anyone I know has any idea.

All stats and info courtesy ESPN and REAL GM.

Cover photo courtesy vanderbilt.edu.

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