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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Scotty Pippen Jr. Didn't Return to Vanderbilt to Lose

39 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: SEC Staff

When he arrived as head coach at Vanderbilt two years ago, Jerry Stackhouse knew what he knew.

"It's not like I had to learn a lot about basketball," he told SEC Now during a Build Up 2 Basketball appearance on the SEC Network. "I've been playing basketball and been around this game for a long time."

As a player, he was a first-team All-American at North Carolina and a two-time NBA All-Star. As a head coach, he was the NBA G League coach of the year after leading the Raptors 905 to their first league championship.

Two years later, Stackhouse acknowledged that he's received an education in SEC basketball.

"I learned a lot from Year One to Year Two," he said. "Just learned a lot about my team. Learned a lot about the college game. It's an adjustment. There's a difference in how the pro game is played and how you can manage a game from the college level. I've gotten a chance to implement a system that takes some time. Hopefully, this year is where we can really show what our guys have learned."

Stackhouse already has demonstrated that he knows how to develop talent. After his first season, the NBA drafted two Commodores, Aaron Nesmith as a lottery pick at No. 14 and Saben Lee at No. 37. Last season, Scotty Pippen Jr. earned first-team All-SEC honors after finishing second in the league in scoring (20.8 ppg) and assists (4.9 apg). Dylan Disu led the conference in rebounding (9.2 rpg) despite missing the final eight games with an injury.

Afterward, Disu transferred to the University of Texas, and Pippen declared for the NBA Draft. Fortunately for Stackhouse and the Commodores, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Pippen decided to return for his junior season.

How special was his sophomore year? His average of 20.8 points a game was the highest by a sophomore in school history, the best by anyone in the program since 1999-2000. His ability to score and set up his teammates earned him recognition this week as SEC preseason player of the year.

But like his coach during two years on a college sideline, Pippen received an education during the draft process. He learned that individual success alone doesn't earn you a first-round grade from NBA talent evaluators.

"Not making the NCAA Tournament kinda hurt my stock," he said during a media availability last week. "Also having a losing season hurt my stock. So I knew if I came back, after winning and having the stats I had last year, no one could tell me I'm not a first-round pick."

Pippen said Stackhouse and his staff visited him in California during the pre-draft process, which contributed to his decision to return and his desire to lead the Commodores to their first winning season since 2017.

"I didn't come back to lose," Pippen said. "That's my main mindset coming back here. I want to be a tournament team this year. I think we can do that."

His coach shares that confidence.

"We've always been competitive," Stackhouse said. "I expect us to be in the top half of our league with the pieces that we've added and the continuity we've had from the guys who've been here a couple of years and understand what we're trying to accomplish. I'm excited about that."