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VOL. 43 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 15, 2019

VU, Lipscomb, Belmont players have NBA aspirations

By Tom Wood

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Vanderbilt wanted to ease freshman Saben Lee into college basketball last season, but injuries forced him into the starting point guard role.

-- Photo By Michelle Morrow |The Ledger

This time last year, Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Garrison Mathews were all in Nashville starring for Vanderbilt, Belmont and Lipscomb, respectively.

Now they’re all on NBA rosters – Garland and Windler (currently injured) as first-round draft picks by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the undrafted Mathews signing a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards. A number of other players from the three schools are also playing professionally, either in the NBA G League or overseas.

Here are a few current collegians at the three Nashville schools who could one day be playing in the NBA.

Vanderbilt

Junior guard Saben Lee: He started every game a year ago, but in first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse’s offense is expected to give Vandy a spark off the bench – a role to which he’s quickly adjusted. He poured in a team-high 19 points in an exhibition win and tallied 21 in the season-opening victory.

“It’s definitely an adjustment, but I trust Coach Stackhouse and what he’s doing for the team,” Lee says. “It’s a different role and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Stackhouse, who spent 18 seasons in the NBA, says Lee’s new role will help him take his game to the next level.

“I tell these guys all the time that every NBA team has its starting eight. They have the first eight guys; they’ve gotta try to find a way to fit in from nine to 15,” Stackhouse explains.

“That’s being able to do all the dirty things, showing that you can come off the bench. That can be attractive for him for the next level. But it’s not about who’s starting, but it’s about who’s finishing the game.”

Sophomore forward Aaron Nesmith: At 6-foot-6, size might work against him. But his shooting touch is a major asset that could help a lot of teams. He scored a team-high 25 points in the Commodores opener.

Freshman point guard Scotty Pippen Jr.: A flashy player who is already showing off his star qualities to win-starved Vandy fans. He scored 15 points in the exhibition game but only seven in the regular-season opener. He dished out 6 assists and ran the offense with the authority, skill Stackhouse is seeking.

Freshman forward Dylan Disu: He’s a cat-quick 6-foot-9 and could be a cornerstone player before leaving Vandy. He had 5 rebounds in the opener.

Others to watch: Forward Clevon Brown, a 6-foot-8 senior, and 6-foot-8 junior Matthew Moyer.

Belmont

Sophomore center Nick Muszynski: At 6-foot-11, he stands tall in the midmajor OVC. He was the OVC freshman of the year after averaging 14.9 points and 5.8 rebounds and leading the Bruins to an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. This season, he had 20 points and 5 rebounds in the opener.

“I love the game of basketball, I would love to play as long as the game will let me play. But … that is a goal,” Muszynski points out. “I want to be as good as I can be, and again, it’s about our team and winning games and championships and making the NCAA Tournament.”

Sophomore guard Grayson Murphy: He ranked 14th nationally in assists last year with a 6.5 average. In this season’s opener, the former Independence High star had 17 points and 9 rebounds.

“(An NBA career is) for sure a dream, but I mean all of us want to play after college I’m sure, but right now just focusing on this team. If that opportunity approaches, then I’ll love to take it, yeah,” Murphy adds.

Lipscomb

Senior guard Michael Buckland: His 6-foot-5 frame would be an asset at the next level, and his ball-handling skills are excellent. He’s averaging 10 points in two games.

Sophomore center Ahsan Asadullah: He’s 6-foot-8, goes strong to the basket and rebounds well. He’s averaging team-highs of 15 points and 12.5 rebounds through the first two games.

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