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John Jenkins is Vandy’s biggest weapon, and weakness


Mike Miller

Vanderbilt got a gift when John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli all bypassed the NBA and returned to school for the 2011-12 season. As a result, the Commodores are one of the trendy Top 10 picks for next year, this blog included.

Hey, when you can trot out a trio of players like that, acclaim is deserved.

But if there’s a star among that group, it’s Jenkins. The 6-5 sweet-shooting guard is a candidate for SEC player of the year, All-America and national player of the year. He’s coming off a summer in which he led Team USA in scoring at the World University Games in which he was assertive and effective.

However, Vandy could have too much of a good thing.

The Mikan Drill did a lengthy breakdown of Vandy’s offense (using photos and video) and how it thrives when Jenkins is on his game. When he’s coming hard off screens or using his shot fake to create open looks, he not only scores, but opens up chances for his teammates. (It’s a long, but instructive read.)

And when he doesn’t … well, the Commodores don’t handle it very well. An excerpt:

One thing I noticed about the offense of Vanderbilt was that they often lacked a viable second option when Jenkins could not get open. If Jenkins ran off several screens but found himself defended, the offense often fell into a game of hot potato between guys who didn’t want the ball with the shot clock running out. Here is a very good example of that.

When Taylor’s playing, this issue is diminished somewhat. But Vandy’s bigger key will be how incoming guards Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson blend into the offense. The ‘Dores lacked a guard who could create his own shot – or for others – when the Jenkins screens weren’t working.

If neither becomes a factor, Vandys’s back to relying on its big three. That’s hardly a killer, but it does set up the odds of this happening yet again.

The other thing that would help? If Jenkins went all Jimmer Fredette and shot Vandy into contention through sheer awesomeness and audacity. Could happen, but a quick point guard would be even better.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.