Ezeli, Johnson, Taylor to return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings announced that center Festus Ezeli, guard John Jenkins and forward Jeffery Taylor will all return for the Commodores in the 2011-12 season. Vanderbilt finished the 2010-11 campaign with a 23-11 record and will return all five starters and 10 letterwinners next year.
“Obviously, we are very excited that those three guys have all decided to return to our program next season,” Stallings said. “All three carefully, thoughtfully, and diligently acquired information, with my help, about their draft status for the upcoming NBA Draft. After receiving the information, all three decided individually that it was their desire to return to Vanderbilt. I commend and applaud them for the intelligent and diligent way they approached this process in making their decision. Their return certainly positions our team for an exciting season next year.”
Ezeli, a 6-11 center, emerged from A.J. Ogilvy’s shadow in 2010-11 to start in all 34 games and averaged 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, while also setting a new single-season block record with 87 blocks. Considered one of the nation’s improved players, Ezeli, a rising redshirt senior, returns to anchor the Commodores interior presence next season. Ezeli was a second-team All-SEC choice in 2010-11.
“We’re going to be a better team next year, and we still have a lot of unfinished business,” Ezeli said. “After the loss in the tournament, I can’t leave on that note. There’s no rush for me to want to leave. I want to play here with these guys, I enjoy playing for coach Stallings and this staff, and I look forward to earning my degree.”
Jenkins, a rising 6-4 junior shooting guard, led the SEC in scoring at 19.5 points per game and threes made with 3.1 made per game, will return as one of the nation’s top scoring threats. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native started in 32 games in 2010-11 and is only 36 points shy of the 1,000-point barrier. Jenkins was an honorable mention All-American selection and was a unanimous choice for the All-SEC first team last season.
“I’m not too happy with the way the season ended in March,” Jenkins said. “I think we all have a sour taste in our mouths from that experience in Denver. I love playing here, I want to get my education first, and I look forward to being a part of a great team next year.”
Taylor, a 6-7 forward, has started in 97 games in his three-year Vanderbilt career, and averaged 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 2010-11. The rising senior became the 41st player in Vanderbilt history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau last season, and scored 20 or more points on eight occasions. Taylor has been a second-team All-SEC and All-Defensive team selection for the last two seasons.
“While playing in the NBA is a dream of mine, I feel like Vanderbilt is the best place for me right now,” Taylor said. “As a team, we have unfinished business on the court, and personally, I am focused on my work in the classroom and getting a degree. I love representing Vanderbilt University, and I have a lot of fun with my teammates and coaching staff and playing for the great fans at Memorial Gym. Hopefully, there will be a time when I can fulfill my dream, but right now, I’m focusing on getting better on and off the court here at Vanderbilt.”