SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Five-star point guard Darius Garland made good on his chance to have a homecoming of sorts at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions on Thursday.
Playing at Missouri State, Garland had a chance to play on the same campus where his father Winston Garland -- whose jersey hangs in the rafters -- played before moving onto the NBA and did his father proud scoring 16 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and grabbing seven rebounds to lead Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy to a 57-46 win over Wasatch (Utah) Academy.
“It’s crazy to look up and see his jersey in the rafters, that was really cool,” Garland told Rivals.com. “We talked about it a lot on the way down here and the most important part was getting the win but I think I did a good job of living up to what he did.”
While his father’s legacy is already set, Garland is looking to create his own legacy in his hometown at Vanderbilt and the chance to create a buzz in the city played a huge role in his decision.
“The vibe around the city is growing every day and they are looking for a good place to watch some basketball,” said 2018's No. 18 ranked player. “We have the Titans who just got a big win and fans are looking for another team to watch and hopefully I can be a part of them coming to check us out.”
A crafty ball handler, playmaker and dangerous shooter, Garland has added 12 pounds of muscle since the end of the summer. The added bulk has paid off.
“I’ve put a l lot of time into the weight room and it’s something that I’ve been focusing on and I’m really starting to like it,” said Garland. “I’ve been doing it for a couple of years and at first I didn’t like it at all but now I’m working with a trainer who is getting me right and that’s the main focus. I’ve drawn a lot of fouls and I’m getting to the free throw line a lot. Now I’m bouncing off a lot of players that before were pushing me around and now I’m bumping them off and getting to my spots.”
Garland is part of a historic recruiting class for the Commodores that also includes five-star power forward Simisola Shittu and four-star wing Aaron Nesmith. He’s looking forward to making waves with them.
“I talk to Simi a lot,” said Garland. “I don’t talk to Aaron quite as much but I’ve seen him and he’s a really good shooter and really athletic and will help us out a lot next year. Simi, me and him are really tight. We played against each other in the EYBL and that’s my guy and I know he can go.”
Garland and his future coach Bryce Drew are still hoping to add another big piece in five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford who is down to Vanderbilt, Indiana and Kansas. He’s doing everything he can to lure one of the best pure scorers in the country to Nashville.
“I’ve been trying to get to him a lot,” said Garland. “I’ve been texting him and we’ve had some long conversations. I think we are in a good spot right now. He’s a home kid for Indiana and Kansas is tough but we’d love to have him at Vandy and I make sure he knows that.”
Langford or no Langfod, Garland is all in with Vanderbilt and can’t wait to get on campus.
“I’m looking forward to bonding with the coaches and teammates,” said Garland. “It’s a real good school, I’m going to get a good education and some of my best friends from school who I’ve been playing with since the fourth grade are going there. It’s the SEC and I’m just looking forward to playing against the best.