Darius Garland has gone coast to coast with his college recruitment, hearing overtures from UCLA and Kentucky. However, home was where his heart is as he committed to Vanderbilt on Monday. To say that this is a giant win for Bryce Drew on the recruiting trail would be a humongous understatement. Drew's first five-star commitment as a head coach, Garland is a monumental pick-up for the program in Nashville.
A skilled, talented and shot making guard that can complete a variety of tasks in the backcourt, what should Vanderbilt expect with its newest pledge and where might Kentucky, Indiana and UCLA look next?
VANDERBILT: Excitement Factor - 10!
What Garland means? What a win for Bryce Drew on the recruiting front. The second-year staff at Vanderbilt had some success last fall, thanks to the signings of two Rivals150 prospects in Ejike Obinna and Saben Lee, along with one of the top athletes in the 2017 class in Maxwell Evans. While that was a solid class, Vanderbilt needed to do more this recruiting revolution, and the Commodores answered the bell with Garland's commitment.
Garland has been known as ‘the guy’ since he entered the high school ranks three years ago at The Ensworth School. Despite the coaching change at Vandy midway through his high school tenure, Drew immediately made the local product priority No. 1, 2 and 3. On Monday, Drew’s longtime pursuit and investment in the playmaking guard finally paid off, as Garland became the school’s first five-star pledge since John Jenkins did so in the winter of 2007.
“Coach (Bryce) Drew he’s a really good guy," Garland said to Rivals.com this fall. "I love the staff and I love what they have coming up."
Who is Garland as a ball player? He is a quick-twitch guard with some of the best handles in high school ball. On the Nike circuit, he averaged over 16 points, four rebounds and three assists, while also providing tremendous value as an on-the-ball defender. With his long-range shooting skills, Garland gives Bryce Drew the ability to be used off the ball and alongside someone like Saben Lee in two point-guard lineups.
The addition of Garland could just be the tip of the iceberg. The Commodores already hold the signature of Rivals150 shooting guard Aaron Nesmith, and also sit in a great spot with two other five-stars this fall, one being power forward Simisola Shittu and the other being scoring guard Romeo Langford. Garland’s close friendship and compatible playing style would be one of the primary reasons Langford might choose the SEC program, as he recently narrowed his list down to Vandy, Kansas and Indiana.
INDIANA: Sting Factor - 8
What’s next for Indiana? For a few weeks, the Hoosiers had taken the lead in the recruitment of the five-star lead guard. A prospect whose father hails from the state, Garland would have been the first five-star pledge for head coach Archie Miller. Miller, however, will have to wait a bit longer before securing such a highly ranked prospect. IU fans are hoping that could be Romeo Langford this spring. While Indiana currently sits with a top-15 recruiting class and one of the best within the Big Ten, Garland’s addition would have immediately added legitimacy to the program as a capable national contending force in the near future. Thankfully for the first-year staff in Bloomington, Indiana has secured the signature of Rivals150 lead guard Robert Phinisee. And the Hoosiers have plenty of ball-handlers on their roster, including Curtis Jones, Devonte Green and Al Durham. So the miss on Garland will not affect them as much. All eyes and attention this fall will now be placed on Langford, the top-ranked in-state prospect and a five-star scoring wing.
KENTUCKY: Sting Factor - 2
What’s next for Kentucky? Would the Wildcats have loved to add someone like Garland to their backcourt? No doubt, though it does help that Kentucky has already signed a top-10 lead guard in Immanuel Quickley. Both players are at their best whenever the ball is in their hands, though Garland is a bit more versatile, thanks to his shot-making, something that is rather missing on this year’s UK roster. However, the Wildcats were never a major threat for his commitment. They remained in the hunt, but more of their attention was placed in recruiting the two-guard variety. Quentin Grimes and Tyler Herro each have heard their fair share of attention from the Kentucky faithful. The miss on Garland is not too severe for the Wildcats compared to the others in pursuit. Immanuel Quickley is a John Calipari type of lead guard, while Keldon Johnson’s pledge to the program on Saturday provides the alpha-dog scorer that may be lacking on Kentucky’s roster.
UCLA: Sting Factor - 8
What’s next for UCLA? This one is a bit difficult. From a need standpoint, UCLA was the program - outside of Vanderbilt - that could have used Garland the most. However, from a realistic standpoint of whether they had a legitimate shot at securing Garland, the Bruins were never a serious threat. The Bruins, who use a very guard-reliant offense under Steve Alford, will have pressing needs in the backcourt following this season. Aaron Holliday is a string of games away from tossing his name into the NBA Draft, and the same could be said for freshman guard Jaylen Hands. There is some uncertainty about how much they can lean upon Prince Ali, who, as of this moment, is the only definite playmaker to be on next year’s roster. UCLA has filled many of its needs on the wings and in the frontcourt, but nabbing a primary guard that can make shots and make plays - the defining traits of Garland - remains a must. Expect the Bruins to further prioritize Anfernee Simons, a former Louisville commit who spoke in-depth about his recruitment earlier this month.