Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse knows as much about the NBA as any SEC head coach after playing in the league for 19 seasons.
After Tennessee handed Vanderbilt is 11th consecutive loss in the series Tuesday night, Stackhouse detailed how Vols’ shooting guard Santiago Vescovi reminds him of a NBA Hall of Famer he played against.
“He reminds me of (Manu) Ginobili a lot,” Stackhouse said.
There are obvious comparisons between the two. Both are left-handed shooting guards from South America. Vescovi hails from Montevideo, Uruguay while Ginobili is from Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
However, Stackhouse outlines similarities in how they play the game, especially on the defensive end of the court.
“I think Vescovi, he is borderline edgy, so to speak,” Stackhouse said. “I don’t think everything he does is within the limits of what you should be doing. He does it and he is consistent with it. … those guys that get up under your skin. You love to have them on your team but you don’t like playing against them.”
Tennessee plays a physical style of basketball that lends itself to pushing the limits of what will or won’t get called a foul. After being lost as a defender during his freshman season, Vescovi has developed into a stout defender in his four-year career due in large part to his craftiness and high IQ.
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While his sharpshooting and offensive prowess is what most stands out about Vescovi’s game, similarly to Ginobili, he is a complete player averaging 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
“Defensively, he was locked in at the start,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of Vescovi postgame. “He always is, like I’ve told you many times. He impacts the game without scoring.”
Vescovi impacts the game without scoring but he does quite a bit of scoring too. Moving without the ball relentlessly, Vescovi creates open shots for himself and opens up defenses as they attempt to run him off the three-point line.
The senior guard was brilliant in the second half Tuesday night against Vanderbilt, making five-of-six shots from the field in a 12 point half. Despite a slow start to the season shooting, Vescovi is averaging 12.9 points per game on 36% shooting from the perimeter this season.
“On offense, he’s a player that really sees it and he is always out there adjusting to however teams are playing him, but his movement without the ball too,” Barnes said. “When he gets moving and gets his feet set he’s a guy that’s difficult to deal with.”
Ginobili played 18 seasons in the NBA where he averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 37% shooting from three-point range exhibiting many of the same traits Vescovi does.
Vescovi and the Vols return to the court Saturday when they face rival Kentucky at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is at noon ET on ESPN.