Vanderbilt’s Kedren Johnson has found a niche

It’s been a big adjustment so far for former Marshall County star point guard Kedren Johnson since he began his Vanderbilt career this season.

Lately, though, the freshman and former Mr. Basketball said things have started coming around.

“It hit me two or three weeks ago,” Johnson said. “I started to get used to how long the practices were and how intense the games were. I’m starting to get used to it. I think I’m starting to come into the zone a little bit.”

Johnson averaged 27.3 points and 10 rebounds last season for the Tigers and chose the Commodores over Florida, Louisville, Memphis and Alabama.

Johnson leads Vanderbilt’s freshmen in scoring (3.8) and minutes (13.7) and has appeared in every game. After a 10-day break, No. 25 Vanderbilt (6-3) hosts Indiana State (7-2) at 4:30 p.m. today in the first of three home games over the next five days.

“I think (our freshmen), they’re slowly picking it up,” senior point guard Brad Tinsley said. “It kind of takes a little bit to get it. We’ve all been there, but they’ve done a great job of giving us key minutes, especially down the stretch.

“I think Kedren plays really free. He doesn’t let a lot of things affect him. We all make mistakes, but his passing ability has gotten a lot better, and decision-making, I think, is a big key for him.”

Johnson agrees that there have been plenty of lessons to learn as he continues working to transition from the high school to college game.

“The big thing is the intensity of the game never slacks off,” Johnson said. “The whole game is going to be intense, unlike high school.

“When I first got here, I found out some of the things I could and couldn’t do with the basketball, like dribbling too soft where people could just take it or throwing soft passes that in high school would get through. I’m trying to learn all the lessons.”

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said he hoped this season Johnson “becomes a guy who is consistent off the bench and a guy we can really count on. He’s going through a lot of the trials and tribulations that every freshman goes through.”

Johnson said it was hard to get warmed up coming off the bench.

“(You) have to be disciplined enough to come out and execute just as good as the starting five would. As long as I go out there and play my game I should be fine.”

Johnson is getting more playing time while sophomore Kyle Fuller (11.4 minutes) is getting less. Fuller hasn’t played in the past two games.

“We’ve gone more with Brad and Kedren and we feel like they’ve played a little bit better,” Stallings said. “I’m sure it’s been difficult on Kyle and we’ve talked to him about that, but sometimes you have to accept your role, keep working to try to make it better but accept it with a great attitude.”

When asked whether he has considered transferring, Fuller paused a few seconds and declined comment.

When asked why his minutes have dropped, Fuller said: “It’s something that’s been a little bit my attitude, which has cost me, and another thing has been my shooting, which I worked on this summer. That’s frustrating when you really work on something but it doesn’t go in for you in a game. But it’s going to go in eventually.”

Goulbourne hopeful: Vanderbilt forward Lance Goulbourne took an inadvertant elbow to the head from teammate Festus Ezeli at Saturday’s practice but returned to practice Thursday after suffering concussion-like symptoms.

Stallings said Friday he thinks the senior will play in today’s game.

“At least right now we think he’ll play,” Stallings said.

“But if you’ve been around here very long you know that’s an hour-by-hour proposition. It’s not even day-to-day anymore. … He was woozy, I guess, for a few days.”

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