A few weeks ago, the Tribe announced the signing of big-time transfer, Andy Van Vliet. And when we say “big-time,” we mean it quite literally. Van Vliet checks in at a whopping 7’0″; you’d be hard-pressed to find a player taller than Van Vliet in William & Mary’s 113 year-old basketball history — that first season was back in 1905, for those of you too lazy to do the math (you’re welcome).
So how did a 7’0″ lefty, 3-point shooter from Belgium make his way from Europe to the U.S. midwest to the ‘Burg? Great question — that’s why you have us. Isn’t it great how that works? So let’s get to know W&M’s newest addition, Andy Van Vliet!
The Wisconsin Badgers’ website does a good job at describing Van Vliet’s experience in Madison, Wisconsin:
Left-hander played as an amateur for the Antwerp Giants on its “B” team in 2014-15 and regularly scrimmaged against and has played with the team’s “A” roster … the Antwerp Giants “A” team features former All-American and Iowa State Cyclone DeAndre Kane and former Arizona Wildcat Kyle Fogg … has also been a fixture on the Belgian youth national team, competing in the European Championship on the nation’s U16, U18 and most recently the U20 team in July of 2015 … averaged 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game during the 2015 European Championship, helping Belgium to its highest-ever finish (8th place) … Van Vliet is UW’s first foreign player since Austrian-born forward Andreas Helmigk (2003-05)
Sat out the season after the NCAA ruled him ineligible for not enrolling in college within a year of high school graduation
Appeared in 14 games, averaging 1.3 points, 1.4 rebounds and 3.4 minutes per contest … recorded career highs in points (9), rebounds (5), assists (2), FG (3), FGA (5), 3FG (3), 3FGA (3) and minutes (8) vs. Florida A&M (12/23)
Appeared in 17 games and made 4 starts, averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game … matched a career high with four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points in 24 minutes off the bench at Northwestern (2/22) … recorded 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 assist against Yale (11/12) … scored a season-high 18 points and made his first career start vs. South Carolina State (11/10), finishing with career highs in points (18), rebounds (8) and blocks (2)
• Played in 31 career games, including 4 starts
• Career Highs:
18p vs. South Carolina State (11/10/17)
8r vs. South Carolina State (11/10/17)
2a vs. Florida A&M (12/23/16)
Below are Van Vliet’s career statistics over two full seasons with the Badgers:
After a quick look at his game-by-game stats, one can clearly see how Andy showed the ability to shoot the ball last season, especially against Northwestern — a game in which Andy nailed four 3-pointers for the second time in his career (think he’ll fit in well with W&M’s vaunted 3-point shooting offense?). But despite early season success, and after Van Vliet started the first four games of the season, Andy would see his playing time vastly diminish. In fact, he finished the season having only appeared in 17 total games, averaging just over 3.4 points per game.
Decision to Transfer
Back in January, Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft elaborated when pressed about Van Vliet’s dwindling playing time:
“There’s certain things within the game that are non-negotiables in this program that physically he’s still working on. But sometimes you don’t always have to have the biggest, strongest stature to go out there and do the things we need you to do. He’s working every day with the scout team or with Coach Gard at those little things because it clearly isn’t shooting wide-open 3s. He’s pretty good at that.
That’s not the thing that’s holding him back from playing more minutes. It’s some of those little things that kind of have been pillars of this program. The physicality at which we need to play at in this league against the best teams, you need to be ready to go to war, and he’s still working on some of those things.”
It appears that the main concern that Wisconsin had with Andy’s game was his alleged ‘lack of physicality.’ Checking in at the aforementioned 7’0″, Andy is also listed at 227 pounds. A good Tribe comparison is W&M’s Cole Harrison, who played his one and only season with the Tribe last year as a grad student. Cole played the season listed at 6’11” 252 pounds — 25 pounds heavier than Andy. While the difference in weight isn’t all too significant, we think that the Badgers coaching staff’s main concerns were instead centered around Andy’s playing style, rather than his body-build. One can gather as much from Coach Krabbenhoft’s statement above. They simply thought that Andy did not fit their team’s vision for how a stereotypical “big man” should play the game. And that makes us happy, because when one door closes, another one opens; Van Vliet might be just what the doctor ordered for this Tony Shaver-led team in Williamsburg. And Roll Damn Tribe to that.
Unfortunately, due to NCAA transfer rules, Van Vliet must sit out one season before he can play with the Tribe. We saw this with David Cohn way back when he transferred from Colorado State (and with Matt Milon when he transferred from Boston College), and we’re seeing it again with Van Vliet. If Andy turns out to be even half of the player that Cohn was for the Tribe, then this will prove to be a great addition for the Tribe. In W&M’s 3-point heavy scheme, Princeton-style attack, Van Vliet’s smooth shot should fit right in. His length will surely help on the defensive side of the court, especially as Van Vliet matches up against far smaller players in the CAA (compared to what he was matching up against in the Big 10). Think about this: when Andy becomes eligible to play, he’ll be apart of one of the best, if not the best, senior classes in all of the CAA. This W&M senior class will include Nathan Knight, Matt Milon, and Justin Pierce. And assuming Van Vliet comes in with just one year of eligibility remaining, he’ll join that senior group as well.
Now, we used the words “assuming Van Vliet comes in with one year of eligibility remaining” for a reason. As you read above, Van Vliet actually sat out one year (in what would have been his freshman year) after the NCAA ruled him ineligible for not enrolling in college within a year of high school graduation. It is entirely possible that Andy appeals this ruling, and makes himself eligible to play for the Tribe for two years instead of one. Our fingers are crossed for this to happen, as W&M may be in dire need of a big man after Nathan Knight is lost to graduation in two years.
Moving forward, it would be nice to see Van Vliet develop his defensive game between now and the time he suits up for the Tribe for the 2019-2020 season. We know he’s a proven 7’0″ scorer, but if last season is any indication, W&M desperately needs help on the defensive side of the court. Either way, we project Van Vliet to provide much needed depth for the Green and Gold in the future, contributing significant minutes. This was a big victory for the Tribe, and one we cannot mention without giving credit to Tony Shaver and the coaching staff for pulling it off. Only time will tell if it pays dividends, but if recent Tribe transfers (David Cohn, Colorado State & Matt Milon, Boston College) are any indication, big things are in store for Van Vliet with the Tribe. We’re excited to see what Van Vliet can do for this program, and the new levels it can take with him suiting up.
LET’S GO TRIBE!!!