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  • Writer's pictureMatt Babcock

Prospect Spotlight: Aaron Nesmith

NBA draft analyst Matt Babcock takes a deep dive into the background of NBA prospect Aaron Nesmith of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

A little over a month ago, on January 20th, it was announced that Vanderbilt’s star player, Aaron Nesmith, would be out indefinitely due to a stress fracture in his right foot — he would likely miss the remainder of the season, as the injury would require surgery. This was surely devastating news for head coach Jerry Stackhouse and the Vanderbilt Commodores’ team. However, with doctors projecting a full recovery by early April, Nesmith should be in a prime spot to take the next step in his career if he chooses: the NBA. Prior to his injury, Nesmith shined brightly for the Commodores, averaging 23.0 points per game and making 60 three-pointers, all while shooting 51.2% from the field and 52.2% from three-point range, making him perhaps the best shooter in the 2020 NBA Draft and a probable mid-first round draft pick.

Despite being included in just about everyone’s mock draft at the moment, Nesmith wasn’t a 5-star recruit or a McDonald’s All-American out of high school. The spotlight hasn’t been on him for as long as some other NBA prospects, including James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball. As a result, I’m not so sure everyone knows him that well. Therefore, let’s take a deeper dive. Who is Aaron Nesmith?

Aaron Joshua Nesmith was born on October 16, 1999 (20 years old) to parents Bernard (Bernie) and Erine in Charleston, South Carolina. He was also raised in Charleston, in a household with parents that are considered to be “the salt of the earth.” They stressed hard-work and promoted education. As a result, Aaron and his older brother, Eddie, excelled as student-athletes at Porter-Gaud High School. Eddie was a standout in track and field and is currently a fourth-year undergraduate at Harvard pursuing a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Aaron also performed as a student-athlete, earning a 3.45 GPA and being named the 2017-18 Gatorade South Carolina Player of the Year for his senior season. Porter-Guad’s team also featured 2018-19 McDonald’s All-American, Josiah James, who was a class behind Nesmith. James currently plays at the University of Tennessee. Another interesting sidenote: Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks also played at Porter-Gaud and for the same coach, John “J.P.” Pearson. Middleton has returned back home each off-season to workout with the Porter-Gaud players and has become a mentor to Nesmith.

In addition to playing for Porter-Gaud High School, Nesmith also played for a local Charleston AAU Team, TMP, which interestingly is not affiliated with a shoe company. Although having a successful high school career at Porter-Gaud and with TMP, Nesmith was only considered a 4-star recruit and was ranked #69 on ESPN’s Top 100 rankings for the class of 2018. He was recruited by SEC schools Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in addition to Ivy League schools Columbia and Harvard. However, he was not recruited by “Blue Blood” schools Duke or North Carolina, although being within driving distance from Charleston. Nesmith ultimately chose to attend Vanderbilt due to the balance of basketball and education; a school in a “Power Five” conference, the SEC, with a level of education that has led to the common reference of the “Harvard of the South.”

I find it fascinating that not only did Khris Middleton come from the same high school as Nesmith, he was also a late bloomer. He was under-ranked and recruited out of high school, as he was ranked #82 on ESPN’s Top 100 rankings for the class of 2009, attended Texas A&M, and was the 39th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Middleton is now a two-time NBA All-Star.

After taking a deeper dive, I’m left asking myself: how closely is Aaron Nesmith following in Khris Middleton’s footsteps? All signs indicate he’s following pretty closely.

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