Karris Bilal speaks on impressive summer and Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse and his staff felt strongly enough about Riverwood (Ga.) guard Karris Bilal to add him to their 2024 class over a year before signing day. This summer they've had plenty of reason to feel validated in that decision.
Bilal spoke with Vandysports.com on Wednesday to speak on his impressive summer, Vanderbilt commitment and more.
The Vanderbilt commit started the summer on the Nike EYCL circuit, which is Nike's second circuit, and didn't disappoint. Bilal intends to end the summer with Atlanta Express, where he scored 29 points as recently as Sunday.
“I started the summer off with Alabama Fusion on the Nike circuit, that went well. Unfortunately we didn’t make Peach Jam or the PIT so I’m finishing up with (Atlanta) Express and that’s started off really well and I’m looking to continue that for the rest of July," Bilal said.
In 15 games on the Nike circuit, Bilal averaged 22.5 points per game. That mark ranked second on the circuit and first among players that appeared in over 10 games.
Bilal shot 45.2% from the field and 33.6% from 3-point range while being featured in a go-to scorer role. The Vanderbilt commit also had a 1.61:1 assist to turnover ratio.
The Vanderbilt commit identified his shot creation, operation out of the pick and roll, and turning defense into offense as areas in which he's been particularly successful offensively.
The 6-foot-2 guard feels as if he's improved since the high school season, particularly on the defensive end.
“I would say I got better, especially off the ball on defense. I’ve been really focused on it and just dialing in on defense and just showing that part of my game.”
Moving forward, the rising senior has pinpointed an area in which he's keying in on and feels he still has room to improve.
“I would say specifically keeping my jump shot consistent, game by game just keep shooting the same way," Bilal said when asked where in particular he wants to improve his game.
The rising high school senior wants to make that improvement with Vanderbilt in mind, a place where Bilal thinks he can contribute as a freshman.
“I’m really excited, I believe I can make an immediate impact as soon as I get there, I’m just waiting, I’m just waiting to get there next summer," said Bilal. “I just can’t wait to get there and help the team win and do whatever I have to do to help us win."
The class of 2024 commit was in the building for Vanderbilt's February win over Auburn and felt Memorial Magic for the first time.
“It was really exciting because first of all I saw the fanbase, it was just crazy. There were so many people," said the rising high-school senior.
The Vanderbilt commit found validation in his decision that day and has felt plenty of it since then. The talented guard confirmed to Vandysports that he won't be going anywhere.
“I’m still 100% locked in, I’m just keeping my relationship strong with the coaching staff and everything’s been going good and smooth. I definitely think it’s a good decision that I made," Bilal said.
Among those relationships with the coaching staff has been newly-promoted Vanderbilt assistant James Strong, who has been in consistent contact with Bilal and his mom since the promotion.
“I’ve been communicating a lot more with Coach Strong recently, he’s been communicating with my mom and I a lot, he was sending things throughout the whole month, it was called 30 reasons to come to Vanderbilt.”
The assistant played four years as a Commodore and was a captain in his senior season. Bilal finds value in having an assistant with Strong's pedigree.
“He knows what it takes to be in that system and knows what it takes to get minutes in college, just knowing that I have somebody coaching me that’s been there before (is valuable).”
The Riverwood guard wants two of his high school teammates to join him at the next level, as well. His brother Kaleb along with three-star guard Jalen Leonard. Vanderbilt reportedly reached out to Leonard on the first day of the 2025 contact period, Bilal has certainly followed up.
“That would be really cool for him to come here, that might be a possibility, I've talked to him about it," Bilal said when referring to Leonard.
The class of 2025 guard has already picked up offers from Georgia, South Florida and Kennesaw State. His teammate thinks that's for good reason.
“I would say he can do it all, he can get to the basket, he can shoot it, he can create his own shot, he can guard, he’s versatile, he can guard different positions and he’s just a good teammate, a really good teammate," said Bilal.
Leonard is a player that many have speculated will receive a significant bump in recruiting rankings, Bilal believes that he should be in consideration to do the same in his respective class.
“By the end of July and also by the end of my senior season, (my goal is) just to get a rankings bump because I think I deserve it and I think I’m gonna show everybody I deserve it throughout this month and my senior season,” Bilal declared while adding that a state championship is also on his list of goals.
The three-star guard has set himself up well to reach both of those goals with an impressive summer campaign.