It is a rare occasion when Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin picks up the phone to call opposing coaches. One of those occurrences happened this offseason with Nevada baseball.
Corbin reached out to Nevada head baseball coach T.J. Bruce about a potential roster opening for a graduate transfer looking for more playing time.
That player is senior outfielder Kiambu Fentress, and Bruce didn’t hesitate to answer the call and make a spot for him on the roster.
Fentress made the 2,140 mile trip from Nashville, Tenn. to Reno, Nev. and committed to the university soon after. With the help of a single phone call, Bruce and Fentress may have found a way to help Nevada reach new heights as a program.
“There are a few coaches in the world that when they call you do what they tell you. And coach Corbin is one of them,” Bruce said. “He said they had a potential graduate transfer that could fill a need for us…After I got off the phone with him, I immediately talked with Kiambu and we flew him out. He spent about 24 hours here, and he committed before he left. I thought that was a telling sign of what’s to come.”
Corbin has developed an eye for talent over his years of experience. Heading into the 33rd year of his coaching career, he has won two NCAA Division-I Baseball Championships with Vanderbilt in 2014 and 2019. Since his time with the Commodores in 2003, 15 players have been selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
Fentress spent four seasons with Corbin and Vanderbilt, winning a championship in the process. But his eyes are set on a new chapter of his collegiate career with Nevada.
“I just want to have fun,” he said. “That’s the main thing for me is to play every day and enjoy my time here. I feel I could bring a lot to this team, but you can’t really put too much on it…Times like these don’t last forever so I want to enjoy it.”
The 6-foot-1 outfielder is a long way from his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. Fentress is adjusting to his new surroundings on and off the field.
“It’s something to get used to,” he said. “The coaching is different. The environment is different. Reno isn’t like Nashville and so I’m just learning how to handle it all and taking strides and things like that. I will be just fine.”
Fentress totaled two hits, two stolen bases, seven runs and one RBI over his career with Vanderbilt. Despite his limited experience, Bruce has high hopes for his potential to bloom into an everyday player with the Wolf Pack.
“He brings a lot to the table from what he can do on the field,” Bruce said. “I think anytime you can add someone with a winning culture it speaks a testament to the university and the community…You talk about a Regional (appearance) he’s done it…It’s going to bring a ton to our program.”
The senior grad transfer has a lot of catching up to do. But Fentress has fit in with the rest of the team like a glove.
“Being here through the fall and spring has been a big adjustment for me,” he said. “Coming here still takes some adjustments. But the whole team has helped me get through this process. I’m still learning, I’m a new guy and taking it day by day.”
Before his arrival at Nevada, Fentress lettered in baseball, football and wrestling at Ensworth High School. He won the state championship all four years in football and was a first-team All-State and All-District selection.
Football is a common theme for the Fentress family. Kiambu’s father, Royce Fentress, was an All-American football player at Elon University. He was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in 1997. Kiambu’s brother, Natambu Fentress, also played football at the University of Miami.
Despite his family’s prominence on the gridiron, Fentress stuck with a baseball career. The decision to stick with baseball came full circle when Vanderbilt won the title last season.
“I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “It was a very fun experience. You hate to see it end because the ride to get there was so much fun. It was more about the journey for me than the ultimate destination. You could feel this vibe from the team the whole year and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Fentress experienced college baseball’s greatest accomplishment over his playing career. But he’s focused on bringing Nevada its first NCAA Regional berth since 2000.
“I hope we get to experience the same thing here,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world…That’s the plan we have. We just have to stay consistent, stick to business and the results will speak for themselves.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.