BEASEY: The State of the Hoonion

A commentary on the status Virginia men’s basketball recruiting

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Virginia Coach Tony Bennett has attracted talented recruits over the years.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

With the recent addition of Holly Springs, N.C. forward Kadin Shedrick, recruitment for Virginia men’s basketball’s 2019 class has ended for the fall. Assuming there are no losses due to injuries or the draft, the Cavaliers have filled every scholarship in their roster, making this an excellent point to look over the recruiting turnaround that has occurred so far this year.

Between the landmark Class of 2016 and this spring, Virginia struggled to pick up many of its top targets. At point guard, the Cavaliers gambled and lost on Matt Coleman (University of Texas) in 2017 and Jahvon Quinerly (Villanova) and Jaelin Llewellyn (Princeton) in 2018. At center, it was Ike Obiagu (Florida State University) in 2017 and D.J. Burns (University of Tennessee) and David McCormack (Kansas University) in 2018. 

Again and again, Virginia men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett and the Virginia recruiting staff would appear to have the upper hand in a player’s recruitment, just to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

This is not to say that the players recruited in the classes of 2017 and 2018 will not be major contributors to Cavaliers’ offense. Sophomore forward Marco Anthony helped to lift an injured Virginia team over a stifling Louisville defense on Jan. 31 last season with 10 points on 4-6 shooting. Freshman guard Kody Stattman was a major contributor to Australia’s national team in this summer’s U18 Asia Championships. Redshirt freshmen forward Francesco Badocchi and freshman point guard Kihei Clark are uproven against college defenses, but both have excellent shooting abilities. 

Three-star recruit, Virginia standout and NBA second-round draftee Devon Hall’s career shows that rankings are not as important for a highly-touted developmental program like Virginia. Hall’s average of 0.7 field goals per game across 10 minutes of play time his freshman season show that development takes time, even when it works well. With the looming departures of many of the team’s best players by the end of the 2019-2020 season, Cavalier fans were justified in being concerned about the future of Virginia basketball in a post-Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome era.

Since the spring, however, Virginia’s recruiting woes have been alleviated by a barrage of great additions to the team. In early April, Virginia received a verbal commitment from Washington, D.C. shooting guard Casey Morsell. Morsell, in the Class of 2019, looks to be an immediate contributor to Virginia’s offense in a way many fans may find familiar.

“On my visit, it was crazy because he actually showed me my film and then Malcolm Brogdon’s and Kyle Guy’s film and it would be me doing the exact same thing as them,” Morsell said in April. “We are obviously all different players, but we do similar things.”

Since his commitment, Morsell has continually impressed on the national level, making until to the final cut to be on USA basketball’s national U-18 team and going undefeated alongside his team in the Nike EYBL circuit. Morsell’s tenacity, high percentage shooting and impressive offensive feel look to be a perfect fit to help remedy Virginia’s sometimes lethargic offense. 

“Virginia signee Casey Morsell is going to be one heck of a college player,” 247Sports basketball recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said on Twitter. “Impressive shot mechanics & is a very good long-range shooter. On the flip side, he's a lock down perimeter defender.”

In May, Virginia received an exceptional transfer in Alabama small forward Braxton Key. Key had a productive freshman season at Alabama, averaging 12 points and nearly 6 rebounds per game. His performance dipped after a knee surgery in the beginning of his sophomore season, but he could be poised to have a breakout season at Virginia — especially if he is able to play alongside sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter. 

Key’s eligibility is the final unknown for Virginia’s upcoming season. Though transfers are generally required to redshirt for a season before becoming eligible, Key has filed for a family hardship waiver with the NCAA that, if passed, would allow him to waive his redshirt year and become eligible immediately. The decision is still pending, but Key’s waiver would change the trajectory of the upcoming season and greatly assist the upcoming  “U.Va. Redemption Tour 2018-2019”​ as the Cavaliers look to fight past a devastating first-round tournament exit last March.

May proved to be major month for Virginia basketball, with Argentinian center Francisco Caffaro verbally committing to Virginia’s 2018 class. Despite being in the first graduating class of the NBA Global Academy, Caffaro was not as well known as many other recruits of his caliber and did not even have a ranking on most of the major recruiting databases. 

Caffaro’s announcement was met by some skepticism by Virginia fans and basketball analysts, who considered Caffaro as a long-term project for a Virginia team that already faced depth problems. These criticisms of Caffaro were silenced in June, when the 7-foot-0 big man performed exceptionally for Argentina in the FIBA U18 Americas tournament. 

Caffaro was instrumental in wins over Chile and Puerto Rico, and put up 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting against a star-studded U.S. team in a 104-92 loss. His stock exploded, and he is now considered a four-star recruit by both Rivals and 247Sports. Caffaro is the heir apparent to senior center Jack Salt, potentially combining Salt’s screening and rebounding ability with an exceptional shot mechanic and even larger stature.

Last month, Virginia expanded its diverse roster of centers with the commitment of Shedrick to the Class of 2019. After growing eight inches in high school, Shedrick’s stock soared in July and August, with the 6-foot-11 big man picking up offers from Indiana, Louisville, Georgetown and Florida, among many others. 

Originally listed as a guard, Shedrick brings a list of unusual and exciting talents to Virginia’s roster. He will need to add muscle to compete with the other bigs of the ACC, but is one of the youngest prospects in his class and could be a good fit to redshirt his first year along the likes of junior forward Mamadi Diakite.

According to Rivals analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans, Shedrick will need some development but has an incredible upside.

“During the summer, the slender big man showed a high level of skill and upside,” Bossi and Evans wrote of Shedrick. “He has great hands, runs the floor is a good athlete and is simply in need of more strength. Virginia has done very well with players cut from the same cloth as Shedrick and their ability to sell him on their development on the floor and in the weight room allowed them to close quickly.”

Overall, Virginia’s performance on the recruiting trail this year highlighted both incredible prowess and versatility. While the rosters for both this season and next are beginning to solidify, Bennett and the rest of the Virginia staff will stay busy working on assembling the vital — and admittedly distant — Class of 2020. 

Early names to be watching for are Richmond small forward Henry Coleman, Bell Buckle, Tenn. shooting guard Keon Johnson and Baton Rouge, La. point guard Reece Beekman. All three of these prospects have visits planned in the fall, and each would be an incredible addition to the program. 

For now, at least, the state of Virginia basketball is recovering, and the future of the Cavaliers looks bright.

Luke Beasey is a Sports Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at ldb2cj@virginia.edu or followed on Twitter @luke_beasey.

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