The wave of transfers last week caught most Virginia fans by surprise. Guards Darius Thompson and Marial Shayok will be departing along with forward Jarred Reuter. All this came days after Bennett announced forward Austin Nichols would indeed not return to the team next season.
What was originally a one-man class — guard Marco Anthony took London Perrantes’ scholarship — now has four openings. All of a sudden the Cavaliers have a plethora of options to fill its 2017-18 roster.
One person who knows this better than anyone is the mind behind Hooz Got Next (@HoozGotNext). The Twitter and Facebook accounts were started about five years ago by a lifelong Virginia fan who noted Coach Tony Bennett’s rebuilding cycle and began following the team’s recruiting cycle to gain better understanding of the program.
Aided by Twitter to instantly and easily obtain information, Hooz Got Next became a quasi-expert in all things Virginia basketball recruiting. The person behind the account chose to remain anonymous for this story.
“Some guys golf, others fish, I follow U.Va. basketball recruiting,” Hooz Got Next said. “It's given me a much greater appreciation for Coach Bennett and the program [as a] whole. You'll find no better insight into a coach's character than following their recruiting tactics.”
The Cavalier Daily spoke with Hooz Got Next to discuss the upcoming offseason for the Virginia men’s basketball team.
Robert Elder: Last week, we officially found out Virginia has four scholarship openings for next season. Do you think the team will have trouble filling all of these spots given the short notice?
Hooz Got Next: Yes, I do. But I don't believe it's necessary to fill them all. Tony likes 11 active players ideally, 10 is acceptable. We currently have nine. So it's important to add at least one ready to contribute player, two if possible.
RE: With guards Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson gone, what roles do you anticipate for DeAndre Hunter and Marco Anthony next season?
HGN: A big role for DeAndre [Hunter]. He gives us something we lacked last season, an explosive wing with enough size to play small ball four. That's key in the era of spread four-out sets. Marco [Anthony] now has an opportunity as well. I don't expect his minutes to be big, but he needs to be ready to contribute as well.
RE: What split of the open spots do you think Virginia will fill with high school recruits or transfers?
HGN: I don't see the split as high school [versus] transfer, but more as redshirt candidates versus ready to contribute. Ideally, U.Va. will add two ready-to-contribute players. They could be [graduate] transfers or 2017 recruits. The other two spots will be used much more selectively, available to non-graduate transfers or potentially high school seniors who could benefit from a redshirt year.
RE: With Michael Porter Jr. heading to Missouri with his dad, are there any notable high schoolers Virginia fans should keep their eyes on for 2017?
HGN: Possibly Clifton Moore, a forward previously signed at Indiana. Less likely is Tremont Waters, a point guard previously signed by Georgetown. It's still very early in the late recruiting cycle. As coaching changes are made, more class of 2017 players will de-commit. We'll see who Virginia chooses to pursue as those players become available.
RE: What about transfers? Do you see any future Cavaliers on the market?
HGN: Again, still very early. Noah Dickerson and Steven Enoch, both big men transferring from Washington and UConn, respectively. Both were recruited to some extent by U.Va. originally, [and] each would need to sit and then have two years [of eligibility] remaining. There have been just over 200 Division I transfers as of today — expect that number to top 800.
RE: Do you think Virginia's need to fill spots for 2017 will affect the time Bennett can focus on the 2018 class this summer?
HGN: No, I don't think so. They're way ahead for 2018 in terms of relationship building. It shouldn't be an issue. I do believe the staff will be mindful of the impact these late additions could have on their 2018 efforts. It's why a graduate transfer guard makes a great deal of sense for us next season. The biggest need right now is another ball handler — a Thompson replacement. We seem to be in good position with 2018 guards, so having a one-year player to simply bridge the gap is the ideal play.
RE: With exception of the 2016-17 freshmen, Bennett's past few classes have underwhelmed. What do you think went wrong with some of these classes?
HGN: I tend to look at it from the other perspective, what went right in 2016? Nothing about Virginia's tactics changed, and they still haven't. What happened in 2016 was Tony [Bennett] was able to land his first choices. Four of the five-man class were sealed before ever making it to their final July AAU live periods, the players’ most active time for evaluation and offers. What fans need to realize is U.Va. did not get commitments from top 50 recruits. They landed commitments from players who eventually became top 50 recruits. Bennett struck early, finding great fits before most coaches ever saw those players. It was truly his masterpiece.
RE: Tony Bennett has received lots of criticism lately from both fans and the national media for the team's slow pace. Has his style hurt him on the recruiting trail in landing top prospects?
HGN: Sure, with some. It's also helped with others. Kids and those advising them are much more savvy than most realize. They want a system and a culture where they can fit and have an opportunity to excel. Overall, pace of play has little impact on recruiting. Style of play, on the other hand, does. Playing in a more spread-style offense would help tremendously, and I do believe that's the direction Bennett is heading with an emphasis on shooters, multiple ball handlers and big men who can stretch the floor.
RE: Looking ahead to the class of 2018, what are some recruits Virginia fans should keep an eye on?
HGN: As I like to say, 2018 is the new 2016. It's absolutely crucial to the program's long-term trajectory. Jahvon Quinerly is the top target on the board. The Jersey point guard is like London Perrantes with wiggle — special talent. Brandon Slater, the lean athletic wing from Paul VI High School in Fairfax [Va.]. Jalen Smith, a big man from Baltimore, could be a future ACC Defender of the Year. Keldon Johnson, [a] Virginia native who lights up the scoreboard at Huntington Prep. Musa Jallow, a powerful wing from Indiana. I could go on. Virginia has already extended over 20 offers.
RE: Virginia seems to be at an inflection point with Bennett, with the next two classes determining whether the Cavaliers will stay at the top of the ACC. What do you see as the future of the program?
HGN: As long as Tony Bennett is at the helm, Virginia basketball is in safe hands. These are the good ole days, enjoy them.
Robert Elder was the 127th Sports Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @R_F_D_E.