Virginia basketball is going to look significantly different than it did last season — arguably for the better. Many familiar faces have left the program, but a new youth movement gives the roster all the potential in the world. Among the leaders of the new orange and blue will be Christian Bliss, a four-star point guard from Newtown, Pa.
Bliss was originally a 2024 recruit, but reclassified to 2023 and will join the Cavaliers a year early as a redshirt freshman. He has the potential to start in 2024 in what would have been his true freshman season — but with an extra year of practice under his belt. In the contemporary college basketball landscape, Bliss’ mental maturity to enroll early and redshirt is both rare and admirable.
“I just thought a year in college to prepare would help a lot,” Bliss said in an interview with the Cavalier Daily. “Developing physically and mentally is big. [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Mike Curtis is big for me, I gotta get bigger, stronger and quicker.”
Having a year to develop both physically and mentally into an elite guard is highly valuable, instead of handling extensive minutes with only a few months of preparation. Bliss will be far ahead of his peers next year by doing so. The Cavaliers, in turn, will receive a polished guard that instantly raises their ceiling. Reece Beekman, Isaac McKneely and Dante Harris are all occupying heavy minutes at guard, meaning Bliss would spend a year of eligibility as the fourth option in the backcourt. Bliss will likely take Beekman’s spot as a starter when the latter goes on to the NBA.
Exciting fans even more, Bliss chose Virginia over offers from Villanova as well as Xavier and Miami, citing culture and opportunity.
“Everything is authentic,” Bliss said. “The coaching staff, the community — I can grow as a player and as a person. Of course, I also have to say my ultimate goal is to win a championship and leave this place better than I found it.”
In his 2021-22 high school campaign at the George School, the Cougars went 15-5, including a 5-3 conference record. In Bliss’ final season, he led the team to a 24-7 record, including a first- place 8-1 finish in the Friends Schools Conference. Wherever Bliss goes, team improvement follows. Pro Scholars Athletics Cardinals Coach Terrance Williams coached Bliss during his high school years and had nothing but high praise for him.
“What separates him from his peers are his worth ethic and desire to love everything that comes with the game of basketball,” Williams said.
As for on-court ability, Bliss shot a blistering 43 percent from three-point range in his final high school season. While some compared Bliss to former guard Kihei Clark, former guard Ty Jerome is definitely the better fit due to Bliss’ excellent shooting prowess. Furthering the comparison, Jerome also played with the PSA Cardinals in New York before attending Virginia, which is perhaps where Bliss learned the traits he plans to bring to the program.
“I will sacrifice for the team,” Bliss said. “I am a leader, a winner, and will make sure we are focused in all phases. We have to prepare to perform every day. We are going to give everything we have for the fans.”
Bliss’ confidence fits the mold of aforementioned Cavalier legends. He is a team-first player who can also handle a majority of the scoring load to go alongside hyper-aggressive defense.
Bliss was happy to praise his new teammates who will define the future of Virginia basketball — he said that the best shooter on the team is incoming sophomore transfer guard Andrew Rohde, a 6’6 secret weapon the Cavaliers will unleash this year.
The inputs for success that Bliss has identified for Virginia are top-tier shooting with polished ball movement and the trademark Cavalier pack-line defense. Bliss himself embodies those crucial skills that are at the heart of Virginia basketball.
Bliss is keeping an eye on the greater recruiting trail as well, with a convincing pitch to up-and-coming players with Virginia on their radar.
“This is a great place to develop,” Bliss said. “We have all the resources you need, you can go as far as you want. The coaches are always honest, it’s a great place to grow as a person and as a player.”
Bliss told The Cavalier Daily exactly what fans wanted to hear regarding a recent team excursion. The team went whitewater rafting in West Virginia for the first time since the 2019 championship season, hoping that the parallels between the two teams will continue to be drawn on the court as well.
“I have great confidence that we are on the right path,” Bliss said when asked about parallels. “We are definitely capable of winning it all like those guys did.”
The Cavaliers of this season and beyond are going to be a serious title contender, and make for more exhilarating basketball in Charlottesville. Though his contributions on the court will have to wait a year, Bliss is excited to make his mark — the future of Virginia basketball is incredibly bright.
“I’m going to be a leader and push the guys,” Bliss said. “The work you do early defines you, it’s not just about one play. We can go far in March, as the standard at the University of Virginia is to win championships.”