Empowering Athletes, Enriching the Game
Former UVA Player
18 Jan, 2023
The last week has been a roller coaster for Virginia on the recruiting front. They picked up a big commitment from Jacob Cofie, followed by missing out on Kon Knueppel just a few days later. I look back at how both of those went down, then ahead as we start to turn the page to a new recruiting cycle.
Eastside Catholic (WA) forward Jacob Cofie announced his commitment to Virginia last Sunday, after his official visit the previous weekend. He’s officially the only member of UVA’s 2024 class as things stand, although point guard Christian Bliss will be a freshman next season too after he spends this year as a redshirt.
His commitment is big for UVA because they absolutely had to bring in their next power forward in 2024, especially after losing Isaac Traudt to transfer. Cofie is seen as capable of contributing immediately, which they’ll probably need even if it’s only in a limited role.
It turned out to be a much easier recruitment to win than expected. He was in a spot where he just wasn’t really enthused about any of the programs that had been recruiting him. When Virginia jumped in, he clicked with the coaching staff and everything fell into place. The staff knew going into his visit that the odds were pretty high of getting his commitment. Ron Sanchez did the heavy lifting and deserves most of the credit.
Cofie committed either on his visit or immediately after. I had been waiting on his announcement since finding out that Tuesday. He managed to avoid having the news spoiled by crystal ball picks too, a nice rarity these days.
Fears came true on Thursday night when Wisconsin Lutheran guard Kon Knueppel announced his commitment to Duke. Nobody is surprised, but definitely some disappointment. UVA had major built in advantages through Bennett’s connections. They did everything they could, while Duke did almost nothing. And it didn’t matter. I was told a member of the UVA staff said after hearing the news, “We recruit. Duke selects”. That about sums it up.
Kon was trying to surprise people with his announcement. He didn’t inform coaches from the other schools ahead of time, as is the usual custom. I don’t think even the Duke staff was told until the day of the announcement. And it worked pretty well. Word did leak out a couple hours before though, when I let subscribers know on the forum.
We never truly know the reasoning for a recruit’s decision. Duke does have an easier path for him to crack the starting lineup. That probably helped. Along with their history of underclassmen moving on to the NBA. NIL money did become a subject in the final week, which seemed to concern people on the UVA side. I don’t believe that was a big determining factor though. He could have gotten more at Wisconsin or Alabama.
Turning The Page
Here is Virginia’s predicament. There are two open scholarships for next season. But they don’t have any needs and no immediate opportunity for a high school recruit. And because the roster is so weighted toward current underclassmen, only one more scholarship (Taine Murray’s) is guaranteed to open for the 2025-26 season. So as things stand, space is at a premium over the next couple years.
For all intents and purposes, UVA is recruiting for 2025 now. They very well may end up adding to their 2024 class later, but it would essentially be a 2025 recruit a year early as far as Bennett is concerned. It’s all the same equation at this point. Three available scholarships, two of which could be used next season.
Several of the 2025 recruits Virginia has offered are candidates to reclassify. That’s an angle the coaching staff fully intends to explore. Especially with St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory. They want him as part of the 2024 class.
The last few weeks with coaches on the road have confirmed what we expected. There are two priority recruits in the 2025 class right now. St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory and Grayson (GA) forward Jacob Wilkins.
Bennett has been in to see them both at their schools over the last two weeks. Obviously, other players are being recruited. But until we see that same type of activity with any of the others, it hasn’t reached the point of full engagement.
As I mentioned, Bennett does want Chance Mallory to reclassify and join their 2024 class. And 2024 is his original class. It's a decision that will most likely be made later, perhaps after his high school season. With Knueppel in the rear view now, attention is going to shift Mallory’s way. The hope is to have him on board before recruiting picks up again in the spring.
Mallory has taken a bunch of unofficial visits lately. He was recently at UVA for the day along with trips to Maryland, VA Tech, West Virginia, and there’s an upcoming visit to Clemson. That’s a good thing. We want his process moving forward.
Maryland is probably the top competition. I’ve heard he would like an offer from UCLA, who’s shown some interest. But Virginia is a significant favorite. I doubt there’s anything coming that will change that.
Tony Bennett was in Georgia on Tuesday to see Jacob Wilkins. After getting the skilled forward they needed in Cofie, UVA wants to add athleticism to the frontcourt in 2025. Wilkins more than fits the description. He is of course the son of Dominique Wilkins and half-brother of Virginia assistant coach Isaiah Wilkins.
He’s scheduled for an early official visit on the weekend of the Blue-White scrimmage, October 14th. People who know their family situation have told me they believe Isaiah’s relationship will be difficult for other programs to overcome. They’re very close. But If things drag on, particularly into next spring’s live periods, it could get more complicated. UVA has until then to either close the deal or at least solidify their position well enough for whatever comes.
Jacob recently took an unofficial visit to Georgia, his dad’s alma mater. Alabama has offered, and they had an assistant coach in to see him. I don’t believe anyone that’s recruiting him right now is that serious of a threat.
Other 2025 Recruits
We should probably start paying attention to Middleton (WI) big man Will Garlock now. He doesn’t have a scholarship offer, but Bennett watched him quite a bit over the summer. He’s the type of high upside long term prospect, maybe a redshirt candidate, that would make sense with the roster situation. Wisconsin is all over him. UVA is expected to see him at some point this fall.
Sidwell (DC) guard Acaden Lewis was on grounds for an unofficial visit recently. UVA can’t get both him and Mallory. But they’re in pretty good shape with Lewis. Georgetown and Florida State seem to be the main competition. Virginia has a better chance with him than for Gonzaga (DC) guard Derek Dixon who also recently visited.
Now that UVA knows they have a third open scholarship, things could get more interesting with Southern Durham (NC) guard Jackson Keith. He’s the one other guard with a current offer that UVA would continue to recruit if Mallory were to commit. UNC is lurking. They would be a big problem.
Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament visited on Friday. Duke just offered. Unless the Blue Devils back off, that’s probably where he’ll end up. Expect UVA to hang around in case.
Bennett also stopped by the Overtime Elite pro day event while in Georgia last week, in part to see highly-rated forward Bryson Tiller. Definitely a longshot for the Hoos, but he is a candidate to reclass up.
No one from UVA has been to St. Thomas More (CT) to see forward London Jemison yet. Coach Vandross should be up there soon though. Another one who could reclassify. He’s picked up recent offers from Villanova and Providence.
The first official practice is today. I’m sure there will be video highlights this evening, courtesy of Virginia Sports. Only six weeks away now from the season opener against Tarleton State.
Along with that, recruiting activity starts to slowly taper off from here. We’ll still be on top of it as always though. And in a couple weeks, I hope to gather some tidbits for you about how the team is shaping up.
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Tony Bennett has landed an important piece of his future frontcourt. Jacob Cofie announced his commitment to Virginia on Sunday, following a recent official visit. The 6’9” forward out of Eastside Catholic School in Washington is currently ranked as the 82nd overall player in the 2024 class, according to the On3 industry average. He chose the Wahoos out of a final four that also included Ohio State, Southern Cal, and Washington.
NEWS: 2024 four-star Jacob Cofie tells me he’s committed to Virginia.— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) September 18, 2023
The 6-9 Power Forward chose UVA over a final group of Washington, Ohio State, and USC.
Story: https://t.co/XNacvRJwfi pic.twitter.com/ANKUSBzOIG
Jacob Cofie’s Recruitment
Cofie was a popular recruit from the start. He had been heavily recruited by several Pac-12 programs since early on. All of the other finalists were in pursuit for some time. Virginia was the only newcomer to join the race over the summer, offering in July after Cofie had averaged nearly a double-double at Nike Peach Jam.
Associate Head Coach Ron Sanchez is responsible for Virginia’s involvement. This is his first recruit since rejoining the staff in the offseason. He eyed Cofie all summer, leading up to the scholarship offer. And then built a relationship to help put the Wahoos in position to close the deal.
Cofie named the four finalists in late August. Washington, his hometown school, was probably the top competition in the end. He had taken an early official visit there. And they had recruited him really hard. He was planning upcoming visits to Ohio State and Southern Cal, which are now canceled.
What Jacob Cofie Brings to Virginia
He fills Virginia’s most urgent need. They were very thin at the power forward spot. That presents an opportunity for him to come in and earn playing time right away. His natural position is in the four-spot, although he’ll probably be used at center on occasion too.
Cofie had a really good summer, averaging 11.5 points 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for NW Rotary in the Nike EYBL. His game is well rounded, bringing versatility on both ends of the court. He can stretch the floor, hitting 36% from three-point range. And he has the physical tools to defend a wide variety of frontcourt players.
Jacob Cofie is a 6’9 PF Class 2024 from Seattle, WA— Brooks Scouting Report (@ReportBrooks) July 26, 2023
☑️High School: Eastside Catholic
☑️AAU Club: NW Rotary Rebels
☑️Offers: Washington, Washington State, USC, Ohio State, Virginia, Colorado, Oregon. pic.twitter.com/wxfzB8HJJn
Virginia wanted to add scoring punch in their future frontcourt. Cofie certainly has the ability to bring that. He's a high floor recruit who should be capable of contributing immediately, which UVA will most likely need him to do. And in the years ahead, he has the potential to develop into a real stalwart in the Wahoo lineup.
Virginia’s Recruiting Going Forward
With the addition of Jacob Cofie, Virginia has 11 projected scholarship players for the 2024-25 season. They’re hoping to add one more.
Virginia has been in pursuit of two other forwards in the 2024 class, Matthew Hodge and David Punch. Both of them were scheduled for upcoming official visits. With Cofie’s commitment, it’s very likely that Bennett will bow out of those recruitments.
Full attention turns to Kon Knueppel now. The five-star guard out of Wisconsin Lutheran just completed a round of official visits, including a stop in Charlottesville this week. He’s the only 2024 recruit left on the board. UVA is a strong contender for him. Duke is seen as the biggest threat, with in-state schools Wisconsin and Marquette in the running as well. He'll likely decide by the end of the month.
The 2025 recruiting cycle is fully underway now too. Virginia can only guarantee two open spots as things stand. They’re after one guard and one forward.
Local product Chance Mallory of St. Anne’s Belfield is a prime early target. He was on grounds recently for an unofficial visit. As was Gonzaga (DC) guard Derek Dixon last weekend. And Sidwell (DC) combo guard Acaden Lewis was in town this weekend.
Grayson (GA) forward Jacob Wilkins, the brother of UVA assistant coach Isaiah Wilkins, has already scheduled an official visit for the weekend of October 14th. Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament is expected for an unofficial visit soon. And St. Thomas More (CT) forward London Jemison is one to watch too.
The commitment from Jacob Cofie is huge for Virginia because it’s the spot they absolutely had to fill. A point guard and a skilled forward were the two non-negotiable items on Bennett’s 2024 list. With the earlier addition of Christian Bliss and now Cofie, they’ve filled those spots with quality recruits who fit well into the roster.
Virginia continues to assemble a great collection of young players. They’ve managed to find a consistency in recruiting the last several years that really hadn’t been there before under Bennett. Now, we’ll see if they can top it off by reeling in the big prize with Kon Knueppel’s upcoming decision. Either way, the future is awfully bright.
Recruiting is about to go full throttle again. It’s closing time for the 2024 class, as Virginia is set to host key visitors over the next couple weeks. And coaches head back on the road soon, where their focus turns to the class of 2025.
September is the busiest month of the year for commitments. That hasn’t been as true for Virginia under Bennett, as he’s often had most or all of his recruiting finished. But once it reaches this point, he doesn’t mess around. With rare exception, everything has gotten done by the end of the month.
Things will move quickly from here. Every 2024 recruit is in decision mode. Situations are fluid. Any recruitment can end at any time, regardless of planned visits or what they’ve said about their decision timeline. And the activity won’t be limited to just on-campus visits. When coaches head out next week, they’ll also be checking on 2024 recruits.
Eastside Catholic (WA) forward Jacob Cofie is scheduled to begin his official visit on Friday. He’s down to a final four of Virginia, Washington, Southern Cal, and Ohio State. His hometown school, Washington, has recruited him the hardest. They’re believed to be the leader going into these fall visits, with UVA having the best chance at knocking them off.
UVA has come on strong. Associate Head Coach Ron Sanchez, along with leading the recruiting effort, has just as importantly been Cofie’s advocate in the coaches office. At this point, I think they’d just as soon have Cofie as any other forward recruit and he’ll have first dibs.
It’s going to come down to how things go on his visit. There’s no expectation of an immediate decision, but that’s always possible this time of year. He’s said he’ll likely visit Ohio State the following weekend. Southern Cal is in the picture too, but they’ve had other forwards visit the past two weekends.
Kon Goes on Tour
Wisconsin Lutheran wing Kon Knueppel has a hectic upcoming travel schedule, four remaining official visits in just over a week’s span. He’ll be at Alabama this weekend, Wisconsin on Tuesday, Virginia next Thursday, and finally Duke next weekend. We should get a decision by the end of the month.
There seems to be a little bit of a boost in confidence from the UVA side heading into the home stretch. The main worry is Duke, getting through that visit to Durham and hoping the Blue Devils don’t blow him away. Marquette remains a real possibility too, as the stay at home option if he still isn’t completely sold on UVA or Duke.
This will be Kon’s second official visit to Charlottesville. His first trip was in February, fittingly for the game against Duke. One reason UVA wanted him to visit again was so he’d have a chance to get to know the players a little bit. There’s not much opportunity for that during the in-season visits. And they felt like they knocked his first visit out of the park. There’s nothing new he can learn about UVA that will move the needle, but it’s a chance to refresh those feelings.
St. Rose (NJ) forward Matthew Hodge has been on the visit circuit for the last several weeks already. He has three more scheduled official visits in consecutive weekends to Marquette, Maryland, then Virginia on the 21st.
There was a report this week on the Maryland 247Sports site that Hodge had canceled his visit to Virginia. That would be surprising to me. Asking around, one outside source did tell me he’s heard UVA along with some other programs aren’t as high on Hodge as they once were. But as far as I know, he’s still scheduled to visit later this month. These things are fluid though. We’ll keep monitoring the situation.
Maryland does seem to be the main competition. They’ve turned up the heat on him lately after throwing in the towel with another recruit. Terrapin assistant coach Mike Jones was a college teammate of Matthew’s father at Old Dominion.
Harker Heights (TX) forward David Punch also has an official visit scheduled to Virginia on the weekend of October 21st. Any visit that far away this time of year is tentative though.
New Cycle Begins
The recruiting period opens on Saturday, allowing coaches to go out visiting recruits at their schools or homes. It’s kind of the unofficial opening day for recruiting the 2025 class, when attention shifts more in their direction.
Assistant coaches will be on the road a lot over the next several weeks. We’ll probably see Bennett make a trip or two per week up until regular practices start on September 25th, and then his involvement dries up.
Virginia has built in advantages with two 2025 recruits. The hometown product, St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory. And Grayson (GA) forward Jacob Wilkins, the half-brother of assistant coach Isaiah Wilkins. At least at the starting line, UVA is a clear favorite for them both.
Mallory was on grounds for an unofficial visit this past Saturday. He’s the one 2025 recruit that the coaching staff has already put real effort into. As long as that continues, the odds of him choosing Virginia are very high. The one potential snag is that other schools might work the reclass angle, giving him a chance to come in and play right away.
Wilkins is scheduled for an early official visit on the weekend of October 14th. He’s very close to Isaiah, and has grown up following UVA basketball. From what I’ve heard over the past couple weeks, it looks pretty promising for the Hoos. He recently visited Georgia, his dad’s alma mater. They’re probably the top competition right now.
If Virginia gets a 2025 commitment before next spring, it’ll be from Mallory or Wilkins. It’ll be interesting to see how much attention they receive as coaches head out, both from UVA and other programs. We’ll learn who’s really serious about them and all these other 2025 recruits.
Notes on Other 2025 Recruits
Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament is planning an unofficial visit to UVA on September 22nd, for the home football game against NC State. He just visited VA Tech last weekend, and will be at Duke on the 16th. The Blue Devils haven’t offered yet but are showing serious interest.
St. Thomas More (CT) forward London Jemison recently visited Providence. They’re the main early competition.
Western Reserve (OH) forward Nikola Bundalo has scheduled upcoming visits to Michigan State, Duke, Notre Dame, and Ohio State.
Sidwell (DC) guard Acaden Lewis is planning an October official visit to Florida State. He’ll probably make it down to UVA later this fall.