Under Tony Bennett, Virginia’s program was largely built on overlooked and undervalued recruits. Nearly every Bennett era player qualifies to some degree. Here are my Top 10 underrated recruits taking into consideration all the various factors. Rankings are from the 247Sports composite.
10) Devon Hall
Ranked number 122 in the class of 2013. Hall chose Virginia over Maryland, VA Tech, and Billy Donovan at Florida. A three-year starter on some of the best teams in program history, he capped his college career with a senior season that probably should have earned first team All-ACC honors. His ranking matched the recruiting profile, but his time as a Hoo far exceeded it.
9) Justin McKoy
Ranked number 229 in the class of 2019. Originally signed with Penn State, Justin became a hot commodity when he reopened this past Spring. He hasn’t played a minute yet to prove himself underrated. But can you name anyone else ranked below 200 that was wooed by two of the last three national champions? In fact, he’s the only Bennett era Hoo that I can definitively say North Carolina wanted at the time of his commitment.
8) Ty Jerome
Ranked number 44 in the class of 2016. His final ranking is in the ballpark. No complaints there. But let’s imagine if our current top 2021 target was unranked by most services and held no other high major offers. That was Ty five years ago when he committed early.. It was his play the following Spring on the Nike circuit that led everyone to recognize what Bennett already had when he told Coach Williford “Enough”.
7) Akil Mitchell
Ranked number 236 in the class of 2010. Virginia was Akil’s only high major offer. He was sort of a late flier, a system fit. The least heralded of Tony’s first class, the so called six shooters, he went on to become a three-year starter, an ACC champion, and a true cornerstone of the program. Bennett was ahead of his time in recognizing the value of defensive versatility at the power forward spot. A player with Akil’s talents would be much more sought after today.
6) Kihei Clark
Ranked number 397 in the class of 2018. Clark is the lowest ranked recruit of the Bennett era. Despite being named MVP of the Peach Jam championship, most scouts and coaches still doubted he could play at this level. Even Bennett didn’t offer right away. It took being spurned by quite a few other point guards first. So when you look up at that beautiful new banner hanging in JPJ, take a moment to be thankful for all those guys that helped bring Kihei into our lives by passing on the opportunity.
5) Darion Atkins
Ranked number 320 in the class of 2011. Atkins was recruited hard by Virginia, Notre Dame, and Maryland after a big final summer of AAU. I think national scouts were slower to react to summer risers back then, because there’s no way a recruit with his profile would be ranked that low today. Darion’s playing time was inconsistent early in his career, mostly because Akil had that role occupied. He moved into the starting lineup as a senior and went on to win the Lefty Driesell Award as the nation’s best defender.
4) London Perrantes
Ranked number 147 in the class of 2013. London was one of Tony’s best July finds, offered during the final live period in Las Vegas before his senior year. He wan’t a high profile recruit at all, only a hand full of high major offers. In fact, his final ranking is misleading. National recognition mostly came after he had signed during his senior season, even surging into the ESPN 100.
3) Joe Harris
Ranked number 132 in the class of 2010. Joe played for a low profile AAU program. He didn’t receive much national attention. It was entirely a regional recruitment. That is until Tony left Washington State for Charlottesville. He just didn’t have many opportunities to be seen playing against other top players. I’m making excuses for the scouts, but his college and now NBA career make it plain that he was severely underrated. Heck, I might have him too low on this list.
2) DeAndre Hunter
Ranked number 91 in the class of 2016. This one is tough to defend. He suffered a broken leg his sophomore year, but was fully healthy and quite dominant during his final AAU season with national scouts supposedly watching. Bennett immediately offered a scholarship after one viewing in Vegas, something he very rarely does. Villanova and Notre Dame were our top competitors from a lengthy list of suitors. One major site left him out of their Top 100, which was inexplicable even then and looks downright silly now.
1) Malcolm Brogdon
Ranked number 98 in the class of 2011. It’s only fitting that the best player of the Bennett era also was the most underrated as a recruit. He became a popular high major target after a breakout week at Peach Jam before his senior year. Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia, and of course Harvard received consideration. All-American, ACC Player of the Year, NBA Rookie of the Year. His resume speaks for itself. NBC re-ranked the 2011 class last summer with Malcolm at number 5, probably still too low.