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Virginia Men's Basketball

State of the Trail Report

Recruiting activity is sparse during the season, although there’s been an uptick recently. This is the time when we as fans tend to overreact to scraps of information or the lack of it. The forest gets lost in the trees. So I decided to do a detailed layout of the class of 2021 recruiting effort, where each prospect fits into the plan, and the broad strategies I believe are in play.

Virginia currently has four scholarships available by 2021, including one that could be used for next season. Ideally, they’d like to add two forwards and two guards.

Forwards

Status: Stable

Overview: UVA is firmly in the market for two, a true big man and another of the more versatile variety. In 2021, they’ll only have three returning forwards. Adding one that’s ready to contribute immediately is required, preferably both.

Big man

Target A: Efton Reid of Steward (VA). He’s visited twice since September. Bennett has been to see him at least three times during that span. There’s plenty of reason for optimism, but it’s far from a certainty the elite big man chooses to stay in his home state. He’s taken other visits to Ohio State, Georgetown, North Carolina, along with NC State and plans to see Louisville. They’ll all be options, and Kentucky could join the mix.

Target B: Caleb Furst of Blackhawk (IN). He visited in September. Bennett has been up there twice, including over the weekend. It’s hard to label him Target B because they’re putting in serious effort. It speaks to the importance they place on landing a quality big man. Purdue, Indiana, and Michigan State seem to be the other major players right now. Luring him out of the Midwest will be tricky. UVA has a real chance at pulling that off.

Outlook: With all the recent Bennett evaluation trips, none were for big men. There’s been little activity of assistants checking on potential new targets either. They clearly like their position with these two guys. Other options will get a hook this Spring. Don’t expect anything hasty though. They’ll stay the course with Reid and Furst into summer if necessary. Chances are one of them will be a Hoo.

Contingency: Ready to play big men rarely stay hidden long. Our guy is probably already heavily recruited, not someone that shoots up the charts later. Two tiers fit the opportunity. A high end talent could earn a large role in his first year. It’s not the path of roses some expect, but attractive to guys that fit the program. The lower tier target is someone more willing to accept the traditional path, only getting his freshman feet wet. Nathan Bittle Ryan Mutombo and Wilhelm Breidenbach were all visited by assistants in the Fall.

Modern Forward

Target A: DaRon Holmes of Millennium (AZ). He visited in November, the same weekend as his friend Efton Reid. Bennett slipped down to Myrtle Beach to watch him in December. Williford and Soderberg have both made Arizona trips for him. Arizona, Marquette, Kansas, and Southern Cal are all heavily involved. UVA might be the favorite right now, at worst even with Arizona. He would be a great fit, the type of player that thrives under Bennett.

Target B: No one else has an offer. Trey Kaufman of Silver Creek (IN) might be next in line. Bennett has been to see him twice now. Purdue, Indiana, and Louisville are involved there. British import Jeremy Sochan is someone to know as well.

Outlook: They’re evaluating to find a secondary target, but this will be all about Holmes for a while. He’s just too good not to focus on, and has given them enough reason to believe that persistence could pay off.

Contingency: There will almost certainly be another offer out by Spring. I don’t think there’s all that much urgency. They can recruit for this spot in all stages. Players will be discovered through summer if necessary. There’s no reason to settle. They should do well regardless of the outcome with Holmes.

Guards

Status: It’s Complicated

Overview: Virginia has brought in four priority guard recruits over the last two classes, three in 2020 alone. They’ll need another by 2021, and would like to have two. It’ll be a bit of a tightrope act. There’s an immediate opportunity for the right special player, but probably only for one.

Big guard

Target A: Trevor Keels of Paul VI (VA). He came on an official visit for banner raising weekend in September. The coaches have been at his games and practices regularly, including Bennett at least twice. Villanova seemed to be the primary competition, and maybe still is. He’s been one of the high school season’s biggest stock risers, earning offers from Duke and UNC along the way.

Target B: Max Christie of Rolling Meadows (IL) has an offer. Bennett and Williford each made trips to see him in the Fall. That looks like a lost cause already. Peyton Watson from Long Beach Poly (CA) doesn’t yet have an offer, but they’re actively recruiting him. He’ll be very hard to pull away from the west coast. Big point guard Jalen Warley, who Bennett visited with over the weekend, could fit the bill as well.

Outlook: UVA is in better position with Keels than some might think. It’s far from ideal though. Most believe Villanova is the current favorite, and the blue bloods have barely started. While they’ll definitely stay after Keels and have a chance, there’s no status to protect. That’s part of why all the recent activity with other guards.

Contingency: They’ll consider transfers and late 2020 additions. If it stays in 2021, it’s an aim high or find him late deal. Elite recruits such as Keels aren’t as concerned about roster competition. The already established recruits on down the list won’t have much interest. On the other hand, summer risers are often better and without the sense of entitlement. Kowacie Reeves Matthew Cleveland and Jordan Longino have been visited by assistants.

2nd guard

Targets: No one has an offer. Point guards seem to be preferred, but I think they’re flexible. Stevie Mitchell of Wilson (PA) has received a lot of attention, including a visit from Bennett recently. Khristian Lander of Reitz (IN) was seen by the boss over the weekend. Isa Silva is a name we haven’t heard lately. I expect he’ll reemerge this Spring.

Outlook: They’re aiming high here too. Stevie Mitchell might be lower ranked, but I think they believe he has a chance to there with the others. Both guard spots are part of the same roster construction puzzle. They’re hoping to land one prize, then figure the other out. Only the big guard is a must fill, while the point guard is optional.

Contingency: This is where things get really complicated. it’s all what ifs for now. They’re preparing for scenarios. That’s why there are no offers yet. This spot has been purposely delayed.. In the dream blueprint, they get the special talent like Keels, then find a humble late riser at point guard this summer or land an underrated gem like Mitchell. It’s possible the roles reverse, the point guard could be the top prize and the big guard a summer find or late 2020 signer. Aim high, find him late, or pocket it.

Final note: With the bye week in the rear view, so is most of the season’s recruiting activity. The table is set for Spring. UVA will be active in the late cycle with an open scholarship.. Then the class of 2021 returns to the forefront in late April for two weekends of live evaluation time. I have no idea how it’ll turn out but am looking forward to following the journey..

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