Virginia Men's Basketball

2021 Recruiting Reset

As the corona-induced dead period drags on, it’s an uncomfortable time for Virginia fans. We’re not accustom to prolonged recruiting battles. The worst is usually assumed, because history has taught us to expect it. Without any activity to serve as evidence for reassurance, there are many unknowns. Not only with where things stand now, but about what might come in the months ahead.

I’m typically the first person to point to history as a guide. Anyone that’s followed is probably long tired of my talk of dates and patterns. The thing is, the dates were never what mattered. The events that took place, such as summer live evaluation periods, were the real markers. Without the usual process, comparing this year to the past is apples to oranges.

The recruiting process breaks down into phases. The most important phase, Summer evaluation, has already been lost this year. With the latest dead period extension through August, we’re on the doorstep of interference with Fall recruiting. A decision on what will be allowed in September, normally the busiest month of all, is supposed to be made in mid-July. The impact, and potential future impact, on specific recruits varies by their stage in the process.

Virginia has three available scholarships for the 2021 class. Ideally, they’d like a guard and a big man. There’s flexibility in what type of player could be added with the third scholarship.

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Already Serious

These players were heavily recruited out of the gate. They have a firm small group of schools involved, unlikely to change. The process is stalled only because they weren’t able to take additional visits. Under normal circumstances, they might have already made college choices. Another dead period extension would test their patience, possibly leading to commitments.

Paul VI (VA) guard Trevor Keels is by far the most talked about recruit. Fans have grown to appreciate him as much for his Instagram trolling as for his 5-star talent. Bennett wants his big Brogdon-style guard in ’21. Trevor is the guy he zeroed in on from the start. UVA hosted him for an official visit back in September. He’s consistently said he’d like to take more visits. Despite never naming finalists, the picture is pretty clear. Villanova and Duke are the competition, with Michigan perhaps a wildcard. Virginia hasn’t backed down at all. Everybody I’ve talked to inside or out believes there’s good reason for optimism.

Efton Reid out of The Steward School (VA) has been the priority big man target. He’s visited three times since September, including an official. His situation is cloudier, largely because he’s been considering reclassification to 2020. Virginia and Ohio State had been positioned as frontrunners. But neither have an available scholarship for next season. That opened a window for other coaches to try to maneuver through. I think he’ll ultimately stay in 2021, probably leaving Steward for a top prep program. Once that decision is behind him, his recruitment should stabilize. Honestly, he’s a tough read in the meantime. I expect this to be a bit of a marathon, and one that UVA is intent on finishing.

Other than Reid and Keels, which uncommitted 2021 recruit has Bennett visited the most? Silver Creek (IN) forward Trey Kaufman is the answer. I doubt many people realize that. UVA has been a little sneaky with him. They didn’t offer until April, but Tony was in his gym opening week the same as the guys above. He’s an interesting young man, a self proclaimed nerd who openly admits that he doesn’t enjoy the recruiting process. Indiana is believed to be the heavy favorite. I think Virginia is the last roadblock. Like Keels, he’s held off to take more visits. A trip to Charlottesville seems to be on the agenda if the dead period is lifted. There’s a real chance here, but all indications are he’ll be hard to lure far from home.

Highly rated Rolling Meadows (IL) guard Max Christie best fits in this group. It’s a longshot, but there’s a possibility he could visit before deciding. Michigan State, where he took his only official visit so far, is getting all the chatter. Sunrise Christian (KS) wing Kendall Brown and Hamilton (WI) forward Patrick Baldwin Jr both named Virginia to Top 10 lists. It would be surprising if it goes beyond that.

Getting Acquainted

Players that took off a little later, popular Spring offers. They haven’t done a lot with their recruitment yet. Live periods might have helped raise their stock further. They were probably always going to be Fall or later decision makers. The pandemic effect has been minimal so far.

Virginia offered Westtown (PA) point guard Jalen Warley in early June just days before he announced a top 10. None of the schools on the list have received a visit yet. The offer didn’t come from nowhere. Tony Bennett had stopped by to watch him practice in January. Michigan, in need of several guards, does have a nice advantage.. Jalen’s dad played for assistant coach Phil Martelli at St. Joseph’s. If Keels doesn’t pull the trigger first, UVA should have a fair chance. The one advantage of the dead period is there’s no priority. They can pursue every recruit equally.

Germantown Academy (PA) guard Jordan Longino must have the fewest scholarship offers of any Top 50 ranked player. Why? Most coaches assumed he was bound for Villanova. When that hadn’t happened by April, Virginia and a few others officially entered the race. In all likelihood, the only way UVA is a factor is if Trevor Keels picks Villanova first. Even then, we’d have stiff competition from Indiana and Ohio State. He hasn’t taken any official visits yet, but actually has been to UVA for underclassmen day a couple summers ago.

It’s been a poorly kept secret that Montverde (FL) wing Caleb Houstan intends to reclassify up from 2022. Virginia and North Carolina offered over the Winter. Duke just did. This is just getting started. It’s possible he waits until Spring to sign. His new Montverde teammate DaRon Holmes is the only other player with a UVA offer. He took an official visit in November, but things have cooled off with him since. Barring a sudden turn, I wouldn’t expect to factor into his decision.

Turning Heads

These are the type of recruits hurt most by the loss of live periods. Many programs have gone ahead and offered scholarships based on video. UVA hasn’t done that so far. The time might soon come. I’ll only list the few with the most noise linking them to UVA, but there are surely others that have been kept quiet. Secrecy is another small advantage of the dead period.

Highland (VA) point guard Angelo Brizzi doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the other guards Virginia is recruiting. There’s serious interest though. Villanova opened the floodgates by becoming the first major program to offer this Spring. Since then, others have poured in behind. I don’t know that Bennett has ever seen Brizzi play live. And so far, they’ve only offered prospects that the boss has personally evaluated. The dream scenario would be to get him along with someone like Keels, but he could also be a potential replacement.

British import Jeremy Sochan was the only 2021 recruit without an offer they hosted on a virtual visit this Spring. The versatile forward attends La Lumiere (IN). He’s over in the UK for the summer. So his recruitment is stagnant. It’s a pretty open field that might continue to grow, but UVA has been involved as long as anyone. Baylor, Michigan State, and Florida State highlight his list of offers so far. Virginia would love to have him down for a visit when possible.

Ben Gregg out of Clackamas (OR) is another skilled modern four-man like Kaufman and Sochan they’ve been monitoring. Soderberg visited with him on his west coast trip last Fall. He’s mentioned UVA more in recent months. Honestly, they seem more determined to find a player like this than a true big man. The center picture is Efton Reid or bust for now.

Heritage (NC) guard Lucas Taylor came up for the season finale against Louisville. He didn’t have a high major offer at the time. Hi list has grown to 10 now. Vanderbilt, Wake, Clemson, and Miami are among those that have pulled the trigger. I think if there were an AAU season, he’d already have even higher profile suitors.

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