While most of you were sleeping, we received some good news. New Zealander Taine Murray announced his commitment, becoming the first member of Tony Bennett’s 2021 class. The 6’5 guard chose the Wahoos over finalists Maryland and Stanford.
As always with overseas recruits, details are hard to come by. We first started hearing of UVA involvement with Taine in June. By mid-August, he went public by releasing a final three. Virginia initially had to make up ground. Stanford was believed to be a heavy favorite. From what I’ve heard, Bennett put it into overdrive the last few weeks, first keeping this alive and finally closing the deal. I think once Taine became more familiar with Bennett and the success similar players have had in his system, especially the example of Joe Harris, it probably wasn’t that hard of a decision.
It’s a great recruiting score. This was a very difficult time and year to recruit a guard, with three in the previous class and the potential addition of Trevor Keels still hanging out there. It wasn’t a level playing field with the competition, who both offered a far easier path to the court. The fact that Taine chose Virginia indicates how much greater he sees his potential for growth in Charlottesville compared to a couple of very solid programs. Despite having left the UVA staff, New Zealand native Kirk Penney was beneficial to the cause. As was Jack Salt, whose family has a personal friendship with the Murrays.
What Are We Getting?
The short answer, a steal. Taine isn’t some project from overseas. 247Sports called him a Top 100 talent after watching him last summer. I think that’s underselling him considering what he’s accomplished since then. He played this past season for the Auckland Huskies in the professional NZNBL, while refusing payment to maintain his eligibility. In 10 games played before a season-ending hand injury, he averaged 17.5 points while connecting on 44% of his three-point attempts. To put the competition in perspective, Isaiah Wilkins played in the same league two seasons ago. There aren’t many high school guards that could have matched his production. He’ll play this coming season for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian NBL, again unpaid.
Taine is well-rounded offensively. He’ll primarily operate off the ball, but is capable of taking the lead if necessary. There’s some playmaking ability for sure, and that will undoubtedly improve as his body does. His shooting is obviously the calling card, it’s why he was so heavily recruited. He fits into that Joe Harris/Kyle Guy mold that can fly around screens and get shots off quickly on target. This guy’s a sneaky good athlete too, very fluid. He should develop into a solid and versatile defender. What stood out to to me watching film is that he always plays with great effort, on both ends.
While Taine has been highly productive against good older competition, he hasn’t regularly played against the quality of athletes he’ll face in the ACC. And he certainly hasn’t experienced anything like the spotlight he’ll soon be under. It’ll be a big initial adjustment for the Kiwi, but he certainly has the tools and by all accounts the work ethic to excel.
Recruiting Going Forward
There’s two scholarships still open for 2021. Not that much changes, at least on the surface. They’re still battling Duke for Trevor Keels. He doesn’t care about Taine. It’s a bonus if anything. A forward is still on the agenda, with Trey Kaufman as the prime target. I broke both those recruitments down in detail here. Don’t completely write off big man Efton Reid either.
The difference now is Virginia has the guard they absolutely needed. While they’ll pursue Keels obviously, he’ll probably be the only other guard they consider for November’s early signing period. Taine’s commitment is huge that way strategically. They don’t need to spend any more time evaluating or flirting with 2021 guards. It’s doubtful that names like Deebo Coleman are relevant anymore, despite him naming UVA to his top 11 yesterday.
The biggest impact may be in 2022 recruiting, although the full measure won’t be known until the Keels decision comes in. No offers have been made to that class while they wait to see what’s needed. Tonight’s news provides the first piece of that puzzle. This likely puts point guards fully on the table. There’s no reason to hold back on offering Austin Nunez for example, the floor general from Texas, if it’s been earned. All the other guard spots will depend on their success with Keels. Remember if they use all three scholarships in ’21, that only leaves two for ’22 as things stand. One guard and some variety of big man most likely.
It should be an exciting next month or so of recruiting ahead. Let’s just enjoy this one for now. Special props to all the Hoo faithful that stayed up for the late night excitement. The Triple-T dream (Taine, Trevor, Trey) is one step closer to reality.