It’s time for another edition of the Locker Room Access mailbag. Fans can submit questions via twitter each week for our panel to discuss. Zach Carey and I will be handing the blog portion. Be sure to check out our podcast for Mark Jerome and the gang’s take on this week’s questions.
Zach: Any sort of blanket eligibility waiver is still being decided upon by the NCAA and there’s still plenty of uncertainty, but if Murphy does get immediate eligibility, there’s potential for him to be a significant contributor. His skillset is tailor-made for the Bennett system. At 6’9” with a 7’1.5” wingspan, he’s got the shooting and handling skills of a two-guard and could usurp guys like Stattmann, Woldetensae, and Abdur-Rahim to crack the starting lineup as a small forward. He would provide versatility on both ends of the court as he and Hauser would be able to switch off playing the four depending on matchups like Braxton Key and De’Andre Hunter did back in 2018-2019. Bennett loves to have versatile wings like Murphy, so if he gets eligibility this year, this top-five team just gained another dangerous weapon.
Hooz: I think we all have a fair idea of what may be going on behind the scenes. We’ll have to let it play out. I can’t say that I know all that much about the waiver process, if one is even being applied for in this case, but the NCAA seems to be handing them out at a pretty high rate this year.
Hooz: Barring a major surprise, New Zealand guard Taine Murray will be the only recruit signed during this week’s early period. Paul VI (VA) guard Trevor Keels has UVA as a finalist and is still uncommitted. Our best hope for him at this point is for it to drag out, and essentially reset. Should he pull the trigger soon, Duke seems to be the likely choice. The good news, if you want to call it that, is if it doesn’t go down this week it probably will drag on a while.
Odds are UVA’s next commit will come after the season, in the form of a frontcourt player that isn’t being discussed yet. With Trey Kaufman and Caleb Houstan heading elsewhere, they’ll still look to add a forward for next season. The late Spring cycle will be even more full of options than usual with more opportunities for late discoveries of high school seniors that would have normally popped up during summer AAU, as well as the likely rule change allowing immediate eligibility to transfers. We’re already seeing that filtering process begin with the staff reaching out to Estonian import Markus Ilver.
Hooz: Your forecast sounds about right. According to VerbalCommits.com, there were more than a thousand Division-1 transfers last season. That’s well over 20%. I don’t know what the rate is for the power conferences alone, lower I assume. It’ll naturally rise with the one-time waiver rule likely coming. I don’t expect it to be the catastrophic event that some others seem to believe. There will be a lot of transfers going forward, however, no way around that.
It will change the way coaches recruit and manage rosters. The ones that adapt quickest to the new environment will have an advantage. The rarely spoken truth is that the majority of outgoing transfers at this level are good for the program. UVA has gained in the transfer trade-off. Young players that aren’t working out are replaced with proven commodities. The key going forward is to maintain that net gain by continuing to selectively take advantage of the growing market.
Zach: Shedrick is an interesting prospect this season. Logic would suggest he doesn’t see the court except in blowouts considering there’s too many guys above him in the frontcourt pecking order. Huff and Caffaro are the first and second team centers, McKoy is the pure power forward, and Hauser is the versatile wing who can play the three or the four. The only reason I’d expect Shedrick to get significant playing time is if there’s a long term injury or bad foul trouble.
Regarding where Shedrick would play positionally, he’s a Diakite or Mitchell type who can play either the four or the five in the Bennett system. Whatever fits with the guys he’s playing with really.
Hooz: Kadin will compete with Francisco Caffaro this year for back-up minutes behind Jay Huff. I expect Caffaro to come out ahead for now. He’s just the more mature dependable player. Kadin is extremely talented though. If he can be productive in his early opportunities, there’s a chance he carves out his own role in the rotation. I see him as a center for now. But much like Mamadi, he has the physical tools to defend smaller players which means he could play some power forward later in his career. It’ll take time to develop the comfort and discipline for that.
Hooz: Sacha Killeya-Jones isn’t that much of a ‘what if” recruit to me. I would think of him as a dodged bullet, but his decommitment led to taking Austin Nichols. So we didn’t exactly come out ahead there. I guess it all depends how differently you believe Sacha’s career would have been at UVA. It’s possible he would have done really well here, and maybe helped win a national title. Oh wait….
Jared Butler tops the list in my opinion. For those unfamiliar, the Baylor junior guard is a pre-season All-American. Tony Bennett wanted him bad back in the class of 2018. UVA seemed to be a heavy favorite for a while, but it wasn’t to be. What makes him a fascinating ‘what if” is getting Jared would have meant no Kihei Clark. That’s who Bennett immediately turned to when Jared’s recruitment didn’t pan out. Here you have this fantastic player, and Jared really is terrific, but Kihei was so perfect for his role on the title team that no UVA fan can possibly wish things had turned out differently. It’s not often you’re thankful for missing out on an All-American.
Hooz: Kihei Clark, Sam Hauser, and Jay Huff were among the 20 players selected at each position for the Hall of Fame awards preseason watch lists. Mostly it shows this is expected to be a really good team. It also says something about the way Tony Bennett has built the program that we’re talking about a pair of 5th year seniors and a lightly recruited junior.
You don’t need to look too far back to find the last time it occurred. The “Big Three” of Jerome, Guy, and Hunter all made their respective watch lists before the national title run in 2018-19.
Zach: Yeah this is more a measure of expectations than anything else. It’s great that a number of guys appear to have potential star power, but the key for this team is going to be their cohesiveness. There’s at least five new guys playing in Wahoo uniforms this season, so gelling as a squad will be critical considering how many new pieces there are to the puzzle.
Hooz: haha! The absence of orange uniforms tops my list of purely petty Bennett-era grievances. I don’t think he’s the trolling type though. And maybe it’s true that he’s not on social media, but I’m sure others make him aware of the relevant hot topics.
Zach: Both Kihei Clark and Bennett were wearing orange t-shirts during their pressers. Do I think that they coordinated their outfits beforehand to each be wearing the same color shirt but not the same exact shirt as to quell any suspicion of a conspiracy to troll? I don’t know, but those two have coordinated to do crazier things in the past.