The season is scheduled to start on Wednesday. Hopefully that stands. It’s looking a little shaky at the moment. There’s never a lot of recruiting to talk about during the season. But there are always things that happen each season that alters the recruiting path. Here are five to watch for.
Will the Youth Shine?
Recruiting is all about perception. Every prospect at this level closely examines rosters to size up the on-court opportunity available at each program. Current underclassmen are the focus for the most part. They want to know who’ll be around, for how long, and which ones they can pass by. Right now, recruits have their perceptions about that. By the end of the season, some will change based on how our young players perform.
Sophomores that don’t establish themselves as solid rotation players are sort of written off as non-threatening to recruits. Those of us that have followed this program under Bennett know that’s far from certain. But again, we’re talking perception not reality. Justin McKoy and Francisco Caffaro are seen as potential obstacles to recruits right now. By April, they’ll either be a definite obstacle or an afterthought.
The potential shift in the way our freshmen are viewed is different. They’re all highly regarded. It’s assumed they’ll be major contributors during their time at UVA. But how long will their time last? That’s the perception that could change. Reece Beekman, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, and Kadin Shedrick all have legitimate NBA aspirations. If any of them show scouts they’re ahead of schedule, they’ll start to be thought of as early-entry draft candidates. While fans might not like that idea, recruits love it.
The NCAA’s decision not to count this season against eligibility really complicates things. All the fan discussion centers around whether seniors will return. Would Kihei want a 5th year? I seriously doubt any of our players are interested in that. It makes redshirt decisions messy though. There’s no reason for coaches to officially redshirt anyone now. Play him a little, and he still has four more years anyway.
Carson McCorkle seems like the only potential candidate among our first-years, but I really have no idea if it’s being planned. And if it is, would Bennett make it known? Either way, I expect there to be a bunch of repeat seniors four years from now. The silent redshirts of 2020-21. It does matter to 2022 and 2023 recruits.
Is Trey Murphy Playing?
I don’t know, and I assume they don’t yet either. The junior transfer from Rice initially planned to sit out this year. Judging by how evasive the coaching staff has been with questions on the subject, it’s likely been reconsidered. The 6’9 combo forward would be a big piece to this year’s team if he’s available.
Moving a player up one class seems like such a small thing, but it can make all the difference to a recruit. Trey is in that definite obstacle category. His spot in the lineup is pretty safe as long as he’s here. If he plays this season, that would make him a senior when a 2021 recruit arrives or off the books for a 2022. It goes from a good opportunity to one of those golden clear-path chances that we don’t have very often.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s a weird year. Recruiting under Bennett has always been very tidy. We stay on schedule, and it’s primarily an off-season activity. Drama doesn’t carry into the season that often. Seniors are decided and we have our early junior targets picked out. Not so much this time around. We’re still carrying faint hope for a pair of undecided senior, and not a single offer has gone out to a junior.
Paul VI guard Trevor Keels garners the most discussion. I believe things would need to shift a lot for UVA to come out on top. The one ray of hope is that Duke and Villanova weren’t able to close the deal ahead of the early signing period either. Bennett and company are still very much trying, that’s for sure. Big man Efton Reid, now at IMG Academy (FL), remains a remote possibility. His recruitment got weird a long while back and then went quiet. Pittsburgh has stayed on his trail and is probably in the best shape. I really can’t say for sure how involved UVA is right now.
I assume some offers to juniors will go out in the near future. Maybe when Keels is resolved or just when enough is enough. It’s pretty extraordinary that there aren’t any yet. There haven’t been many opportunities to evaluate. I really believe that’s the main issue. Bennett takes the evaluation process very seriously, and trusts his coaching staff’s eye above all else. We might not truly know who the top targets are until after next April’s live periods. Poca (WV) guard Isaac McKneely is the one guy we can pretty well count on being offered when the time comes.
Several of the players have dropped mentions of new stuff they’re running. Other than a few whispers, I don’t know the details. It’s intriguing though. Chase Coleman even suggested they’ll play faster. While I don’t expect a major overhaul, any changes to the offensive scheme matters in recruiting. We recruit wing shooters easily because Bennett has a long history of maximizing their ability. During the national championship season, they went to a ball-screen heavy offense that played into Ty Jerome’s strengths, and along the way helped recruit Reece Beekman.
From the tidbits I’ve heard, I believe one of the main objectives behind the new look is to feature Sam Hauser. Putting him in favorable situations so that we can get the most out of our best offensive player. That alone could be helpful since we’re trying to find someone similar over the next year or two. We’ll see exactly what they have cooked up. More than anything, it’s evidence of the evolution under Bennett. He no longer fits players into his offense. Instead he now fits the offense around his players. That’s the kind of thing that really changes perceptions.