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Virginia Men's Basketball

Isaac McKneely Commits to Virginia!

Isaac McKneely

Isaac McKneely announced his commitment to Virginia today, becoming the first member of Tony Bennett’s class of 2022.  The 6’4 guard from Poca, West Virginia picked the Hoos out of a final eight that included Louisville, Kentucky, Purdue, West Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana.  He’s currently rated as a four-star prospect, #51 overall in the 247Sports composite.

McKneely’s Recruitment

When coaches were first allowed to contact 2022 recruits back in June, we said the most smoke was around Isaac McKneely.  Well, nothing changed. He was clearly the guy Tony Bennett wanted most from the get-go, and that only intensified as time went on.  

They had identified him as a potential recruit very early.  He twice visited last season for games.  With that familiarity in place before everything was shut down, the dead period didn’t impact his recruitment that much.   He was the first to receive an offer on December 5th, and now the first to commit.   Very smooth process, as it usually is when recruiting under Bennett is at its best.   

This is a huge commitment for a multitude of reasons.  Not the least of which, he’s a terrific player that’s probably underrated by quite a bit nationally.  He’s already really good, but there’s also a lot of room for growth.  In the hands of this coaching staff, that’s exciting.  We’ve learned to expect great things whenever Bennett lands his top choices.  It’s also important that they got it done early.  This will be a very busy year of recruiting.  They can focus more attention on other recruits now.  I know Isaac plans to help with that.

What is Virginia Getting?

People talk all the time about fit in recruiting.  It’s really become an overused cliche.  In this case, the match is so perfect on and off the court that it would have been a shame if he went anywhere else.  He’s even been playing the Packline defense and running Blocker/Mover offense at Poca under Coach Allen Osborne, who visited Virginia practices to study the system.  

Isaac has a genuine modesty about him. He seems almost embarrassed by the attention sometimes. On the court, however, he plays with a confident swagger. His personality and quiet confidence resemble his future coach. Recruits often say their conversations with Tony Bennett are more about getting to know each other personally than anything basketball related.  He forms a close bond with these top targets.  I suspect it was easy this time.   

He averaged 22 points per game during his sophomore season, while converting 45% from three-point range. Comparisons to Joe Harris and Kyle Guy will be everywhere today. There’s certainly a similar role envisioned for him at Virginia. Shooting is the dominant skill that separates him, but there’s more to his game than hitting jumpers.  

Zach Carey beaks down the film to show what makes Isaac McKneely such a great prospect and how his skill set will translate at Virginia.

He’ll compete for playing time as a true freshman.  There are some good guards at Virginia ahead of him, so it won’t be easy to earn.  I think he gets the big picture and will have the right attitude in handling that.   With continued physical development and added experience against ACC-level talent, he has a chance to be very special in orange and blue.  He appreciates the full opportunity in Charlottesviile too, as a 4.0 student at Poca.

Recruiting Going Forward

Virginia is left with four scholarships available by 2022, two of which could be used for next season. The focus right now is on the junior class, but they’ll also be active in the transfer market this Spring. As the graphic below shows, they have two obvious holes to fill. The frontcourt is very thin, and Reece Beekman is the only projected returner at point guard. Recent activity suggests those are the spots they’re working hardest to fill next.

Isaac Squared

With McKneely on board, the tip of the sabre is aimed at recently offered Grand Island (NE) forward Isaac Traudt. He’s the top guy on Bennett’s wish list. A highly skilled inside/out scoring threat at 6’9, the natural UVA comparison is to Sam Hauser. They’ll pursue him aggressively, as is often the case when Tony zeroes in. We think Virginia is in a pretty good spot. Creighton and Louisville seem like the threats right now. He’s in no rush though. When visits are allowed again in April, look for the coaching staff to get him on Grounds, perhaps with our newest commit there to help. Isaac Squared, as coined by my associate Joe Boxley. That’s the dream.

Hazy Guard Picture

St. Anne’s Belfield guard Justin Taylor is the only other recipient of a 2022 offer so far. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out with him going forward. Isaac McKneely’s commitment definitely complicates things. Both were essentially being recruited for one spot. Virginia obviously has built in advantages with the Charlottesville native. And the coaching staff likes him a lot. But they also have other needs and limited space right now. It might depend on how things shake out with potential transfers.

Point guard recruiting isn’t so tidy either. The focus right now is just identifying potential targets. They’ve been building relationships with a few, but no offers have gone out yet. Austin Nunez out of Wagner (TX) in particular has done multiple Zoom meetings with Bennett. Seth Trimble from Wisconsin has gotten a lot of attention lately too. I expect we’ll continue to have new names emerge. It’s very hard to evaluate these days. They’ll have to make the most of whatever high school film is available because coaches probably won’t be allowed out until July.

There’s also still a remote possibility for class of 2021 Paul VI (VA) guard Trevor Keels. He’s been down to Virginia, Duke, and Villanova since September. It’s doubtful to go our way at this point, but the coaching staff is actively involved.

Busy Offseason Ahead

Isaac is the first of what we hope will be quite a few commitments this calendar year. Ideally, at least four more is the goal between the 2022 class , incoming transfers, and late signing seniors. Five or even six could be possible if they lose some.

Expect Virginia to be very active in pursuing late additions this Spring. They have a clear need for immediate help in the frontcourt next season. The right wing player would be of interest too. I actually think they’ll look at any transfer they believe is a difference-maker, regardless of position. The transfer market will be bigger than ever with the probable rule change allowing immediate eligibility.

For now, let’s fully appreciate this one. We have a terrific player and great young man joining the Virginia program. The Poca Dot is a Wahoo.

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