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Virginia Men's Basketball

Polish Forward Igor Milicic Commits to Virginia

(Image: Bayern Monachium)

Tony Bennett has reached overseas for a late addition to his 2021 class.  Igor Milicic Jr. announced his commitment to Virginia today.  The 6’9 forward from Poland currently plays for Ratiopharm Ulm of the German BBL, the top professional league there.  He joins New Zealander Taine Murray in Virginia’s soon to be incoming freshman class. 

Background

Milicic has grown up around the game.  His father is a successful head coach in the Polish professional league.  Basketball is the family business.  He and his two younger brothers all play in the Ulm club program, the best for youth development in Germany.   Igor is considered a late bloomer though.  His stock has soared, especially over the last year due to the improvement he’s displayed this season.  

Milicic spent the past two seasons with Ulm’s B-division team known as Orange Academy.  It’s a developmental team consisting of players in the college age range, although their opponents often feature older pros.  His production made a big jump this year.  He averaged 13 points and nearly 5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. That standout play recently earned him a promotion to the club’s top team, Ratiopharm Ulm, where he now plays alongside former Wahoo Isaiah Wilkins.  Look closely, you might recognize him in the highlights below. 

If you’re searching for a way to put Igor into comparable context, he had an Orange Academy teammate you might remember.  Baylor signee Jeremy Sochan, ranked as the 41st overall player in the 2021 class by 247Sports, was recruited by Virginia.   American scouts and college coaches are familiar with him because, before heading to Germany, he played at the La Lumiere School in Indiana.   Milicic had a far better statistical season in nearly every category than his highly ranked teammate.  That doesn’t necessarily forecast how they’ll transition to the college level, but it’s certainly worth pointing out.   

What to Expect from Igor Milicic

The first thing that stands out in watching Igor’s games is that he’s used in the 3-spot almost exclusively over there.  Often the recruits labeled as combo or small forwards, particularly those his size,  never actually play that position.  I expect that to be his role at Virginia, the jumbo wing that slides down to power forward in small lineups.  Positionally similar to recent Hoos Trey Murphy or Braxton Key.  

His ball skills are impressive for a 6’9 prospect.  He handles well and has shown good capability  of creating off the dribble.  While not the most explosive athlete, he’s very adept at using his size to get into the paint and finish.  Continuing to improve as a three-point shooter will be the biggest key to his success.  He converted 32% this year for Orange Academy.  It’s a nice fluid stroke though.  And he’s clearly confident in it, attempting over five per game.  

The European style of basketball is very different.  It’ll be a big adjustment for him, especially on defense.  He’s faced really good competition, but not ACC level athleticism.  Playing small forward in college means defending quick 6’5 guards instead of the skilled 6’7 wings he’s typically tasked with in Germany.  It could turn out that he’s only ready to play power forward early on.  Which is fine because that’s where UVA needs the depth right now.  

Virginia is getting a very talented player with a high ceiling.  He should be capable of making an immediate contribution, and has potential to be a true difference maker in the long term.  

Next Season’s Roster

With the addition of Milicic, Virginia has at least 10 scholarship players for next season.  That puts them back in the range Bennett seems to be comfortable with.   Trey Murphy, currently testing the NBA Draft, could make it 11 should he choose to return. 

At this point, UVA’s 2021-22 roster might be set. They’ll still look into potential transfer targets though. There’s room for one more without impacting plans for the 2022 class. But they have everything they need now. Any further addition would need to be a difference maker. I don’t believe there are any serious targets right now. I doubt we’re done hearing UVA tied to transfers either.

2022 Recruiting Impact

The focus is going to quickly shift back to class of 2022 recruiting, where it’ll stay all summer and probably into the Fall.  With already an important early commit in Isaac McKneely, Tony Bennett has ambitious plans.  He has lots of room too, currently five scholarships available.  Probably one more than they intend to use, which is why another transfer recruit is possible.  

The dead period will finally be lifted in June.  Isaac McKneely plans to come on his official visit on the weekend of June 11th.  He’ll be joined by top forward target Isaac Traudt.  That’s a big one for the Hoos.   It’s safe to say he’s very high on the coaching staff’s wish list.   As an ultra skilled multi-positional player, Traudt fits perfectly into Bennett’s vision of having four or even five perimeter threats together on the court.  Competition is stiff.  North Carolina and Michigan State recently offered.  

The recruitment to watch closest right now might be for Austin Nunez, the point guard from Texas.  He and his parents have already visited on their own during the season.  His process may be a little further along than Traudt’s.   He’s the only point guard Bennett has offered so far.  Arkansas is believed to be the prime competition.  Baylor is also involved.  

Swedish wing Bobi Klintman could be the most impacted recruit by the addition of Milicic.  They’re similar, both skilled combo forwards.  Virginia will continue recruiting him.  But this changes the equation a little.  Expect Bennett to consider a wider variety of players in that spot now.  They’ll still need an athletic wing, but with Milicic on board it could be more of a guard instead of a hybrid forward.

The Wrap

A month ago after Virginia was hit with three transfer departures, I laid out the blueprint of the Spring Patch Job that was coming. It included one guard addition and two forwards. They’ve done exactly that now. With Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, and now Igor Milicic on board the program is in better shape, both short and long term, than before the transfers left. They might not be done yet, but the late recruiting cycle is a major success if they do nothing else.

Maybe most importantly, Bennett has done it all without any real harm toward his efforts with the 2022 class. It should be a fun off-season ahead as we start to settle back into a normal recruiting atmosphere with UVA aiming for at least four more additions by next Fall. You can follow every step of the way with Locker Room Access.

(Image: Bayern Monachium)

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