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Virginia Men's Basketball

Recruiting Mailbag – Isaac Traudt, Reed Sheppard, Igor Milicic, Justin Taylor…much more

The mailbag is back and loaded with recruiting questions.

Who else is coming to visit in June along with Isaac? @KeepingUpWithG8

The NCAA’s recruiting dead period is set to be lifted on June 1st. That gives prospects some time to take visits before they get busy again in July with the AAU evaluation periods. UVA will host class of 2022 commit Isaac McKneely on the weekend of June 11th. He’ll be joined by top forward target Isaac Traudt out of Grand Island (NE). Those are the big ones. It’s been a long time coming for both those guys.

Class of 2023 guard Reed Sheppard from North Laurel (KY) plans to take an unofficial visit on June 14th. He’s a strong early candidate to be UVA’s top guard target in the class. 2022 Wauwatosa East (WI) wing Leon Bond has said he’ll probably visit in June, but there’s no date set. He’s been a major spring stock climber. There will probably be more.

What are the differences between a small forward and a power forward in today’s game? Which one is Igor? @Hooandtrue

That’s a loaded question.  Positional labels are often deceptive,  especially in recruiting.  Everybody has their own terminology.   In a way, there’s no such thing as a small forward anymore. It’s usually just another guard.  To play there, they need to have guard skills and be able to defend guards.  Lacking in either area makes them a liability.  That’s why true hybrid players are rare.  There aren’t many out there with the combination of size, skill, and athleticism.   

I don’t try to play scout that much, but I do watch all these recruits enough to categorize them for fans with an eye on just this type of thing.   I expect recent UVA signee Igor Milicic to be a hybrid, to play both guard (small forward) and power forward.  It’s really simple. He’s always played as a guard and has forward size. He clearly has the offensive skillset.  And he defended guards in Europe.  Now, that part will be more challenging in the ACC.  But he should get there.

Who is the one recruit we didn’t get recently you would want and why is it Terrance Williams? lol @bestcomment4

A fun aspect of following recruiting is looking back and playing what if. For me, Keon Johnson (Tennessee) is at the top of the recent list. I fell in love with his game watching AAU streams a couple summers ago while Coach Bennett tracked him. He’s an electric exciting player. Great guy from a terrific family, like so many of the young men Virginia recruits. I’m not sure he would have impacted the success of the program that much since he ended up a one-and-done player, but we’d definitely have some lasting highlights.

My favorite recruits are always the ones that climb the ladder. Special players that weren’t recognized as such at an early age like most are. They seem to have more appreciation for it all. Usually there’s more room for growth with a player like that too because they haven’t always had the best of everything handed to them. I think we have one fitting the description on the way in Isaac McKneely.

Any updates on Justin Taylor? Of the 2022 offers, he’s the one we hear the least about. @Adrian_Vigil

St. Anne’s Belfield guard Justin Taylor was one of the first recruits Virginia offered in the Class of 2022. The local product has a had a great Spring with Team Takeover on his way to becoming a very sought after national recruit. He has June visits scheduled to Indiana, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Syracuse. He does mention Virginia as being involved too.

The Issue here is that Taylor’s skillset overlaps a lot with Taine Murry and Isaac McKneely. Virginia really only has room to add one more wing for 2022, and they seem more focused on players like Bobi Klintman and Leon Bond. Multi-positional athletes that would complement their skilled guards. Meanwhile, other programs that have a greater obvious need for Taylor are focused on him.

Odds on Austin Nunez becoming a Cav? 50-50 or better? @Imdefjeff

Austin Nunez is the only point guard UVA has offered a scholarship so far in the 2022 class. His recruitment is tough to handicap right now. Over the weekend, he mentioned Arkansas and Oregon along with Virginia as the three primary schools involved. This will sound contradictory. I believe UVA is the the best position, yet I’d still take the under 50% side. It’s just that I know he’s in no rush and things have a way of changing if it carries into July.

At the end of the summer is Traudt a Hoo? @aharrison2611

Grand Island (NE) forward Isaac Traudt has been Tony Bennett’s top target for a while now and will finally visit Charlottesville in June. I do tend to believe he’ll end up a Hoo. They’ve done a great job recruiting him and it’s a really good fit. Virginia has a terrific opportunity available, Bennett has a strong history of utilizing similar players, and I think he’s someone that appreciates the culture of the program. Usually when things make sense, it works out eventually. But no, his recruitment probably won’t end this summer.

Has the ship sailed for Trimble without an offer and growing offer list? @bananaslugpab

Well, UVA has gotten a little strange about scholarship offers. They’re very hard to come by. Not being able to evaluate recruits in-person is certainly a large part of the reason for that. So I wouldn’t rule out Seth Trimble getting an offer yet. But I do think the ship has sailed either way. He would have always been hard to get. That’s the real issue.

Likelihood of a Donald Hand Jr offer? @mccavman

Donald Hand Jr. son of the Wahoo legend, is a top 100 ranked guard in the 2022 class. He’s mentioned UVA interest, but there’s not a lot of signs of involvement. The window isn’t closed. Likelihood seems fairly low though. I think he would need to prove himself this summer as a point guard.

With Franklin, McCorkle, McKneely and possibly Sheppard playing 2G do you see Murray as predominantly a SF like Devon Hall at UVA? @dbaron610591

Sure!  That’s the ideal lineup for the most part in today’s game.  You want at least three players, preferably four, that are a threat to create off the bounce. UVA has played more with jumbo wings at the SF spot the last couple years.  But that’s largely been out of necessity to get their best players on the court.   We’ll certainly see some of that with Milicic, but probably more of an even split between big and small lineups.

Was there a specific reason why some of the 2021 recruits fell through? Did something happen during the recruiting process? @BASKIN_myglory

Obviously, the long dead period was a major factor for everybody..  It completely wiped out the discovery process that is summer evaluations.  UVA depends on those live periods maybe more than any program in the country.   As for the players they did recruit, each one is their own story.

I think they did a really good job getting a quality guard in Taine Murray in a very difficult spot.  Forward recruiting was messy though.  They seemed to change plans several times, basically forfeiting all their early work.   By the time they settled on getting a skilled forward in Trey Kaufman, covid was here.  There wasn’t anything to do but stay the course.  Instead of taking chances on unproven players, they waited until Spring and found Igor Milicic

UVA targets a true point (Like Nunez) or goes for another CG?(Jameel Brown) @wahoowa23

Either variety will work. Jameel Brown out of Westtown (PA) is one of the guards Virginia is showing a lot of recent interest in. He’ll get his chance to earn an offer this summer. And of course, Nunez holds a Virginia offer. As long as they get someone who could provide minutes in the lead spot that year, it’s fine. If they end up with more of a combo guard such as Brown, expect the floor general type in 2023.

Is there any recruit that UVa had a real chance to come that most fans don’t know about? @bubbaswo

I thought about this for a bit, but couldn’t come up with anything of my own.  So I’ll go with the story Coach Williford told on the J-Willy Show about Villanova guard Collin Gillespie.

He was considered a Division-2 recruit before his senior year put him on the map.  As Williford explained, they had a trip scheduled to go up to Philly and check him out.  Villanova offered him a scholarship that same week, essentially ending his recruitment.   Credit Jay Wright for noticing a hidden gem in his backyard, and probably for having spies to tell him when UVA was coming.   Of course, the real lesson is to never miss the J-Willy Show

How much of Jayden Gardner at the 5 do you think we’ll see next season and who is protecting the rim in these situations? @Hooandtrue

It’ll all depend on how the players around him perform.  They’re banking on Kadin Shedrick playing a major role next season.  Francisco Caffaro being a contributor at center as well.  If all goes according to plans, probably not much time for Gardner there.  

Shedrick will be the only real rim protector next season.  Their decision not to pursue a transfer like that spoke volumes about their confidence in Kadin. The lack of rim protection will be a weakness in the occasional small frontcourt lineup though, probably Jayden Gardner with either Igor Milicic or Kody Stattmann. Assuming Trey Murphy doesn’t return.

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