(Image: Impact Sports Network)
For two straight weekends, Virginia coaches have been out watching recruits at NCAA certified events as part of the scholastic live evaluation periods. It can be chaotic. Coaches are flying around. Tony Bennett alone has been in six different locations. Lots of names get mentioned. So I’m here to try to put things in perspective.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is only the warmup act for July. Not everyone was available during these scholastic periods. They’ll get a break now. Then go back at it for three straight weekends attending AAU events, starting July 8th.
These weekends are officially called evaluation periods by the NCAA, but they’re typically used as much for actual recruiting. Coaches have two purposes, to see and be seen. To see, or evaluate, potential new recruits. And to be seen by players they’re already recruiting. Head coaches in particular are mostly there to be seen. They show up for established targets or for a final review before deciding whether to offer someone.
Tony Bennett takes the evaluation process very seriously. He’s always used live periods for their intended purpose more than other head coaches. This time around, it was just about all evaluation. Early stage evaluation in some cases. Bennett showed up at a lot of games for players who probably have a long way to go before earning an offer from Virginia.
The only real recruiting was done on the first day in Kentucky last weekend when Bennett saw UVA commit Isaac McKneely and 2023 guard Reed Sheppard. The rest of the time was in the trenches, starting the process of filtering through the names they’ve collected. All hands were needed on deck, including the boss.
June is the new April
Bennett made several clearly purposeful appearances for players that surprised me. 2022 recruits that I would usually consider too far gone at this point to bother with. Last weekend, it was Archbishop Spalding (MD) wing Cam Whitmore and Bishop McNamara (MD) center Favour Aire. Then on Saturday, he saw Wilbraham & Monson (MA) power forward Kyle Filipowski at the New England Prep Showcase. I’ll throw Fayette (GA) forward Kaleb Banks in there too, who Bennett saw on Friday.
All of those are recruits that have a firm list of contenders. They were identified as high level prospects early on, and have been recruited hard by major programs for a full year. With the exception of Banks, UVA has been tied to them all at some point. But I had written them off. I’m sort of conditioned to think of April as the last opportunity to offer guys like that. Without the usual in-person activity, this year is different. Windows are still open that under normal circumstances would have closed by now.
No Rush for Guards
A point guard has been on the 2022 agenda from the start. The biggest surprise has been the absence of activity in that area.
The two guys I would have bet on Bennett showing up for were Wagner (TX) PG Austin Nunez, who holds an offer, and Westtown (PA) combo Jameel Brown. Assistants were on hand for both. Kyle Getter in Texas for Nunez this weekend, and Orlando Vandross for Brown last weekend. Their presence shows UVA is involved. But clearly Bennett isn’t pushing to close out on Nunez yet, or in a rush to decide whether to offer Brown.
St. Thomas More (CT) guard Desmond Claude was a major stock riser this weekend, picking up several fresh offers already. And Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) PG Rowan Brumsbaugh, a DC native, had a good weekend. Bennett saw them both on Saturday in Connecticut. They’ve each mentioned UVA interest recently.
The bottom line here is Bennett is clearly comfortable with the current status quo, and probably welcomes the opportunity for discovery July brings.
2023 coming into focus
I know fans are a lot more interested in the 2022 class, but the majority of evaluation activity this summer is for rising juniors. These live periods are the basis for decisions coaches make about which recruits to invest their time in this Fall. They saw a lot of potential 2023 recruits these past two weeks. But there were three in particular that I believe really helped themselves.
Imhotep (PA) wing Justin Edwards went off for 26 points on Saturday night in a high-profile matchup with Bennett and Vandross on hand in Philadelphia. St. Frances (MD) guard Jahnathan Lamothe has been terrific. Bennett and Williford saw him multiple times last week in DC. . And Chambers (NC) PG Jaylen Curry looks like a very underrated player. Bennett saw him in Georgia on Friday.
I’m not forgetting Reed Sheppard. It’s just that I believe he’s already more in the category of an active recruitment. An offer and priority treatment seem inevitable for him.
Barring a major surprise, UVA is going to head into the storm that is July’s live periods without any new commitments. No visits are allowed from July 6th until August. It’s all about the AAU periods during that time. The actual recruiting sort of pauses.
Things will have changed when the dust settles. It’s only a question of how. And we won’t have a full picture until probably well into August. There will be new recruits and some might drift away.
It’s an exciting time when discoveries are made. Bennett’s favorite recruiting stories all start in July. But if you’re only looking for commitment news, check back in a couple months.
Someone reminded me last week that I always did this in live period recaps. It had been so long since we had one, I forgot about it. To be clear, this has little to do with how players perform. It’s more about how much attention they’ve received from the coaching staff relative to expectations. The choices were pretty obvious this time.
Reed Sheppard. Tony Bennett hadn’t been out recruiting in 15 months. Literally the first minute he was allowed in a gym, at noon last Friday, he was in the front row for Sheppard. It was a special trip too. Bennett didn’t have anyone else there he needed to see, like other head coaches that attended. There’s just no louder statement that could be made during these live periods. Sheppard will be a priority recruit and UVA will go all out to make him a Hoo.
Austin Nunez. He was really good this weekend in Texas, surely raising his recruiting stock. But he has a UVA offer, and Bennett didn’t come. Whatever hope there was that he would commit to UVA before those July live periods. seems to be gone. And with that, the odds of him ending up in Charlottesville drop significantly.
In case you missed it
2022 St. Anne’s-Belfield guard Justin Taylor announced his commitment to Syracuse on Saturday. He was one of the first players UVA offered in the class, but we’ve known for a while that wouldn’t work out once Isaac McKneely was on board.
In a little bit of a surprise, 2022 wing Colin Smith included Virginia in his top 10 this weekend. The 6’8 wing from Texas recently transferred to AZ Compass Prep. He’s probably a longshot, but we’ll see. Michigan, Stanford, and Illinois are believed to be the major players in his recruitment.