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Virginia Men's Basketball

Takeaways from the First AAU Live Period

(Image: Under Armour Association)

The Virginia coaching staff were on the road from Thursday through Sunday for the first of three AAU live evaluation periods. Atlanta and Birmingham were the hot spots. Session one of the Under Armour Association was held in Emerson, GA, just north of Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Adidas 3SSB circuit got underway in Birmingham.

Tony Bennett split his time evenly between those two locations, with a couple brief stops at independent events in Atlanta. He checked in on his prized commit Isaac McKneely, shadowed his top target, and evaluated quite a few for potential scholarship offers. It’s like old times again. As usual, we learn what they’re up to along the way.

Targeted Viewing

Unlike during the June scholastic evaluation periods when there was a lot of randomness, Bennett seemed to have a very clear group of players that he focused on. Most of his time was spent on only a handful of guys at each stop, often seeing them multiple times each. Assistants were part of that as well. They came with purpose. It was just about all top line stuff. Seeing priority recruits, and seriously evaluating players that they need to decide whether to recruit.

Scholarship offers have been really hard to come by. We should see some slip out soon. While other schools went ahead recruiting, UVA prepared for their opportunity to evaluate. I think we’ll find they’re actually a little further along with some of these recruits than it appears on the surface.

Traudt Watch

Grand Island (NE) forward Isaac Traudt is Virginia’s clear top target in the 2022 class.  This was the first time coaches have had the opportunity to see him play in-person.  So naturally, we’re going to over analyze who showed up courtside for Nebraska Supreme at the Under Armour event in Georgia.    

Tony Bennett watched Traudt play three times on Thursday and Friday.  I’m pretty sure that was more than any other head coach.  UVA had at least an assistant on hand for each of his eight games.  All of the five schools he’s visited were a steady presence though.  It paints about the picture we expected.  They all really want him and believe they’re in the race.  Bennett believes a little more.  

The biggest threat could be from newcomers.  Duke’s Jon Scheyer saw him play on Thursday.  Michigan and UCLA were around too.   Any of them could join the race soon.  That’s what July is about.  

For what it’s worth…During my time covering UVA recruiting, I don’t recall the entire staff ever paying as much collective attention to one recruit during a live weekend. Bennett once described how he “bulldogged” Ty Jerome, shadowing him in July. It’s that and some with Traudt.

Bond Rising

Virginia has been quietly involved with Wauwatosa East (WI) wing Leon Bond for quite some time.  He visited in early June.  It wasn’t acknowledged until an Instagram post last week, however.  This weekend was the first chance to see him play.  Tony Bennett was courtside for him twice, and an assistant a third time..  Even making special trips to Best of the South, an independent event held in Atlanta. 

Bond was one of the Spring’s biggest stock risers, now ranked in the top 50 nationally by 247Sports.  He’s still a little on the raw side, but has enormous potential.  A long athletic 6’5 or so, he can defend almost anyone.  That’s the key trait UVA seems to be looking for in a wing.  With the skill development he’s shown of late, he has a chance to be well rounded two-way guard.

He’s already taken official visits to Cincinnati and nearby Marquette.  Others may try to jump in, but I think those will be the contenders.  It’s just a question now of whether he’ll earn an offer from Coach Bennett.   With the visits already completed, things could move along quickly if/when that offer is extended.  

Athletic Forward Wanted

As I looked back over all the games Virginia coaches were spotted at,  this was a trend that jumped out.   Obviously they’re hoping to add Isaac Traudt, but they’re also looking for a second forward that would complement his skillset.  There were a variety of types evaluated.  Some are true power forwards, others combos.  The common trait is they’re all terrific athletes.

There were two fitting the description at Under Armour. Robert Jennings was the first player Bennett saw on Thursday.   An explosive power forward from Texas, they’ve been building a relationship with him for some time.  They saw a lot of Chauncey Wiggins.  More of a stretch-four variety, the Grayson (GA) product had a really good weekend.    

No one in Birmingham boosted their stock more than Ven-Allen Lubin.   Bennett and Kyle Getter saw him play multiple times.  They were also courtside for highly-rated combo forward Julian Phillips out of South Carolina.  And in the last game on Sunday, Bennett got a look at local product Maliq Brown of Blue Ridge

All of those guys just received auditions from the boss.  I expect we’ll see other similar players get the same treatment in the weeks ahead.  

2023 Taking Shape

Virginia made their first 2023 scholarship offer a couple weeks ago to Imhotep (PA) wing Justin Edwards after a big showing during the scholastic weekend.  There wasn’t as much 2023 activity this week. But it was all top line. Players that could very well be offered scholarships soon. We’re starting to see their plan take shape, along with having an idea of a couple likely top targets.

Oak Hill Academy point guard Caleb Foster visited recently.  They were all over him this week in Georgia.  He’s a big time prospect out of Charlotte, already with 5-star status. Duke is coming around too.  They’ll probably be involved.  But it looks like UVA will take their shot here.  When you look at the projected roster in 2023, it’s about as good of an opportunity at the point as they’ll ever have.  

Point guards have been a real focus going back to the June periods.  Colin Porter out of Ashland (KY) caught their attention then.  He visited shortly after.  Bennett and Getter saw him in Birmingham.  More of a hidden gem variety right now, he’s playing up an age division and producing against quality competition.  We’ll continue to hear his name.  

Once again, Bennett was front and center for Reed Sheppard, including for his showdown against Isaac McKneely on Sunday.  There’s no sign of UVA backing down despite Kentucky offering. Keep an eye on his backcourt mate too, floor general Gabe Cupps.  He’s climbing the charts fast after another great week in Birmingham. 

St. Anne’s Belfield big man Carter Lang kept playing well on the Adidas circuit.  UVA coaches were in for him at least twice.  A center looks to be on the agenda for 2023.  He’s a strong early  candidate.  

Stock Up/Down

Reminder, this has very little to do with how players perform, and not at all this time.   It’s more about reading into the attention they receive from coaches.

Stock Up

Leon Bond

I’m being somewhat bold here with a guy who hasn’t gotten a scholarship offer, and I really don’t know that he will.  What caught my eye was after Bennett had moved to Birmingham, Coach Vandross came back to see Bond again.   That’s more something that happens for players being recruited than evaluated.  Like I hinted above, this could get real very fast if and when they offer.  

Stock Down

Reed Sheppard

This is a fickle business.  He was my Stock Up pick in June.  Nothing has changed from the Virginia side so far.  Bennett was all over him again.  We knew Kentucky was coming eventually.  But John Calipari really laid it all on the line this week.  Full staff at his game, followed immediately by a scholarship offer.  We’d be a little naive not to recognize that our chances just took a big hit.

We’ll be back at it next week. The second live period featuring the EYBL in Augusta starts on Friday.

(Image: Under Armour Association)

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