It was another weekend on the road for Tony Bennett and the Virginia coaching staff, the second of three AAU live periods. They’re recruiting and evaluating for classmates to add next to stud guard Isaac McKneely in the 2022 class, as well as setting the table for 2023.
Things were more spread out this week. Bennett started off in Frisco, Texas for session two of the Under Armour Association. By Friday night, he was at the Grassroots Showdown in Louisville. His Saturday morning was spent in Council Bluffs, Iowa at the Adidas 3SSB Championships. Then finally, at Nike Peach Jam in Augusta.
This week was more about evaluating than recruiting in comparison to the first weekend. Bennett made sure to see each of his key targets and UVA commit Isaac McKneely. But, with the exception of Isaac Traudt getting an extra dose of attention, he focused more on players that they need to make urgent decisions on whether to recruit.
I’ll get into the names below. Some are new, and others are repeats from last week, along with surely more we’re not aware of. That was definitely the theme of the week. Very targeted appearances by Bennett, timed to see specific players. Four locations in three days meant there wasn’t an opportunity for long looks at anyone. He came in with a list of players in mind, surely filtered to him by assistants.
Key Target Watch
Wauwatosa East (WI) wing Leon Bond was extended a scholarship offer last week after Bennett saw him play in Atlanta. We won’t need to wait long to find out a verdict. He’s said he’ll decide by early August. Official visits to Virginia, Cincinnati, and Marquette were done in June.
Bennett made a special trip to see Bond play at the Grassroots Showdown in Louisville on Friday night. Marquette coach Shaka Smart doesn’t seem to have much else going on though. He was reported there all three days. Bond is clearly his top target by a wide margin. Cincinnati had an assistant on hand, but this looks to be a two-team race between UVA and Marquette.
The week’s first stop for Bennett was once again for Isaac Traudt, this time in Texas. He got to see Traudt play twice before moving on for Bond that night. Assistant Kyle Getter was stationed there for the rest of the weekend. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was reported there for a couple games. Bill Self of Kansas at least once.
Traudt picked up a new offer from Texas. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was in to see him. They could definitely become a factor in his recruitment. He also plans to visit Kansas in August.
I think it’s more or less a toss up for Leon Bond. Shaka Smart is doing everything possible to make sure that Leon knows how much he’s wanted. It wouldn’t be necessary to that extent if he were in the bag. I believe UVA is the favorite for Traudt. The biggest threat would probably be from newcomers, like Gonzaga, stretching the process out.
I think the main reason behind Bennett’s trip to the Adidas Championships in Iowa on Saturday was to watch Ernest Udeh. The big man from Florida is one of the hottest recruits in the class. They had planned to see him before. He missed the June scholastic period because of a canceled flight, then last weekend with an illness. Bennett got to see him up close this time, and teammate Ven-Allen Lubin again too.
Again this week, Bennett made a point to see Blythewood (SC) forward Julian Phillips in Iowa. I doubt there’s any question of whether they want him. He’s an elite talent. It’s more a matter of if they can get a foot in his door to have a chance.
Virginia coaches watched Florida-based E1T1 play at least four times in Augusta, including Bennett twice. I believe the main draw there is versatile forward Dillon Mitchell, already heavily recruited by lots of major programs. Wing Brice Sensabaugh is a possibility too. He’s been a popular summer blow-up.
I’m not sure if Bennett ever watched Montverde (FL) forward Malik Reneau this weekend, but the assistants were in regular attendance. He’s been a standout in Augusta. As has Dominick Barlow, another athletic power forward out of New Jersey they’ve been in contact with. Bennett saw him in the first game upon arrival.
Skilled forward Alex Karaban from Massachusetts has mentioned UVA interest before, but I don’t think he was really someone they set out this weekend to see. Regardless, he seemed to grab their attention in games they were at for other players. It culminated with Bennett courtside for his final game of the weekend.
Virginia has only made one class of 2023 scholarship offer, to wing Justin Edwards. They saw him this weekend in Augusta. It seems inevitable that offers are coming for guards Reed Sheppard and Caleb Foster too. They both visited in June and have received a heavy dose of the coaching staff’s attention. I’m on the lookout for players that could join that select group.
They went three-deep on Saturday night for the Team Durant 16U game. Bennett, Williford, and Vandross were all there. There are several players on that team they’re interested in, but I think that was mostly about 2023 St. Frances (MD) guard Jahnathan Lamothe. I mentioned him as a standout from the June scholastic periods. He kept it rolling in Augusta.
Bennett got another look at Isaiah Collier, the highly rated point guard out of Wheeler (GA). That’s the second time. He also saw Collier play back in June.
We’ve talked a lot about Reed Sheppard, but he’s not the only guy Bennett is watching on that team. Centerville (OH) point guard Gabe Cupps visited in June. He’s putting together quite an offer list of his own. It won’t be surprising if UVA joins it.
There’s something interesting going on with Philly forward Alassane Amadou. Coach Vandross took notice of him during the June periods. Bennett has seen him both weekends now. He was originally a 2022 recruit, so there’s potential for him to reclassify up.
Usual disclaimer. This has little to do with how players perform. I’m just reading into the activity of coaches.
When they offered the 2023 wing, I wasn’t sure they would seriously recruit him. They had just seen him have a monster game on a big stage. It was an easy offer to make. But they came out in full force for him this weekend. Bennett, Williford, and Vandross were all there for him on Sunday. Not many head coaches show up at these 16U games, much less bring two assistants along. So that was kind of a big statement.
I feel like people following closely have already caught on to this. But I know not everyone keeps up with it in that way. They’re not trying to recruit a 2022 point guard anymore. There’s almost no activity in that area. Meanwhile, point guards are the primary focus of 2023. Sometimes audibles get called and that seems to be the case here. It’ll be a golden opportunity for the right 2023 guard to inherit the job early in his career.
We’ll be back at on Friday for the last live period of the summer featuring the Nike Peach Jam Championship and Under Armour Finals.