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Virginia Men's Basketball

Updating Virginia’s Top 2023 Targets

Just when it appeared recruiting was slowing down with the season approaching, news broke on Wednesday that a top target is nearing his decision. I look at which programs are the real contenders for London Johnson, and update other top targets in the class.

Point Guard Nearing Decision

Things with London Johnson have moved along quickly.   The Norcross (GA) point guard was offered a scholarship recently while on grounds for an unofficial visit.   He clearly enjoyed his time in Charlottesville,   “My visit to UVA was special”, he said in our interview

On Wednesday, he released a top 12 of Virginia, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Houston, Clemson, Florida, NC State, North Carolina, Southern Cal, Xavier, and Wake Forest.    And according to a report from On3Sports, there’s a bigger announcement on the way.  He’s expected to make his college choice in the next few weeks.  

There’s good reason for Virginia optimism. With a clear path to early playing time and a track record of sending comparable players to the NBA, they check all the boxes he’s said are his deciding factors. Fresh off his visit and a new offer in hand, UVA seems the best candidate to have delivered a sudden knockout that would result in such an early commitment.

Originally from Charlotte, it’s possible one of his home-state schools could pull off a surprise. He visited Wake Forest and NC State in the week leading up to his UVA trip. North Carolina, however, probably isn’t a real contender after receiving a commitment from guard Simeon Wilcher. Johnson hasn’t visited Chapel Hill.

Then again, maybe this isn’t necessarily a sudden development. His recent string of visits could have been due diligence in order to feel confident about choosing a program that’s consistently recruited him from the start. Auburn best fits that description. They’re likely the top threat to Virginia.

Johnson is the only true point guard in the 2023 class with a Virginia offer. He’s ranked as high as 17th in the country by Rivals, making him potentially the highest rated recruit of the Bennett-era should he choose UVA.

Sheppard Watch

North Laurel (KY) guard Reed Sheppard has been the 2023 recruit that Virginia has worked hardest for so far.  He’s quietly going about his process with October unofficial visits to UVA, Kentucky, and Ohio State.  Those seem to be the three contenders.  Mostly a Bennett vs Calipari battle as we expected.   

I don’t expect it to end soon, but definitely don’t anticipate a marathon either.  Despite all the Kentucky hype and media predictions, it really could go either way.  UVA is probably in the best position, but you’d have to imagine it would be hard for him to say no to Kentucky in the end.  I think it’s noteworthy how he’s gone about things, avoiding attention. Few interviews and no photos from his visits. Bennett would approve.

George Washington III from Christian Academy of Louisville was on grounds in early October for an unofficial visit as well.  No scholarship offer yet, but he’s one to keep an eye on.  He and Reed Sheppard would be recruited for the same spot. 

Hazy Forward Picture

While guard recruiting looks promising, the forecast up front is hazy.  The lone offer so far is to Ridge View (SC) forward Gregory Jackson.  There’s talk that he could come off the board soon to North Carolina.  He might still visit UVA in the coming weeks.   It’s certainly not over, but I think it’s fair to call the Tar Heels a heavy favorite at this point.   

UVA is looking for an athletic power forward in the 2023 class, someone that would fit well next to Isaac Traudt in a future lineup.   Other than Jackson, there are two names to watch, Dylan James and Xavier Booker.   James, out of Winter Haven (FL), caught their attention this summer and is starting to become a popular recruit for programs in the southeast.  Booker, from Cathedral High in Indianapolis, was visited by Bennett in early September.  

Top 2024 Target?

Tony Bennett does not make early scholarship offers to sophomores anymore like he used to.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still recruiting young players.  The coaching staff has been to see quite a few class of 2024 recruits this Fall.   By far, the player that’s received the most attention is Seaforth (NC) forward Jarin Stevenson.  

He was in attendance for the Blue-White Game recently along with London Johnson.  It was Stevenson’s second visit to UVA already.  He’s coached by his father, a former Richmond star.  His mom played at North Carolina.  The Tar Heels have already offered and figure to be hard to beat, but Coach Williford obviously has the Hoos in a good early spot for the #24 ranked player in the class according to Rivals.

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