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Men's Basketball

Holiday Wish List for Virginia Basketball

The holiday season is a time for hope and optimism. With everyone looking to fill their shopping lists on this Black Friday, I put together my wish list for Virginia Basketball. All of them I believe are possible, if not likely.

More Igor

I have to admit, I wasn’t initially that enthused about Virginia’s signing of freshman forward Igor Milicic.   He was obviously a uniquely skilled player at 6’10  and very productive in Germany.  But the game there is so different, it was hard to judge whether his skillset would translate to major college basketball.  

I’m a believer now.  It’s almost entirely because of the confidence he plays with offensively.   I think most fans recognize the same thing, and that’s why he’s stirred so much excitement.  All too often we see talented young players look hesitant and unsure of themselves, particularly at Virginia where it can be hard to adjust to the system.  So far, admittedly  in a small sample size, Igor has been a refreshing change from that pattern.  

My wish is for Igor to continue proving himself to the coaching staff in order to earn a bigger role as the season goes along.  On a team that isn’t getting a lot of offensive production from the bench, his potential emergence could give the Hoos a nice lift and bring a little extra excitement to the JPJ faithful along the way.  

Better Shooting

With rare exceptions, we’ve been spoiled by great shooting teams under Tony Bennett.  In seven of the last nine seasons, Virginia’s three-point percentage was among the top two in the ACC.   Not so much this time around.  They’re currently only hitting 31.7% from behind the arc, good for 235th nationally.  

This group won’t suddenly transform into the Sam Hauser or Kyle Guy version of Wahoos, but there’s reason to be hopeful for improvement.  Maybe considerable improvement.   .

Their highest volume three-point shooter, Armaan Franklin, has only connected on 31% of his attempts through six games.  Well below what might have been expected after he shot 42% at Indiana last year.   Coming off a great performance in Newark, he seems to be finding his comfort zone.  Along with that, I think we’ll see a more consistent shooter going forward. 

Carson McCorkle establishing himself, even in a small role, could make a difference as well.  His key triple against Georgia on Monday helped turn the tide in that game.   

Another Round of Beast Mode

I’m not really  a fan of the NCAA giving an extra year of eligibility to everybody, creating these so-called “super seniors” that are all around college basketball now.   But I’m a huge fan of Jayden Gardner, and I’d love to see him back in a Wahoo uniform next season.   

In his situation, the opportunity for an extra year is a great thing.   Major college coaches foolishly overlooked him out of high school.  He should have been in the ACC from the start.  And if the NCAA had ruled earlier to allow players to transfer without sitting out, he probably would have made the move a couple years ago.   The way I see it, the extra year only corrects a wrong in cases like his. 

If he does opt for another year,  it could really help UVA to fully bridge the gap to the next generation.  It would also make them a serious contender for the top spot in the ACC. 

Quiet Spring

This wish somewhat goes against my personal interests.  The more roster turnover, the more recruiting activity, the better for business around here.   But after last year, I’d be okay if the spring chaos passes Virginia by completely.  

Last year’s transfer tradeoff was a positive for Virginia.  I think that’s beyond dispute.  It’s not pleasant to imagine where they’d be without Jayden Gardner and Armann Franklin.  We all hate losing transfers because it represents failure to an extent, but sometimes it’s healthy for both the player and the program.  And while it was a mess to go through, I believe that was the case last year.  

With a terrific recruiting class on the way, it’s very important for UVA to keep their young players together.  They’re building for something special long term.  Bennett has gone out of his way to make sure everyone has an opportunity, limiting the roster to only 10 scholarship players.  It might be too much to hope for in this new environment to go a year without losing a transfer.  But I don’t anticipate this being a very active spring, and sincerely hope it’s quiet altogether.  

The Missing Piece

As anybody reading this already knows, Tony Bennett and his staff absolutely crushed it on the recruiting trail this past year in assembling a Dream Class for 2022.   There’s still one key ingredient missing though,  the next point guard.  That’s the top priority in 2023. 

My wish is for Bennett to reel in his floor general, preferably London Johnson.   Out of Norcross High School in Georgia, Johnson named UVA to his top 12 in late October shortly after visiting Charlottesville.  There was a report at the time from On3Sports that he could make his college decision soon, but that obviously hasn’t materialized yet.  

A big heady guard and a very high-level shot maker, Johnson has all the qualities Benentt searches for in a point guard.  He would be just about the perfect recruit in that spot to maximize the talent they’ve already assembled.  While it’s far from certain, the Hoos seem to be the heavy favorite for what would be the highest rated recruit of the Bennett-era.  

Reclaim The Cup

I’m a basketball guy, but I’m also a Virginia Football fan.  On top of that, I manage a fan forum.  You better believe my week will go a lot smoother if the Hoos can bring home the Commonwealth Cup on Saturday.  Let’s Go Hoos!  Beat Tech!!

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