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Virginia Men's Basketball

Crucial Spring Of Decisions Ahead For Virginia

(Featured Image: Matt Riley)

Virginia’s season came to a screeching halt last night with a loss in the NiT quarterfinals. There will be little time for rest.  The transfer portal is already filling up.   Wahoo players will soon make their decisions on whether to stay or go.   All indications are the coaching staff are planning to search for transfer additions.  And in the middle of all that, there will be important recruiting activity involving the Class of 2023.   It’s the start of the crazy season, another chaotic spring. 

Stay or Go

The first shoe to drop will be decisions from current players on whether to return for next season.   That will start right away.  Coach Bennett indicated last night in the postgame presser that he expects to meet with players individually very soon.  And there’s no guarantee they even wait for those meetings.  Players can put their name into the portal without any consent now.  

With the extra year of eligibility granted due to covid irregularities, seniors have those decisions to make as well.  Point guard Kihei Clark and forward Jayden Gardner are both believed to be seriously considering the option of returning.   Those are probably the first verdicts that will come, so that the other players can take it into consideration.  

I’m not going to speculate publicly about which players might be in danger of transfer, but it’s not hard to figure out.   Anyone that wasn’t regularly in the rotation or has underperformed their own expectations on the court are at risk to varying degrees.  There are several.

Players have to submit their name into the portal by May 1st in order to be eligible for the one-time waiver to play next season.  

Patch Job

Once those stay or go decisions come in, things will clear up about how many and what type of transfer additions Virginia will pursue.  Theoretically, they’d be using the full allotment of 13 scholarships if there are no departures and both Clark and Gardner return.  So there can’t be any additions until someone leaves. 

We’re in a gray area right now.  They’ve already been contacting available transfers, sort of preparing for scenarios without really knowing if they’ll have room.   This is only the initial wave of players entering the portal, mostly from mid-majors so far.   Over the coming weeks, the list will grow and include more high-profile players from power conferences.  

This will be a more challenging year for Virginia to shop the portal.  Last year, they had obvious openings in the lineup, which helped them land very popular transfer recruits in Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin.  This time, we’re probably looking more for role players that bring qualities missing on the current roster.  But you never know.  There could always be that Sam Hauser situation, a star player who fits so well that nothing else matters.  

Shooting will be the top priority.  It’s the most glaring need.  A veteran guard in particular would be ideal to help bridge the gap to the next generation on the way.   The right frontcourt player will be of interest as well.  An athletic combo or power forward to provide more versatility.  Or perhaps a young big man capable of contributing right away who’s also a building block for the future. 

The Announcement

We’ve been in a long waiting game with London Johnson.  The Class of 2023 Norcorss (GA) point guard has Virginia in his final six along with Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Southern Cal.   

I do expect we’ll get that verdict sometime over the next couple weeks or so, likely ahead of the upcoming live period.   He’s fresh off leading Norcross to a state title, and has been posting a series of videos that seem to be building up to his announcement.  

There’s really not a lot to say about it at this point.  He’s an enormously important recruit for Virginia obviously.  It would be pretty surprising if the Hoos aren’t the choice, but you never know for certain until he says it himself.  

Although the option to reclassify is on the table, all indications are he’s planning to stay in the 2023 class.  It’s possible that decision could be revisited later this summer however.  

Spring is Live Again

Right in the middle of all this transfer mess, there’ll be brief windows where 2023 recruiting takes center stage.  The first of two spring evaluation periods takes place on the weekend of April 8th, right after the Final Four.  Two weekends later is another.   Due to covid, it’s been three years since we’ve had these spring live periods.  It’ll be nice to have a normal full offseason of recruiting again.  

Virginia is an unusual position with the 2023 class.  Other than London Johnson, there aren’t any serious targets left.  The players they focused on early are off the board.  Caleb Foster chose Duke early on.  Reed Sheppard is staying home at Kentucky.  And Gregory Jackson isn’t happening.  

These live periods will be crucial..  They’re sort of starting fresh.  Hopefully they’ll have Johnson in the bag.  But other than that, it’s a totally clean slate.  They’re looking for a future big man, and possibly another guard.  There are a lot of names they’ve been tied to, guys the coaches have visited and kept tabs on.  But no one that really stands out yet.   Everything they’ve done has just been in preparation for those two weekends of evaluation.  Go-time is nearing. 

Bottom line is there’ll be a lot of moving pieces in a short period of time.  The crazy season is here.   As always, we’ll have it covered every step of the way on Locker Room Access.

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