The newest Hoo is a familiar name in more ways than one. Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas announced his commitment to Virginia today. The senior 6’8 forward averaged better than 14 points and nearly 7 rebounds this past season on his way to earning first-team All-MAC honors. He chose Virginia out of a final six that also included Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Iowa State, and Ohio State.
Background and Recruitment
Virginia fans will remember Vander Plas from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He scored 17 points in Ohio’s first round victory, including some real daggers that helped send the Hoos home early.
Ben is short for Bennett. His father was a college teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay, where they were coached by Tony’s father Dick. Ben was named after the Bennett family.
Given that history, Virginia obviously had a nice advantage in his recruitment. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion at all, however. He took a round of visits, starting in Charlottesville last Friday. Wisconsin and Iowa State each received visits this week as well.
In the end, it seemed to come down to Virginia and his home-state Badgers. Our side felt really good about their chances after his visit. So did Wisconsin apparently. He handled the whole process quietly and delivered a swift verdict, all in very Bennett-esque fashion.
What Vander Plas Brings to Virginia
Vander Plas only has one season left to play at Virginia. He’s a senior using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to make up for the irregularities of last season during the covid pandemic. He joins Kihei Clark and Jayden Gardner as “super seniors” on the 2022-23 Virginia team.
A three-year starter at Ohio, he’s been coincidentally productive there. And his game has proven to translate just as well against the upper echelon of college basketball. In nine games against power conference teams over the past three years, he’s averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. That includes outings of 19 points or better against Kentucky, Villanova, and Illinois.
He’ll bring versatility to the Virginia lineup, especially on the offensive end. A respectable 34% three-point shooter at the forward spot should help provide better offensive spacing. More room for the big men to operate and better driving lanes for the guards. They’ll need to get a little creative to get him on the court. We’ll probably see more small-ball looks with him and Jayden Gardner in the frontcourt together. And he could perhaps be used at guard occasionally.
Vander Plas is a well-rounded player. He’s a unique playmaker at the forward position, averaging three assists over the last two seasons. And he’s a better defender than you may think. He ranked second in the MAC in steals at 1.8 per game.
He’s also a two-time Academic All-American who will surely make the most of his opportunity as a graduate student at UVA.
Next Season’s Roster
With the addition of Ben Vander Plas, Virginia has 12 scholarship players for the 2022-23 season. They seem open to at least trying to fill the one remaining spot.
West Virginia guard Sean McNeil, another graduate transfer, visited last week. Virginia is in his final six along with Indiana, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Louisville,and Ohio State. He’s in the middle of a round of visits that should conclude with Louisville next weekend.
He seems to be the only serious transfer target left for UVA right now. Of course, that could change. I think they feel fine with what they have now. But if the right player comes available, they would surely pursue.
UVA needed to add someone up front to replace outgoing transfer Igor Milicic. There wasn’t enough depth. Considering that all five starters are returning, landing a player the quality of Ben Vander Plas is pretty incredible. He’ll do a lot more than provide depth, he should be a real difference maker for the Hoos next season.