Virginia Men's Basketball

Mailbag: NIL, Italy Trip, Next Season’s Rotation, and Lots of Recruiting

The mailbag is back loaded with fan questions about next season’s rotation, competing in the NIL environment, and of course lots of recruiting talk.

When do the freshman arrive on campus? When are the dates for the Italian trip? @KeepingUpWithG8

The incoming 2022 class is set to arrive on the weekend of June 18th. A four-man group, it’s one of the best classes Bennett has ever assembled. Poca (WV) guard Isaac McKneely, Perkiomen (PA) wing Ryan Dunn, Wauwatosa East (WI) combo forward Leon Bond, and Grand Island (NE) forward Isaac Traudt. All highly rated, and more importantly all guys that the UVA coaches wanted badly.

The team will take an overseas trip in August to Italy. They’re scheduled to play four games over a week’s time, starting on August 13th. With plenty of fun activities and good food in between. The trip was originally planned for a couple years ago, but covid delayed things. Teams are allowed to do these overseas tours once every four years. UVA’s last trip was to Spain back in 2016.

Does BVP start or play the 6th man role? Nobody has redshirted in a couple of seasons. Does that trend continue? @guyncville

Ben Vander Plas is the newest Hoo. The transfer forward from Ohio averaged about 14 points and 7 rebounds last season. He just has one year of eligibility remaining.

I envision him as the sixth man who usually plays starter minutes. The way he’s used positionally could be somewhat matchup dependent. Bringing him off the bench makes more sense than changing the starting lineup from game to game.

I expect there to be at least one redshirt. They have 12 scholarship players now. Excluding the covid year, Bennett has never had over 11 active players. Both Leon Bond and Ryan Dunn have mentioned the possibility. It will all depend on where they stack up on the depth chart once the season nears.

What is Virginia doing with NIL to compete for Top 75 recruits? @toJamesConnor

The early results of new NCAA rules allowing players to profit from their Name Image and Likeness (NIL) have been chaotic in recruiting to say the least. Officially, it’s still against the rules to tie NIL deals into recruiting. But there’s been no enforcement. So it’s happening. The NCAA just released new guidelines that will hopefully clean up some of that. We’ll see. .

For a program like Virginia that’s going to stay within the rules, the key over the long haul is helping current players maximize legitimate NIL opportunities. Schools cannot promise deals to recruits, but the earnings of current players can be used as an example of what’s possible. The UVA collective group Cavalier Futures, who Locker Room Access has partnered with, raised over one million dollars in its first month. UVA is more than capable of being competitive.

I asked someone who’s very familiar with UVA’s infrastructure how much a hypothetical top 75 recruit that contributes as a freshman could potentially earn in NIL deals in their first year. The number surprised me. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I’d guess it’s not that far off from what some other programs operating outside the rules might offer.

I don’t think NIL is going to be that much of a factor for most high school recruits, with the exception of the very elite. It’s important for them to know that the earning potential at UVA is in the ballpark of other choices. But the vast majority are still most concerned with choosing the right program to help them reach the big payday in the NBA.

Are we going to have enough 3 point shooting next year? @Bootsie02

Three-point shooting was a real struggle for Virginia last season. Bennett’s teams have typically ranked near the top of the ACC in that category. This past year, they were 12th in the league at 32%. Ben Vander Plas should help some by allowing them to put another threat on the court. They’re still possibly in the market for a guard transfer, with a shooter in mind, but I don’t really expect that to happen.

The biggest key will be whether young players are able to establish themselves. Rising sophomore Taine Murray can really stroke it. Incoming freshmen Isaac McKneely and Isaac Traudt are among the best shooters in the class.

I believe the answer is yes. They’re probably not going to be UVA’s best shooing team, but they should be much improved. In part because I believe in those young players. And I also think the returners, particularly Reece Beekman and Armaan Franklin, could see their three-point production rise significantly.

Do you have any more details for the LRA camp?

The first ever Locker Room Access Basketball Camp will be held in Charlottesville from July 25th through the 28th. Open to ages 7-16, both boys and girls.

The drills will be set each day for the campers to work on different aspects of their game. Damin Altizer will be putting together the workouts to showcase some of the drills they do at UVA and the NBA. We’ll try to keep it fun and light, but the campers will understand what it takes to become great. It is the first time we’re running a camp, so we’d love feedback on what went well and what we can improve on.

We have a special ending to the camp for the kids, but I won’t spoil it for them. We’re expecting the majority of the current basketball team to be present, and lots of guest appearances from former greats. There will be a photo and autograph session. Grant Kersey and some of the current managers will also be helping run the drills.

Find more camp info here.

What is the max rotation size that you think we could see in ACC play next year? @FritzParker_

Competition for playing time is going to be stiff next year. All five starters are returning, six of the seven players in last season’s rotation. Add in Ben Vander Plas and some talented young players that are hungry to earn time, practices will be intense for sure.

I don’t see Bennett going any deeper than nine at most. Even then, a couple of those probably won’t get consistent time. At the end of last season, he talked about wanting to have a deeper team. I think he has it now. It’s a good problem to have, but still a problem. We’ll see how he manages it.

Feels like a lot of offers were made out of the most recent live period. Does that reflect a change in recruiting strategy, a recognition of the new landscape, or a combination of the two? @Adrian_Vigil

UVA handed out seven scholarship offers to class of 2023 recruits over the last few weeks after the spring live periods. Two of them, Lake City (ID) center Blake Buchanan and Word of God (NC) guard Freddie Dilione, have already taken official visits. Things are rolling right along.

It’s just the result of essentially starting fresh this spring, at least in terms of scholarship offers. UVA has been involved with all those guys, but for most of them it was the first time having Bennett see them play live. It’s been a weird year of recruiting where the few guys they targeted early had already came off the board. Once things fell through with London Johnson, they did not have a single target left. So yep, they’re resetting the table.

With London Johnson out of the picture–who do you think Tony Bennett will be going after most to be the Virginia point guard of the future? @SportsWhp

Freddie Dilione for one. That’s who they’re hottest on the trail of. You’ll see him listed as a shooting guard on recruiting sites, but he’s evolved into a lead guard this past year. They’ve also offered Totino-Grace (MN) combo guard Taison Chatman.

Both of those guys are score-first guards, a little different than we usually associate with the point guard spot under Tony Bennett. But they’ve been running the show for their AAU teams and doing it well.

One thing to consider is UVA will probably need to bring in another point guard by 2024 when Reece Beekman graduates. So the idea of having a bigger guard who can play on or off the ball makes sense in long term roster construction. It would be hard to get two true floor generals in that short of a span.

Are you surprised that TB seems to be prioritizing Hauser like shooters over Diakite like bouncy bigs for his 2023 PF slot? @dbaron610591

UVA has offered a pair of forwards in the 2023 class, Milan Momcilovic out of Pewaukee (WI) and TJ Power from Worcester (MA). They’re both skilled stretch-fours in the mold of Sam Hauser. It’s a little surprising that they’re so focused on that type of player, considering incoming recruit Isaac Traudt brings some of the same traits.

I think a lot of it has to do with the other frontcourt player they’re recruiting, Blake Buchanan. He would bring the rim protection they need. If you were trying to pair someone with him, you’d look for a floor stretcher like the two they’ve offered. And those guys are a little different positionally than the taller Traudt.

This has been a trend in recent years. They’ve gone away from power forwards in the familiar mold of Darion Atkins or Isaiah Wilkins. In a way, Leon Bond is the modernized version. A defensive specialist, only more wing than forward. The game is trending toward small-ball. Mamadi would surely still be recruited, only he’d be thought of as a pure center.

Tafara Gapare, the New Zealander attending South Kent (CT), could still be one to watch for. He’s an electric athlete, actually reminiscent of Mamadi. And he’s shown flashes of an intriguing perimeter skillset. UVA coaches watched him regularly during the live periods, and an assistant paid a visit to South Kent the next week.

Who is the next semi local recruit on the radar? Talent doesn’t have a location obviously but any local guys we should be looking out for? @BestComment4

2023 Bishop Ireton (VA) guard Jamie Kaiser is getting attention lately. He had a big spring of AAU. Wisconsin, VA Tech, and GA Tech have offered. I expect Coach Bennett will take a close look at him during the scholastic live periods in June.

In the 2024 class, Highland (VA) wing Isaiah Abraham is definitely one to watch. He visited during the season. Coach Bennett saw him play over the live weekends. As things get going with that class this summer, it looks very likely that UVA will be involved in his recruitment.


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