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Virginia Men's Basketball

Blake Buchanan Commits to Virginia

Blake Buchanan announced his commitment to Virginia on Sunday. The 6’10 center from Lake City High School in Idaho chose the Hoos over Gonzaga, after recently listing those two schools as his finalists.  Currently ranked as the 107th overall player by 247Sports, he’s the first member of Tony Bennett’s 2023 class.  

Blake Buchanan’s Recruitment

Virginia was the first high-major program to offer Blake a scholarship, after Coach Bennett attended several of his AAU games in April.  They had been building a relationship with him since last fall though, with assistant coach Kyle Getter making trips out to Idaho.  When the offer came, things immediately turned serious.  Blake visited the next weekend.   He was the only big man they offered in the class.

After that, it became a waiting game until he could find out what his other options would be and hear them out.  The next chance for coaches to see him play was during the recent scholastic live periods.  That brought a handful of new scholarship offers his way, most notably from Gonzaga.  To the surprise of some given the way his stock is rising, he went ahead and shut down his recruitment at that point by naming the two finalists.  

This is a recruitment that UVA won through evaluation first and foremost.  The coaching staff did a great job identifying an underrated player early on, and then trusted their own judgment to prioritize him before others had recognized him as a high-level prospect..  But it also became a great recruiting victory in the end.  Gonzaga was always looming as the threat, practically his hometown school only about 30 miles away.  Overcoming their charge at the end is impressive.  

Playing in Idaho, Blake hasn’t had much exposure. And his AAU team Hooptown Elite competes on the Under Armour Rise circuit, which doesn’t draw as much attention as some other leagues.  Very few national scouts had seen him until recently, and many still haven’t.  His ranking should rise this summer as more get that opportunity.  

What Buchanan Brings to Virginia

Buchanan will primarily occupy the center spot at UVA.  As the game has moved toward small-ball, they’re spacing out centers in recruiting more than in the past.  This is the first true big man Virginia has signed since Kadin Shedrick in the 2019 class.  It leaves a wide open opportunity for Blake to inherit that role early in his career.  

Blake has some elite tools. He’s sure-handed, quick off the floor, possesses rare agility at his size, and he plays with a great motor. Those attributes alone give him a very high floor. His strength is on he defensive end right now. He’s one of the better rim protectors in the class, which was a major need for UVA. His mobility fits especially well into Bennett’s packline scheme, allowing him to hedge or switch on the perimeter.

He’s consistently productive, averaging about 13 points and 8 rebounds this spring for Hooptown.  And he recently performed well against great competition at the NBPA Top 100 Camp. His offensive game shows a lot of promise.   He’s a reliable finisher, and loves to attack the offensive glass.  Operating in the post is his bread and butter, but he has shown the ability to step out and knock down an occasional jumper.  There are flashes of great skill, just in need of further refining.

Virginia has done extremely well developing high-upside big men. Buchanan very much fits into that category.  He may need a little time. Redshirting could be an option on the table. But the Hoos have their big man of the future, and he has a chance to be very special.

Virginia Recruiting Going Forward

With Buchanan committed, Virginia has eight scholarship players projected for the 2023-24 season.  That doesn’t include the two rising seniors who could choose to stay for an extra year.  All indications are that the coaching staff would like to add three more to the 2023 class.  

UVA isn’t finished adding to the frontcourt in this class. They’re seriously involved with a pair of skilled forwards.  Pewaukee (WI) sharpshooter Milan Momcilovic could decide at any time.  UVA and Iowa State seem to be his top choices. And Bennett is pushing hard for Worcester (MA) combo forward TJ Power as well, having spent a big chunk of the recent evaluation periods tracking him.  There’s probably only room for one though. 

Their most urgent need is someone that can play the point.  South Kent (CT) lead guard Elmarko Jackson was offered recently.  And Word of God (NC) guard Freddie Dilione visited in May.  UVA figures to be in the race for both of those, but they’re very popular recruits. The hunt for the next point guard is going to be the top story over the next few months.

And they’re after a second guard as well.  The two guys to watch for are Bishop Ireton (VA) wing Jamie Kaiser and Hudson Catholic (NJ) combo guard Elijah Gertrude.  The Hoos have managed to hang around in a tumultuous recruitment for the in-state prize Kaiser.  Gertrude is the newest recipient of an offer after impressing the coaches during the June live periods. 

Coaches will be back out on Wednesday for the first of two summer AAU live periods. There will surely be new targets to emerge in the weeks ahead.

The Wrap

Anytime Tony Bennett gets a recruit that he’s invested a lot of energy in, which he has with Buchanan, it’s reason to celebrate.  It’s especially helpful that he committed ahead of the upcoming live periods, freeing the coaches up to concentrate on other spots.   These next few weeks will be hectic.  But they have their first piece in place now. He should be a major long term contributor for the Hoos.

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