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Virginia Men's Basketball

Takeaways From The First July Live Period

The Virginia coaching staff just wrapped up a long five-day live evaluation period on the road.  They were spotted at over 50 games, and probably attended twice that many.   As always, we learn what they’re up to from where they’re seen.  

Head Coach Tony Bennett started off in Rock Hill, South Carolina for the Adidas Championships, before moving to Georgia for the Under Armour Association and two nearby independent events.  He finished up on Saturday and Sunday in Kansas City for the Nike EYBL.  Assistants were stationed in all those locations.  

Newest Hoo Continues to Shine

UVA’s commitment from Lake City (ID) big man Blake Buchanan keeps looking better.  He had another terrific week at the Under Armour Association event in Georgia.  His Hooptown Elite squad earned a promotion to Under Armour’s top division, giving him a chance to showcase himself against a little better competition.  

He made the most of it.  In the four games for which stats were posted, he averaged over 15 points and 8 rebounds.   Included in that were outings of 19 and 15 points in matchups against two highly rated big men.  His play got a lot of mentions on social media and in articles on various recruiting sites like the one linked here from On3Sports

Virginia coaches were regularly in attendance for Blake’s games, including Tony Bennett seeing him on Thursday.   

On The Rise

It’s reassuring when the players you’re recruiting play well, but it’s a fine line.  When they play too well, especially this time of year, their stocks rise and it becomes harder to get them.  Three of the guys UVA is in pursuit of in the 2023 class had that kind of week.  

We already knew that Word of God (NC) guard Freddie Dilione was underrated.  His ranking has been mocked since the spring when he was one of the most dominant players on the Adidas circuit.  Well, everybody is catching on now.  Even Jeff Goodman went on a mini-crusade for him after seeing him play this week in Rock Hill.  

Worcester (MA) forward TJ Power has probably been the most watched recruit by the UVA staff this summer, and that continued this weekend in Kansas City.  He had a 41-point outburst on Saturday night.  That draws attention.  He’s been great all spring and summer, but his production went to new heights this week.  UPDATE: Kansas offered Power as I was writing.  

Hudson Catholic (NJ) guard Elijah Gertrude was offered a scholarship following the June scholastic weekends.  He was great this week in Kansas City, highlighted by a 28[-point game on Saturday.  UVA was a little ahead of the crowd for him, but the crowd will be coming.  He’s an electric athlete, and now is producing at a high-rate on a big stage.  

All three of those are priority recruits for UVA.  Bennett saw them each multiple times this week.  Their recruitments will get even more competitive now.

Upcoming Verdict

Pewaukee (WI) forward Milan Momcilovic is expected to make his college choice soon, likely within the next week.   He has Virginia in his final six along with Iowa State, Minnesota, Louisville, Michigan State, and UCLA..  

Iowa State Head Coach TJ Otzelberger was the most frequent in attendance for Momcilovic’s games.  He spent the majority of the weekend there in Kansas City.  Tony Bennett was there for two days, and courtside for Mmcilovic’s last three games.  Which is tied for the most he saw any one player this weekend.  Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was there for at least one game early in the week.  

The main takeaway is that those are the three teams involved, which is what everyone already believed, and they don’t yet know what his choice will be.  Iowa State seems to be banking on getting him.  But UVA clearly believes they have a shot, as does Michigan State to a lesser extent.  

Of course, TJ Power is also part of UVA’s forward recruiting equation.  He received equal attention from the staff this week.  And they checked out several others as well.   Alassane Amadou out of Philadelphia in particular remains one to watch.   He had a great week in Georgia.  Bennett saw him there on Thursday.  

Point Guard Search

This was really the story of the week.  UVA is searching for their future floor general.  There are two with offers right now, Freddie Dilione and Elmarko Jackson.  Virginia figures to be in the mix for both of those, but they’re hot commodities that will continue to pull in new offers this month.  

Bennett made two special trips to independent events in Georgia on Wednesday and Thursday night to see one player.  Etowah (GA) point guard Brandon Rechsteiner.  He’s among the hottest recruits in the country right now after bursting onto the scene in spring.  

Combine (NC) point guard Silas DeMary got a long look this week.  He turned heads at Top 100 Camp last week.  Clearly, the UVA staff liked what they saw there.  They were out in full force for him at the Under Armour event in Georgia.  Bennett was courtside at least once, and assistants several more times. 

 And Link Academy (MO) point guard Trey Green had Bennett’s attention at the EYBL event in Kansas City.  He’s already down to a final seven, but has been mentioning new interest from UVA. 

As we’ve seen in the past, Bennett loves to find one target and really zero in on it.  Right now with point guards, it’s equal attention while looking around at potential new guys.  It’ll be really interesting to see if any new offers come out this week, and who if anyone he focuses on next time out.  

2024 Cycle Begins

July is when coaches need to make decisions about which rising juniors to offer scholarships to and pursue in the fall.  This week was the first time we saw Tony Bennett show up personally for a lot of those games.  

Seaforth (NC) forward Jarin Stevenson is the only 2024 recruit with a UVA offer.  Coach Williford made a special stop to see him in South Carolina.  There are two others who we’ve seen a lot of involvement with, Southern California Academy guard Jahseem Felton and Paul VI (VA) wing Isaiah Abraham.  Bennett watched both of them play this week.  

Mountain Brook (AL) point guard Ty Davis had Bennett out early for the 8 AM game on Thursday in Georgia.  Playing up an age group, he has the look of a big time recruit in the making.  

At the Adidas event in South Carolina, UVA coaches were a steady presence for Combine (NC) wing Rakease Passmore. And Sycamore (OH) forward Raleigh Burgess impressed in front of the UVA boss there as well. 

In Kansas City, Bennett twice watched the Phenom University team out of Wisconsin.  A group he’s already familiar with.  Guard Nick Janowskii and wing Kon Knueppel are the reasons.

Things are just starting with the 2024 class, it’s getting more real now.  Expect to see some offers soon.  

Stock Up/Down

To be clear, this has little to do with how players perform. I’m just reading into UVA’s level of involvement, as compared to expectations going into the week.

Up

Hudson Catholic (NJ)  guard Elijah Gertrude

His offer was new.  Coach Bennett hadn’t spent much time watching him before.  So going into the weekend, we didn’t really know for sure how much of a priority he would be to UVA.  Well, he’s near the top of the list.  They were there for him all week, with Bennett seeing him three times in Kansas City.  As I mentioned above, there will surely be more offers coming his way.  But we know after this weekend that UVA is fully invested.  He’s expected to visit in late July or early August.  

Down

Bishop Ireton (VA) wing Jamie Kaiser

I’m nitpicking a little bit.  Bennett did see Kaiser once, and Williford a couple other times.  But Bennnett skipped one of his games to go see Brandon Rechsteiner instead.  Those are the kind of decisions I’m reading into.  While no doubt they’re still recruiting him and have some hope, I do think they’ve reached a point of having done what they can and will continue to divert time to other recruits.  

Coaches have ten days to catch their breath before heading out for the second and final live period of the summer beginning on the 20th.   There will surely be some new offers made in the meantime.  And one big verdict on the way.  We’ll have it covered as always on Locker Room Access.

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