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Virginia Men's Basketball

Power, Gertrude, and Elmarko

UVA has been named as a finalist for quite a few 2023 recruits lately.   Now, we’re starting to get into the recruits who are most important to them.  The ones that they’ve prioritized.  Two lists are out, and another is expected soon.  

Time for a deep dive into each recruit’s options, and where things stand.  

TJ Power

TJ Power is a 6’8 forward out of Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.  He’s ranked as the 21st overall player in the class in the latest On3Sports update after a huge summer of AAU propelled his standing.  His finalists, announced on Monday, include Boston College, Duke, Iowa, North Carolina, and Virginia.  

Boston College

BC was a bit of a surprise inclusion in his top five, as most of us expected Notre Dame instead.  It’s the hometown school.  Head Coach Earl Grant has recruited him from the start.  And there’s a family connection.  TJ’s uncle, Mike Power, played quarterback at BC in the late 1980s.

It would be pretty shocking if he were to choose Boston College.  I tend to believe including them was mostly a tip of the hat to his community.   

Duke

Duke offered Power in July.  They already have a loaded 2023 class, but are looking to add shooting.  With only one spot to fill, he is their top target.  And when they set their sights on one player like that, Duke typically wins out at a high rate. He did a quick one-day official visit to Durham in late July.  

Everyone understands the appeal of Duke. They offer a platform that no one else can match.  The downside is their roster.  They already have two 2023 commits who are positionally similar.  And each year, there’s another wave of one-and-dones to compete with.  It’s easy for a multi-year player as TJ is projected as to get lost in the shuffle.  

Iowa

Iowa has been recruiting TJ since day one.  He took an early official visit there last Fall.  Head Coach Fran McCaffery was a steady presence at his games all spring and summer.  TJ clearly likes their playing style and has often mentioned his strong relationship with McCaffery.  

They’re putting together a really good 2023 class and that always helps.  The success of Keegan Murray, the 4th overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, is a feather in their cap too.  Distance is probably working against them a little.  And the way they’ve built their class sort of pigeonholes TJ as a 4-man, while he’d probably prefer more positionally flexibility.  

North Carolina

His UNC offer also came in the July wave.  In large part, because they lost the commitment of top-ranked forward GG Jackson.  Much like Duke, they already have a strong 2023 class.  TJ would be their final touch.  He did a one-day official visit there in late July as well.  

North Carolina isn’t as centered around one-and-done recruits as Duke.  That could make them a better fit of the two blue bloods.  It’s a competitive roster though.  They have three young positionally similar players to contend with.  He does have a family connection there, including some who live nearby.  

Virginia

UVA zeroed in on Power as their top target after offering in the spring.  He took an official visit in late May.  UVA coaches attended every single one of his games this summer.  It’s been a max effort recruitment since they jumped in.  

Tony Bennett seems to have the best relationship with him of any of the head coaches involved.  As is always the case with these top targets, TJ has received a lot of his attention.  He seems to appreciate what UVA offers.  I do think playing style could be a hurdle, as others will talk about more freedom.  And while UVA is less crowded than some of his other options, there is crossover with current freshmen Traudt and Bond.  

Prognosis

Fair to good. TJ has played this close to the vest.  While I’m sure he’s leaning in a direction, no one credible seems to know which way that is.   All I know for sure is UVA is in full pursuit.  They’ve never wavered.  And the few rumblings I’ve heard lately indicate some optimism.  I understand fan assumptions will always be that the blue bloods win out, and history is on that side, but the Hoos are right in the thick of this race. 

Power has visited all five schools.  He said he’ll decide in September.  Fall recruiting opens on September 9th.  A lot of players look to get it done before then to avoid another round of dealing with coaches in-person.  

Elijah Gertrude

Elijah Gertrude is a 6’4 guard out of Hudson Catholic in New Jersey.  His recruitment took off this summer, picking up numerous high-major offers. He’s ranked as the 108th player in the class in the latest On3Sports update.  His final five includes Kansas, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Virginia.  

Kansas

The Jayhawks came in with a July offer.  They’re the one finalist that Elijah hasn’t yet visited.  So far, they haven’t pursued him that heavily.  But obviously the brand of Kansas carries weight.  He’s interested enough to include them in his top five.  

Kansas has one guard commit in the class.  They’re looking for one more.  There are several candidates on their board.  I do think the door is open for Elijah there.   If they decide to turn the heat up on him, they could become a real threat.  

Rutgers

This isn’t your dad’s Rutgers program anymore.  They’ve gone to two straight NCAA tourneys under Head Coach Steve Pikiell.  Gertrude took an unofficial visit there after they offered in spring.  They’ve recruited him hard through the summer.  

Rutgers could be a nice compromise choice for Gertrude.  An opportunity to play in a top conference while staying close to home.  They’ve already pulled in a top 50 wing in the class, so there’s some recruiting momentum on their side as well.  

St. John’s

St. John’s was  part of his first wave of high-major offers this spring.  Soon after, they hosted him for an official visit.  The story is the same for all three of the NJ/NYC schools.  It looked like the battle would be between them until UVA and others joined in over the last couple months.  

They play fast, Kenpom’s top team in adjusted tempo.  That appeals to some recruits, and it might fit Gertrude’s game well.  And for a kid from nearby Jersey, the idea of playing in Madison Square Garden isn’t bad.  

Seton Hall

New coach Shaheen Holloway was recruiting Gertrude while at St. Peter’s.  So they have a bit of an edge in that way.  Gertrude has taken an unofficial visit there already.  Their coaching staff was regularly courtside for his games this summer.  

There’s a lot of buzz around Seton Hall with Holloway taking over.  It’s essentially the hometown school for Elijah.  They’re in rebuild mode, so there’s a good opportunity for freshmen to get on the court early.  

Virginia

UVA jumped in the race in late June, after watching him over several live periods.  He quickly became their top target at the shooting guard spot.  Bennett tracked him through July.  They hosted him on an official visit a couple weeks ago.  

For a very talented guard like Gertrude who needs some development, UVA fits him well.  They’ve made him a top priority, and he clearly appreciates that.   Distance is working against them a little.  And UVA does have a couple of really good freshmen guards that he’ll need to contend with.  

Prognosis

Excellent.  Barring an unforeseen twist, which certainly does happen in recruiting, UVA is in a great position with Gertrude.  I’m really not sure which of the nearby schools would be next in line.  A visit to Kansas could make things interesting, but they’d have their work cut out.  

He’s said he’ll decide in September.  These timelines are always the same.  It’s really whenever he makes up his mind.  He does plan to come back to UVA next month.  It’ll be interesting to see if that’s as an undecided recruit or as a commit.  

Elmarko Jackson

Elmarko Jackson is a 6’4 point guard out of New Jersey who attends The South Kent School in Connecticut.  Already a well-recruited player before, his stock has soared this summer.  He’s now ranked as the 23rd overall player in the class by On3Sports.  A list of finalists is expected soon.  

Virginia

UVA’s pursuit of TJ Power is partially responsible for their involvement with Jackson.  Bennett spent the majority of a June live period weekend at the New England event to see Power, where he noticed Jackson and then offered a scholarship.  The UVA boss tracked him for the remainder of the summer.  He’s clearly UVA’s top target at point guard.  

Obviously, we’re waiting for the list cut to be positive that  Virginia will have a chance.  I do expect they’ll be included though.  He hasn’t visited yet.  

Other Contenders

This is going to be one of the more interesting lists I can remember.  Typically, they’re predictable as was the case for the two players above.  There are a lot of great programs after Elmarko.  It’s not clear at all who will make it.   I’ll be curious not only about which teams are included, but how many.  

Michigan is one that I think will be included.  His uncle, Marlin Jackson, played football there.  Miami seemed to be around a lot this summer, and they’re an attractive option for a point guard.  Syracuse has recruited him hard.  Louisville offers the potential to start immediately.  And Villanova figures in there somewhere.  

Prognosis

Too soon to tell.  Most of these schools came in with offers around the same time.  So there’s really no one who has a clear advantage.  It seems to be a wide open field.   UVA will have their hands full, but they have a great opportunity for a point guard.  They should have a real shot. 

Elmarko has said he’ll use all five of his official visits this Fall.  So his recruitment could last a while yet

Virginia currently has one player committed in the 2023 class, Lake City (ID) big man Blake Buchanan who’s now ranked as the 58th overall player by On3Sports. They’ll look to add up to three more, as we head into a crucial upcoming Fall of recruiting. We’ll have it covered as always on Locker Room Access.

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