It was a big recruiting weekend for Tony Bennett and his staff. They had some VIP guests seated behind the bench to witness Saturday’s dramatic overtime win over Duke. Three recruits, all members of the 2024 class, including one official visitor. If they could somehow get all three, it would be a heck of class.
The Official Visit
Kon Knueppel, a 6-6 wing out of Wisconsin Lutheran High in Milwaukee, was in town over the weekend on an official visit. He’s the first 2024 recruit to take an official visit to Virginia. That’s fitting, because he’s probably at the top of Bennett’s most wanted list in the class. The UVA boss was a steady presence at his AAU games over the summer, and made a trip to Milwaukee to see him back in September.
As we often find with recruits from Bennett’s home-state, there are some personal connections. Kon’s mom and uncle were both star players at Bennett’s alma mater Wisconsin-Green Bay in the 1990s. His uncle Jeff Nordgaard was a teammate of Tony’s for a year, coached by Dick Bennett of course.
UVA will be a major factor in his recruitment, but it won’t be easy. The in-state schools seem to be the main competition. Wisconsin and Marquette are seriously involved. There’s a strong pull for him to stay home. He’s also taken early official visits to Stanford and Notre Dame. It’s likely that his offer list will expand to include some heavy hitters by Spring.
Priority Big Man
UVA offered a scholarship to Paul VI (VA) center Patrick Ngongba in December after the coaching staff saw him play over exam break. He was on hand for an unofficial visit on Saturday. It was his second time at JPJ, as they had him down for a game last season as well. But things are a bit more serious now that he holds a scholarship offer.
Ngongba’s stock seems to be on the rise with his play this season. He made the move this year to Paul VI from The Highland School. That’s gotten him a little more exposure. He’s a traditional big man, blocks a lot of shots, and has shown nice skill in the post. UVA has Blake Buchanan coming next year. But by 2024, Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro will have moved on. There’s an opportunity for another big man.
He took an early official visit to Kansas State. His mom is on the women’s staff at Georgetown, so the Hoyas could be a factor. There’s a long list of offers, but he doesn’t seem to be that far along in the recruiting process yet. He’s one of three centers UVA has offered scholarships to. Sycamore (OH) big man Raleigh Burgess visited in December, and Thomas Sorber from Archbishop Ryan (PA) holds an offer as well.
Fast Rising Point Guard
George School (PA) point guard Christian Bliss has exploded on the scene this high school season. UVA seemed to take notice of him when the coaches saw him play over exam break. They had him seated in recruit row on Saturday for an unofficial visit.
Bliss doesn’t have a scholarship offer yet. That’s likely to change once Bennett has a chance to evaluate him this Spring. Villanova recently offered. They’re very serious about him, and definitely look like the team to beat right now. He’s going to be a popular attraction for coaches during the April live periods. Expect him to accumulate other high-profile offers and shoot up the rankings at that time.
One thing to keep an eye on with Bliss is he was originally in the 2023 class. That means he could enroll next year if he chooses. It’s an angle some schools will probably use in his recruitment. And with the potential of Reece Beekman leaving early for the NBA, that could become an option at UVA too.
Virginia has offered two point guards in the 2024 class. Prolific scorer Travis Perry of Lyon County (KY) and two-sport star Daniel Freitag of Jefferson (MN).