Intel Report 3/24 (VIP)

Intel Report 3/24 (VIP)

Within minutes of the season-ending loss to St. Bonaventure on Tuesday night, we started working contacts to gauge where things could be headed with next year’s Virginia’s roster. It’s early right now, and some situations are definitely fluid. But after talking to quite a few folks, I feel pretty confident this is an accurate assessment of the current picture.

They Better Take a Step

A lot was made of some of Tony Bennett’s postgame quotes on Tuesday night. In talking to people, this one in particular hit on the theme I kept hearing.

“We must improve. Every player that returns to this program, they better take a step. In terms of their commitment, in their strength and their ability. And commit and work. If they don’t want to, they shouldn’t be here. Don’t want em”

The coaching staff feels that this group, certainly some players more than others, don’t work as hard as other UVA teams in the past. They haven’t consistently shown up to put in the extra hours that Bennett has come to expect. As one source put it, there’s no Brogdon here, no Ty Jerome. The culture of work isn’t the same. It’s going to be called out in postseason meetings. Players will be challenged to change their habits or move on.


It was interesting however to hear that the two freshmen, Taine Murray and Igor Milicic, are considered among the hardest workers on the team. I think a lot of people felt those comments were aimed at them, when that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. From what I’ve heard, the coaching staff is generally pleased with those two and certainly hope they return.

At the same time, I gather it could be a while before UVA brings in another overseas recruit. Both of them were expected to contribute this season. The roster was planned with hopes that they would both be in the rotation. It obviously didn’t work out that way. They just weren’t as ready physically as the staff believed they were.

It shows how hard it is to evaluate players from overseas. And their situations can be more complicated when they’re not living up to early expectations, as family and advisers back home aren’t always on the same page.

Super Seniors

Let’s start with the easy one. Jayden Gardner is fully expected to return to Virginia next season. I’m not going to say it’s an absolute certainty, but everyone I talked to was pretty dismissive of any possibility that he wouldn’t.

Kihei Clark is the subject everyone wants to talk about. I think it’s fair to say his decision on whether to return will shape next year’s team more than any other. He’s gone back and forth on it since last summer. It’s understandably a hard decision.

The consensus right now is that he’s leaning toward returning. The source I trust most on the subject put the chances at 60% that he’ll be back. Some people believe it’s a lot higher than that. He’s definitely given preliminary indications recently that he’ll return. But the thinking is that his mind could easily change again as he starts to seriously examine his options now.

Transfer Candidates

I’m told the staff will begin individual player meetings “late this week”. So it may not take long before we get firm verdicts.

The most worry is over a young player that the coaching staff is very high on. He’s always the first mentioned whenever the topic of potential departures comes up. I’ll put the chances of his leaving at 75%. One trusted source believes it’s a near certainty, while others are less sure while acknowledging it’s more likely than not. So I’ll split the difference.

There are two players that have been in the program for a few years who I’m told will be especially challenged to step up their work ethic in postseason meetings. Bennett won’t push players out the door, or even nudge them. But it’s clear that he’s ready to draw a line in the sand and demand better. I’m not going to put odds on them leaving because it’s totally up to them whether to accept those terms. But it won’t be surprising if one or both decide to look elsewhere after their talks with the boss.

There’s also a former walk-on who I hear has caught the eye of mid-major programs. It’s possible he explores those options through the transfer portal.

Use Them All

Until there’s a departure, UVA doesn’t have an available scholarship. But unlike this past season when they went with only 10 scholarship players, all 13 could be in play for next season.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that the staff views two incoming recruits as potential redshirt candidates, Ryan Dunn and Leon Bond. While that doesn’t necessarily mean both will redshirt next season, it does mean they’re open to planning the roster that way. Bennett typically doesn’t like to have more than 11 active players, meaning those who aren’t redshirting. So with two that are considered possibilities, it opens up every scholarship for use.

So look for the Hoos to be aggressive in the portal if and when a scholarship opens

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