Intel Report 7/10/23: Weekend Reaction
The Virginia coaching staff just finished a long four-day weekend on the road for the first of two July AAU live evaluation periods. What they were up to and what we’re hearing, in this edition of the Locker Room Access Intel Report.
Tony Bennett’s weekend itinerary was kind of predictable. The focus was clearly on seeing his top recruiting targets, with very little evaluating of new players in the 2024 class.
The Virginia head coach started off by making a special trip to Summer Jam in Cincinnati on Thursday to see wing Kon Knueppel. Then it was Peach Jam in Augusta on Friday for UVA commit Christian Bliss and teammate Matthew Hodge. There was a quick Friday night stop at Under Armour Finals near Atlanta to watch 2025 guard Chance Mallory, before returning to Peach Jam for Bliss and Hodge again on Saturday.
He attended other games in each location, of course. There were definitely a couple of other forward recruits that he watched with purpose, as I’ll get into below. But for the most part, his weekend was about being seen by their priority recruits.
In the meantime, assistant coaches were no doubt sorting through popular summer stock risers. I expect next weekend Bennett will follow up on a player or two they’ve filtered to him.
New UVA commit Christian Bliss had a phenomenal week at Peach Jam, leading his PSA Cardinals squad to an appearance in the quarterfinals. He averaged 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals. While shooting 53% from the field, 44% from three-point range, and 87% at the foul line. He was one of the ten players named to the All-Peach Jam first team.
More important than the stats, he just looked like the big time point guard Virginia recruited him to be. PSA played tight games throughout the week that came down to the final moments. He made a lot of plays with the game on the line, and did it against some of the best guards in the country.
I think Peach Jam will be Bliss’s last AAU event. If so, not a bad way to go out. It’s doubtful he’ll play with PSA this coming weekend. All signs point to him reclassifying and joining the Wahoos for the 2023-24 season, likely as a redshirt.
Coaches had to go out of their way this week to see Kon Knueppel play at an independent event in Cincinnati. Tony Bennett was there for Kon’s first two games on Thursday, as were head coaches from Marquette and Wisconsin. Assistants from Notre Dame and Alabama also attended.
His new offer from Duke is what everyone is talking about though. Multiple outside sources familiar with his recruitment said this weekend that they believe the Blue Devils will be a major threat, and likely the team to beat if they press. No one from Duke came to see him this weekend, as they were busy with other recruits at the shoe-circuit championships. I expect they’ll show up at his event in Milwaukee next weekend.
Obviously, Tony Bennett still believes he has a real chance or he wouldn’t have gone to Cincinnati on Thursday. But even UVA sources admitted this weekend they think Duke could be taking their place as the leading alternative to staying in-state. As I’ve said before though, the picture gets cloudy in July. We’ll see where things stand when the dust settles in a couple weeks.
Virginia would like to add a second guard or wing in their 2024 class, although it’s not seen as a necessity. Regardless of whether they offer anyone new in the weeks ahead, it won’t interfere with their pursuit of Kon. They’ll get a verdict from him one way or another before things turn serious with a potential new recruit this fall.
Recently offered 2025 St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory could figure into the equation as well. I don’t know if the option is on the table yet from Bennett,, but Chance can easily return to his original 2024 class.
Hodge Plans Visits
St. Rose (NJ) forward Matthew Hodge has been a hot commodity lately. He picked up a string of new offers following a great showing during the June scholastic live periods, including an offer from Virginia. He didn’t have a very good week at Peach Jam though. Which is kind of good news from the perspective of the programs already recruiting him. It means his blow-up is probably complete and all the contenders are already in the race.
I expect this to come down to Virginia, Villanova, and Maryland. All three have personal connections, and they were all regularly in attendance this week. He’s already set an official visit to Villanova, for the first date allowable on July 28th. The plan is to visit UVA, Maryland, and Florida State in the fall on football weekends.
Bennett eyed two other forwards at Peach Jam who don’t yet have scholarship offers. David Punch from Dynamic Prep (TX) has been great all season in the EYBL. TCU and Virginia Tech both recently offered. And Bennett’s very last game of the weekend he was courtside for Wayzata (MN) sharpshooter Jackson McAndrew. Wisconsin, Creighton, and Notre Dame are in full pursuit of him.
Two players I mentioned last week were standouts at the Adidas Championships. Alta (UT) forward Jaxon Johnson led his team to the title with a three-point barrage in the final game. And Totino-Grace (MN) wing Isaiah Johnson-Arigu turned heads, picking up several new offers along the way. UVA assistants were on hand to see them both in Rock Hill.
Peddie School (NJ) forward Ebrahim Kaba drew praise from scouts at Under Armour Finals. Coach Williford and Vandross were around. And Bennett could decide to throw his hat in the ring for IMG Academy (FL) wing Chase McCarty after watching him play against Mallory.
Southern Durham (NC) guard Jackson Keith had a great week at the Adidas Championships. He’s a strong candidate to receive a scholarship offer in the weeks ahead. Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament probably already has his offer waiting on him. UVA assistant Ron Sanchez was on hand to see them both on Thursday.
UVA coaches watched Vermont Academy guard Joson Sanon multiple times at Peach Jam, including Bennett. Green (OH) forward Nikola Bundalo.could be a name to know. Sanchez was spotted watching him in Rock Hill. And Coach Williford saw South Lakes (VA) wing Jordan Scott at Under Armour Finals.
Coaches will be back out on Saturday and Sunday for the final live evaluation period of the year, the last chance for coaches to evaluate most 2024 recruits. Basically, coaches need to decide within a few weeks following that whether to offer players. By early August, recruits will start moving forward with their process. Trimming their lists and planning fall visits.
I don’t have the usual preview of who’s where and all that because I don’t have a clue yet. This weekend is messy. The shoe circuits are over. All those teams will be scattered around at various independent events. Check the forum later in the week if you’re interested. I’ll have it figured out.
We’ll see if any new scholarship offers trickle out this week. And then the coming weekend should be especially interesting, even if trickier than usual to follow. The last live period is when recruits often pop up that we don’t see coming. Bennett sometimes sits on things until then so that others can’t follow his tracks. So stay tuned and thanks for subscribing!