The mailbag is a new feature on Locker Room Access. Fans can submit questions on the forum and on social media for our team to answer. The panel includes Mark Jerome, Doug "Fresh" Smith, Zach Carey, along with myself.
Hooz: The answer is Paul VI (VA) guard Trevor Keels, almost by default now. He's down to a final three, but I believe it's primarily a UVA vs Duke battle that could go either way. . We still have no idea when a decision will be made.
In a strange plot twist, Silver Creek (IN) forward Trey Kaufman might have leaked his own commitment to Purdue on live radio last night. No one will say for sure whether it was real or some sort of hoax. Leading up to that, we were hearing that it was between the Boilermakers and Wahoos. The official announcement will be made tonight at 6pm.
We could have a short recruiting board soon. There are reports suggesting that Montverde (FL) wing Caleb Houstan will announce this weekend. Michigan is the rumored choice. (Update: Caleb just announced his commitment to Michigan). That would leave only the two names we started this crazy Class of 2021 cycle focused on, Keels and big man Efton Reid. Indications are Reid will wait until the late signing period.
Not to forget, New Zealander Taine Murray, the lone class of 2021 Virginia commit.
Mark: Great question. I'm always careful to place a group people into one way of thinking - especially casting a diverse group of AAU payers, coaches, media and fans from other schools. When people think of UVA basketball, no one can deny they were the last team to win the National Championship led by a coach who the media now respects for winning and for being salt of the Earth. Everyone respected Bennett's moral compass but not everyone thought his system could win. As recent as a few years ago, some media, AAU players, coaches, and my guess is even some college coaches thought the system couldn't attract top tier players and voiced he doesn't send guys to the league.
For some of the top AAU programs, making it to the league is the ultimate prize. Winning a National Chip is cute to have on a resume, but how many guys from your school go to the league? That way of thinking leads to another base of complications surrounding youth basketball (for another article). What Bennett and the staff accomplished last year, has to rank with one of his best coaching jobs in his tenure. And the few remaining dubious members of the media and college coaches are also now placing Bennett on the mantle of current best coaches. Any publication, I've recently read, he's on the shortlist of hottest basketball coaches and one of the few guys mentioned who could be considered for the NBA.
I think TB makes adjustments based on his personnel and the well informed fan recognizes his penchant for adapting. Sending 3 guys to the league in one year and winning a championship in the same year catches even catches the eye of the top tier AAU coach who believes the NBA is the only other of form basketball. And when people consider Malcolm and Joe having great success, UVA is seen as one of the few programs that consistently develops players while remaining in college. The savvy fan will understand, outside of one and done, UVA is one of the top options.
Fresh: Our program obviously has been lifted into the national spotlight for all the right reasons. I know coaches around the country respect it tons, and as you see more coaches talking Packline that is telling. I have no clue about AAU. ha!
Zach: The NCAA’s announcement that they’ll be granting an extra year of eligibility for winter sport athletes makes applying for a waiver to play is appealing for transfers as they could, theoretically, spend their redshirt year playing and gaining more experience. That said, for Trey Murphy, there is still value in redshirting as he wouldn’t have to worry about his own performances and instead work on developing his skills and working on his body. The value of the redshirt year is taken seriously at UVA, with guys such as Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Scott, Anthony Gill, Devon Hall, and De’Andre Hunter all benefiting from their year off the court.
Additionally, Murphy has next-level ambitions, and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that he could leave Charlottesville after his first season on the court. As such, I highly doubt he’d end up using that fifth year of eligibility to play three seasons as a Wahoo.
Hooz: I think there's a strong case to be made for Murphy playing immediately, and I feel sure it is or has been considered. The potential extra year of eligibility won't be a factor, however, for the reasons Zach explained. He'd probably start this season, or at least play a major role. It's all a matter of weighing what's best for his personal goals, competing or spending extra time improving his physicality.
Fresh: My guy Dirk "Double" Katstra was the best. Powerful dunker that could hurt you if you jumped. Also, when he wanted to Terry Kirby could absolutely fly. Cory Alexander had the two best dunks in practice I have ever been on a court with.
Mark: Casey is expected to contribute this year. If his level of confidence can remain high, he will play quite a bit. He will likely have some ups and downs as most 2nd years do. If he can fight through the challenges successfully, he helps lead this team deep into the tournament.
Fresh: I think he will show solid improvement over last year. The game should slow down for him and he'll make shots in rhythm and off the dribble. He's improved defensively as well and will draw lots of tough assignments. If he is more confident with the ball, he'll see more playing time. But I think some guys will challenge for those minutes depending on situations.
Zach: Obviously, Clark, Hauser, and Huff are the three guys we can pencil into the starting lineup this season. Sure, they all have their flaws, but they each bring so much to the table that their replacements don’t that it’s hard to see them being replaced sans significant injury or foul trouble. After those three, we’re left with two spots to fill. Fortunately, because of Hauser’s ability to play on the wing or as a stretch-four, there are a number of different combinations to fill those two spots.
In my opinion, it comes down to four guys fighting for two spots: Tomas Woldetensae, Casey Morsell, Justin McKoy, and (maybe, just maybe) Jabri Abdur-Rahim. Woldetensae and Morsell would fit in as traditional backcourt players, and will likely each start the season in the starting lineup. McKoy is defensive insurance if Hauser needs to be hidden on the wing, and Abdur-Rahim is a flashy-enough offensive talent that, if he can find a way to adjust to the defense and the speed of the college game, would add a complementary scoring punch.
If you’re asking me for my prediction, I’ll say Clark-Morsell-Woldetensae-Hauser-Huff. If you’re asking for the most efficient possible lineup, I’ll go Clark-Morsell-JAR-Hauser-Huff.
Mark: Kiehi, Casey, Sam Hauser, Big Jay, Fifth spot is either Tomas or McKoy. Reece and Tomas/McKoy off the bench. If Trey Murphy is granted a waiver, he's a starter
Mark: This year's team is very talented and deep. If you're asking about Carson, Jabri and Reece, remember the learning curve at UVA is not rolling a ball out and screaming "play ball." Practices are demanding and everyone learns at different stages. Injuries that the public may or may not be aware of have to be taken into, emotional challenges, HS to college adjustments, academic rigors, work ethic, first year development, and other variables. As of right now, I'm hearing Reece is playing well. I rarely make predictions and the following forecast is based on a few people sharing how talented he is. I'm estimating Reece will average at least 16 minutes per game with 4 assists and a fairly low turnover percentage and 5 points. At this point, the only first year I will comment on is Reece.