Mailbag: Small Ball, Dunn, Shedrick, + Recruiting

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In this edition of the Locker Room Access mailbag, lots of talk about lineups. A little recruiting, a potential super senior, and J Willy's future.

Now that we’re about halfway through conference play, what are the biggest remaining threats on the schedule for potential challenges? @fivepillarhoos

I’m a one game at a time kind of guy. So, I don’t like looking past Boston College on Saturday. Next week is going to be hard though. Road games at Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Duke is still on the schedule, and the Tar Heels are waiting for payback in late February. Lots of good games to play.

The challenge for UVA is just continuing to improve. It’s about being the best team they can at the end of the season when it matters most. They’ve made some big adjustments recently, both in the rotation and schematic changes. Those are working. But, opponents are going to figure them out a little bit, and they’ll need to keep evolving.

Now that we’re heading into the backhalf of ACC play, what are your best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Hoos? My best is UVA being No. 1 nationally heading into ACC tournament. My worst is the Hoos stumble to 4th in the conference. @Adrian_Vigil

#1 in the country seems a bit ambitious, but I agree with the best and worst case conference finish scenarios. I’d pick the Hoos to win the regular season right now. They’re playing the best basketball in the league, in my opinion. But things change week to week as teams ebb and flow.

To me, there are four teams that could win the ACC regular season title. Virginia, Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina. I’d expect those to finish as the top four in some order.

Do you foresee the recent "small ball" lineups becoming a foundational part of the program's offense going forward, or is it specific to this season's roster? @StevenMcLain15

It's been foundational since they started Justin Anderson at power forward in 2013. No, I don't think there's any real change in philosophy. They're just going without a true center for the most part. There’s nothing new about that. It started for offensive reasons, to help spread the floor and create driving opportunities. But the reason it’s continuing is the emergence of Ryan Dunn.

What’s happened with Dunn the last couple of games is pretty similar to when DeAndre Hunter established himself as a freshman. They started using Hunter as a four-man, and it completely changed the trajectory of that season. It's too soon to declare the Dunn project that successful, but it's been good lately. The minutes have to come from somewhere though. So far, Dunn’s have mostly been at the expense of Kadin Shedrick.

What teams ahead that we play will require Kadin at center? And can teams potentially play bigger to try and stifle our small ball success? @ItsCoachX

That’s a good question I’ve been thinking about. Big man Kadin Shedrick has seen his playing time dip substantially over the past few games. Saturday’s game with Boston College could be interesting from that viewpoint. They have a skilled 7-footer in Quinten Post who just went off for 29 points against Notre Dame. We have Syracuse coming up. Kadin has done really well against them. And of course, there’s UNC with Armando Bacot later on.

I do think we’ll see more of Kadin as the season goes along, because they need him. It’s important to be able to play different ways, and to keep guys involved for when those moments arrive. But no, I don’t expect teams to go out of their way to play bigger against UVA. That would just play into our hands.

Will Elijah redshirt or play next season? @KeepingUpWithG8

Virginia signee Elijah Gertrude is sitting out his senior season after suffering a torn ACL injury back in the Fall during a preseason game. If recovery goes as planned, he should be back to full activities by early August.

I expect he’ll be playing for UVA next season. He’s open to redshirting if it comes to that, but probably the only way that happens is if there’s a setback.

With the 2023 class pretty much done, and Dante Harris signed, what should we expect in 2024? Is there still room or time for 2023 movement and would that depend on transfer outs? @HoosHoopin

Everything depends on what happens with roster turnover this Spring. UVA isn’t exactly beating the door down for 2024 recruits. They’re waiting to figure out what next season’s roster looks like first. And that’s just how things go now in the transfer era. Early recruiting is more preliminary than it used to be. They’ll be active recruiting transfers, and the results of that trickle down to alter high school recruiting plans.

You’re probably looking at two guards and some type of frontcourt player in 2024. I expect them to try really hard to keep point guard on the 2024 agenda, despite whatever decision is made by Reece Beekman to stay or go. They’ll want either a shooter or an athletic wing player. And right now the plan is to add a frontcourt player in the portal. If that’s a multi-year player, it’ll dictate the type of 2024 frontcourt recruit they pursue.

Are any decisions from top 2024 targets expected soon? Which targets seem most likely to commit? @Aaron_Barham

No. Virginia just really hasn’t pursued 2024 recruits aggressively enough yet to get commitments. There are several that the assistants have them in good position with. But until they get clarity on next year’s roster, , I don’t think you’ll see Tony Bennett personally involved to the extent needed to have a commitment conversation.

There's probably four right now that they figure to be strong in the running with this Spring if plans aren't altered. Coach Getter has them in a good early spot with Jefferson (MN) point guard Daniel Freitag. Football is becoming more of an issue with him, with a new Notre Dame offer. Wisconsin sharpshooter Kon Knueppel is expected to visit soon. And Coach Williford has done good work settings things up with Paul VI wing Isaiah Abraham and Sidwell (DC) forward Caleb Williams.

With local teams PVI, John Marshall, Gonzaga and St John's all ranked in the National top 10 are we recruiting anyone from those squads? @bubbaslidesback

Virginia has offered scholarships to a pair of Paul VI (VA) recruits, both in the 2024 class. Wing Isaiah Abraham has visited multiple times already. And big man Patrick Ngongba was offered after the coaches saw him play over exam break. He was down for a gameday visit last season as well. They're cousins actually. So, there may be some package deal potential there.

There's a few others of interest who don't have offers yet. They had 2024 John Marshall point guard Damon Thompson down for a game recently. And in the 2025 class, Gonzaga guard Nyk Lewis and Paul VI big man Christian Gurdak both visited in the Fall.

I think Armaan has another year of eligibility. Is that true and do you think he will return if he in fact does? @wooddlcm

He does. It’s hard to keep track of this extra year stuff. Senior Armaan Franklin is in his fourth year,, which includes the 2020-21 season that didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility in order to make up for all the irregularities during the pandemic. He still has another year to play if he chooses.

It’s a real possibility. That’s one of those key decisions we’ll wait on this Spring. I tend to believe it's a pretty strong possibility. But he'll need to weigh his pro options. And a lot may depend on how the season ends, whether he feels he has anything left to prove in college.

Chances J Willy leaves for a head coaching job? @Hairfield311

Just about every year now, UVA Associate Head Coach Jason Williford’s name comes up as a candidate for a vacancy somewhere. He’s definitely turned down a few opportunities. There was a lot of noise around the George Mason opening a couple years ago. He may have been close to taking that one. It’s clear that he loves the spot he's in, but would be open to the right situation.

Every year, there’s a real chance he could be offered that right job. A power conference opportunity would be hard for anyone to turn down and eventually those are bound to come. My guess, however, is that his next position is as Virginia’s Head Coach. I think he’s the natural successor to Tony Bennett whenever the time comes

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