Virginia Coaches Wrap Up July Live Periods
The Virginia coaching staff has been on the road the past two weekends taking part in the always crucial summer AAU live periods. Their primary focus is on the 2024 recruiting class. This was their last chance to evaluate most players in that class before they start moving forward with their decision-making process.
The championship events of the three major shoe circuits were the main draw last week, all held in Georgia and South Carolina. Things were more scattered this weekend, with coaches attending independent events throughout the country from California to Pennsylvania.
Newest Hoo Finishes Strong
Virginia commit Christian Bliss finished his AAU career on a high note. He was one of the top standouts at Nike Peach Jam last week, while leading his PSA Cardinals squad to an appearance in the tournament quarterfinals. The George School (PA) point guard averaged 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds. 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals. He shot 53% from the field, 44% from three-point range, and 87% at the foul line.
Naturally, Tony Bennett was on hand for most of it. No doubt very happy to already have Bliss committed because his performance would have surely drawn new suitors.
The only question left is whether Bliss will reclassify and enroll this fall. He’ll need to make a final decision on that very soon. Virginia currently has one open scholarship for the 2023-24 season.
Summer of Kon
For four straight live periods over the past four weeks, Tony Bennett’s first stop has been wherever Wisconsin Lutheran wing Kon Knueppel was playing. In Wisconsin for the June scholastic period, then at Top 100 Camp in Orlando, last weekend in Cincinnati, and this weekend in Milwaukee. And this time, Bennett spent the full weekend in Milwaukee for Kon.
We’ve seen the pattern before. This is what a max effort recruitment looks like under Bennett. Nobody pursues top targets harder than he does. Sometimes he gets his man, sometimes not, but it means he believes he’s close.
Knueppel is scheduled to return to UVA for an official visit, starting on September 14th. That’ll be sandwiched between visits to Alabama and Duke. Kon previously visited UVA in February for the Duke game, along with Christian Bliss. Assuming the visit comes to fruition, it’ll only be the second time an uncommitted recruit has taken two official visits to UVA. Freshman guard Elijah Gertrude was the first, before committing last September.
The current thinking is that Kon’s decision will probably come down to Virginia and Duke. Judging by which coaches put forth effort this month, the in-state schools believe they’re very much in the race too. Particularly Marquette had been seen as the top competition until Duke entered. And Duke has other irons in the fire. Jon Scheyer never saw Kon play in July. I like Virginia’s chances right now.
While Bennett was busy with Kon, assistant coaches did eye other potential wing recruits In July. Coach Vandross was spotted watching Totino-Grace (MN) wing Isaiah Johnson-Arigu last week at the Adidas Championships. And Coach Sanchez was on hand to see Angelo Ciaravino of Mount Carmel (IL) and Aussie wing Johnny Furphy in Las Vegas this week. All three have been piling up scholarship offers of late.
St. Rose (NJ) forward Matthew Hodge has already scheduled his official visit to UVA, to begin on Sept 21st. It’s the last of five planned official visits,with a decision likely to come shortly after. He was just offered a scholarship in late June after Bennett saw him play during the scholastic live period. Bennett was also courtside for his games last week at Peach Jam in Augusta.
I think the top contenders are Virginia, Villanova, and Maryland. All three will receive official visits. They all have personal connections to him. His high school coach played at Villanova, and it’s close to his home in New Jersey. Maryland assistant coach Mike Jones was an ODU teammate of Matthew’s father. And he has family roots in Virginia with his dad having grown up in Martinsville. He’s also a friend and AAU teammate of UVA commit Christian Bliss.
Virginia extended new scholarship offers to a pair of 2024 forwards last week. Both top performers at Nike Peach Jam.
They had been eyeing Dynamic Prep (TX) forward David Punch since the spring. He’s picked up other recent offers from Xavier, TCU, and Penn State with probably more coming.
And Eastside Catholic (WA) forward Jacob Cofie also received an offer. He’s further along in his recruiting process having already taken a couple official visits. Washington, Oregon, and Southern Cal are the main competition. UVA's Ron Sanchez was in Southern California to see him this weekend.
What all three have in common is they’re skilled forwards who can stretch the floor as shooting threats. Any of them would fit well next to UVA freshmen centers Blake Buchanan and Anthony Robinson in a future frontcourt. Odds are Virginia will get one of them, with Hodge the leading candidate at the moment.
2025 Taking Shape
There hasn't been as much activity involving rising juniors as we usually see in July. But there’s been enough that we have a fair idea of what the UVA coaching staff is planning. The main two things on the agenda seem to be a combo guard and an athletic forward in the frontcourt.
Bennett went out of his way a bit with a trip to Under Armour Finals in Georgia last week to see St. Anne’s-Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory. He was offered a scholarship last month while on an unofficial visit. While 2025 recruiting is still in a preliminary stage overall, he’s the one exception as UVA is clearly in full pursuit already. Coach Sanchez was on hand to see him this weekend in Las Vegas
Gonzaga (DC) guard Derek Dixon was also offered a scholarship following Peach Jam. He’s had a tremendous AAU season. Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament could be getting that call anytime. As could Southern Durham (NC) guard Jackson Keith. UVA coaches have been in regular attendance for both the past two weeks.
Things look good right now for Virginia on the recruiting front. With the summer live periods completed, fall visits will be up next. UVA already has a jump on that with Knueppel and Hodge locked in. We’ll see if they can close the deal with those top targets. It’ll all be covered step-by-step on Locker Room Access as always.
(Featured Image Credit: Rivals)