Empowering Athletes, Enriching the Game
Former UVA Player
18 Jan, 2023
By Josh Burton
Last season was quite the ride for the UVA Men’s Basketball team and its fans. From climbing all the way to #2 in the AP poll, to the heartbreaking first round exit of the NCAA tournament in the final seconds, the 2022-2023 team had fans on the edge of their seats the entire season.
With a lot of key contributors gone from that team, and the new season approaching quickly, we will be doing a full dive season preview of what to expect.
Big Man on Grounds
As most have seen by now, Reece Beekman has returned for his senior season to lead the Cavaliers one last time. Reece’s decision came down to the wire as he was viewed a potential draft pick before ultimately deciding to return to the team.
This year will be different for him as it will be his first season without UVA great Kihei Clark to share point guard responsibilities with, but Reece knows the system very well and has shown great instincts and ability in his 3 seasons with the team so far. Reece enters the season with very high expectations.
Kihei Clark isn’t the only player gone from last year, as the Hoos also will have to replace Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, Ben Vander Plas, Kadin Shedrick, and Francisco Caffaro. With so much turnover from a season ago, Virginia had to recruit both incoming first years and transfer players alike.
Coach Bennett and company brought in ESPN top 100 recruits Blake Buchanan and Elijah Gertrude (numbers 63 and 100, respectively) and also center Anthony Robinson, a late signee who switched his commitment from South Florida to the Hoos this spring.
In the transfer portal, Virginia signed guard Andrew Rohde (St. Thomas), forward Jake Groves (Oklahoma) and big man Jordan Minor (Merrimack). Rohde joins the Hoos after all an All-Summit League First Team season in which he started all 31 games and averaged 17.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
Groves comes in to presumably fill the stretch 4 role for the team, having averaged 6.8 points and 2.5 rebounds over 32 games for Oklahoma, including 22 starts last season. A career 33.9% shooter from 3 point range, Jake had his best season last year from behind the line averaging 38% on 3 attempts per game.
Last but certainly not least is Minor, the Northeast Conference Co-Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season. Jordan averaged 17.4 points to go along with 9.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.4 steals on 51.5% shooting from the field last season. The biggest question coming in for him will be how well he adjust to playing the pack line and how quickly he can do so.
The Hoos also have Dante Harris, a midseason point guard transfer from Georgetown who had started in 29 games for the Hoyas in the 2021-2022 season, averaging 11.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. In his freshman season, Dante lead the #8 seed Hoyas on an unbelievable run to the Big East Tournament Championship, earning Most Outstanding Player and averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists along the way.
This season's lineup should feature 3 locks and then 2 positions that may take longer to settle. Fans can expect to go ahead and pencil in Reece Beekman, Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn into the starting lineup. Isaac averaged 6.7 points primarily off the bench for the Hoos while shooting over 39% from 3 last season, and Ryan Dunn is a potential first round draft pick who oozes potential as an ultra athletic 4 man.
From there, I believe the most likely to start alongside the trio of extremely talented Hoos is Andrew Rohde and Jordan Minor. Rohde would fill the 3 guard system Coach Bennett typically likes to deploy and could act as a secondary ball handler/offense initiator next to Reece, while Minor would fill the athletic rim protecting big duties.
This lineup offers more balance than we have seen the past few years where every player is in a natural position for their skill set. But coming off the last few seasons of having Kihei and Reece start in tandem, there is a blue print for Dante Harris to play alongside Reece as well. Also do not rule out third year Taine Murray or second year Leon Bond III, who took a redshirt year last season. These are 2 players who have been in the system for multiple years now and could use that experience to push for starting spots early in the new season.
Freshman big Blake Buchanan and Elijah Gertrude also figure to be in the mix for playing time inside the regular rotation.
The entire schedule is not out yet, however we do have the full out of conference portion and we do know the ACC matchups be it without the dates. Virginia opens the season against Billy Gillispie and Tarleton State, before facing the University of Florida in a matchup in Charlotte later that week.
The Hoos will then host NC A&T and Texas Southern before heading to the Fort Myers Tip-Off to face Wisconsin in a tournament style event that also includes SMU and West Virginia.
New to ACC scheduling this year is the ACC/SEC challenge (replacing the ACC/Big Ten challenge) where UVA will host Buzz Williams and his Texas A&M Aggies. In December UVA will host NC Central, Northeastern and Morgan State while also visiting Memphis for a game on December 19th. The ACC season will also start in December, with Syracuse visiting Charlottesville December 2nd, and the Hoos traveling to Notre Dame on December 30th to face new Head Coach Micah Shrewsberry and former Cavaliers assistant Kyle Getter.
In January, the Hoos will host Louisville on the 3rd before back to back road games at NC State (1/6) and Wake Forest (1/13). January 17th will be the first Commonwealth Clash game of the season, as the Cavaliers will host the Hokies. From there they finish out the month at Georgia Tech (1/20), against NC State (1/24), at Louisville (1/27) and at home against Notre Dame (1/31) before beginning a tough final stretch of the season.
February will see the Hoos first travel to Clemson (2/3) followed by a big Monday night matchup with last season's Final Four team Miami (2/5). The Cavaliers will then play at Florida State (2/10) before back to back home games against Pitt (2/13) and Wake Forest (2/17). Another quick turnaround will come for the Cavaliers in the final Commonwealth Clash matchup as they travel to Blacksburg on February 20th to take on the Hokies. The month wraps up at Duke (2/23), home against UNC (2/26) and at Boston College (2/29).
The ACC tournament begins March 7th in Charlotte.
This season offers a lot of questions for the Hoos, but with so much talent and depth on the roster there is a lot of optimism as well. From Reece Beekman’s senior year to what should be an exciting freshman class, this year will have a little bit of everything for UVA basketball fans.
Stay tuned for more updates and content as the season approaches!
The last week has been a roller coaster for Virginia on the recruiting front. They picked up a big commitment from Jacob Cofie, followed by missing out on Kon Knueppel just a few days later. I look back at how both of those went down, then ahead as we start to turn the page to a new recruiting cycle.
Eastside Catholic (WA) forward Jacob Cofie announced his commitment to Virginia last Sunday, after his official visit the previous weekend. He’s officially the only member of UVA’s 2024 class as things stand, although point guard Christian Bliss will be a freshman next season too after he spends this year as a redshirt.
His commitment is big for UVA because they absolutely had to bring in their next power forward in 2024, especially after losing Isaac Traudt to transfer. Cofie is seen as capable of contributing immediately, which they’ll probably need even if it’s only in a limited role.
It turned out to be a much easier recruitment to win than expected. He was in a spot where he just wasn’t really enthused about any of the programs that had been recruiting him. When Virginia jumped in, he clicked with the coaching staff and everything fell into place. The staff knew going into his visit that the odds were pretty high of getting his commitment. Ron Sanchez did the heavy lifting and deserves most of the credit.
Cofie committed either on his visit or immediately after. I had been waiting on his announcement since finding out that Tuesday. He managed to avoid having the news spoiled by crystal ball picks too, a nice rarity these days.
Fears came true on Thursday night when Wisconsin Lutheran guard Kon Knueppel announced his commitment to Duke. Nobody is surprised, but definitely some disappointment. UVA had major built in advantages through Bennett’s connections. They did everything they could, while Duke did almost nothing. And it didn’t matter. I was told a member of the UVA staff said after hearing the news, “We recruit. Duke selects”. That about sums it up.
Kon was trying to surprise people with his announcement. He didn’t inform coaches from the other schools ahead of time, as is the usual custom. I don’t think even the Duke staff was told until the day of the announcement. And it worked pretty well. Word did leak out a couple hours before though, when I let subscribers know on the forum.
We never truly know the reasoning for a recruit’s decision. Duke does have an easier path for him to crack the starting lineup. That probably helped. Along with their history of underclassmen moving on to the NBA. NIL money did become a subject in the final week, which seemed to concern people on the UVA side. I don’t believe that was a big determining factor though. He could have gotten more at Wisconsin or Alabama.
Turning The Page
Here is Virginia’s predicament. There are two open scholarships for next season. But they don’t have any needs and no immediate opportunity for a high school recruit. And because the roster is so weighted toward current underclassmen, only one more scholarship (Taine Murray’s) is guaranteed to open for the 2025-26 season. So as things stand, space is at a premium over the next couple years.
For all intents and purposes, UVA is recruiting for 2025 now. They very well may end up adding to their 2024 class later, but it would essentially be a 2025 recruit a year early as far as Bennett is concerned. It’s all the same equation at this point. Three available scholarships, two of which could be used next season.
Several of the 2025 recruits Virginia has offered are candidates to reclassify. That’s an angle the coaching staff fully intends to explore. Especially with St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory. They want him as part of the 2024 class.
The last few weeks with coaches on the road have confirmed what we expected. There are two priority recruits in the 2025 class right now. St. Anne’s Belfield (VA) guard Chance Mallory and Grayson (GA) forward Jacob Wilkins.
Bennett has been in to see them both at their schools over the last two weeks. Obviously, other players are being recruited. But until we see that same type of activity with any of the others, it hasn’t reached the point of full engagement.
As I mentioned, Bennett does want Chance Mallory to reclassify and join their 2024 class. And 2024 is his original class. It's a decision that will most likely be made later, perhaps after his high school season. With Knueppel in the rear view now, attention is going to shift Mallory’s way. The hope is to have him on board before recruiting picks up again in the spring.
Mallory has taken a bunch of unofficial visits lately. He was recently at UVA for the day along with trips to Maryland, VA Tech, West Virginia, and there’s an upcoming visit to Clemson. That’s a good thing. We want his process moving forward.
Maryland is probably the top competition. I’ve heard he would like an offer from UCLA, who’s shown some interest. But Virginia is a significant favorite. I doubt there’s anything coming that will change that.
Tony Bennett was in Georgia on Tuesday to see Jacob Wilkins. After getting the skilled forward they needed in Cofie, UVA wants to add athleticism to the frontcourt in 2025. Wilkins more than fits the description. He is of course the son of Dominique Wilkins and half-brother of Virginia assistant coach Isaiah Wilkins.
He’s scheduled for an early official visit on the weekend of the Blue-White scrimmage, October 14th. People who know their family situation have told me they believe Isaiah’s relationship will be difficult for other programs to overcome. They’re very close. But If things drag on, particularly into next spring’s live periods, it could get more complicated. UVA has until then to either close the deal or at least solidify their position well enough for whatever comes.
Jacob recently took an unofficial visit to Georgia, his dad’s alma mater. Alabama has offered, and they had an assistant coach in to see him. I don’t believe anyone that’s recruiting him right now is that serious of a threat.
Other 2025 Recruits
We should probably start paying attention to Middleton (WI) big man Will Garlock now. He doesn’t have a scholarship offer, but Bennett watched him quite a bit over the summer. He’s the type of high upside long term prospect, maybe a redshirt candidate, that would make sense with the roster situation. Wisconsin is all over him. UVA is expected to see him at some point this fall.
Sidwell (DC) guard Acaden Lewis was on grounds for an unofficial visit recently. UVA can’t get both him and Mallory. But they’re in pretty good shape with Lewis. Georgetown and Florida State seem to be the main competition. Virginia has a better chance with him than for Gonzaga (DC) guard Derek Dixon who also recently visited.
Now that UVA knows they have a third open scholarship, things could get more interesting with Southern Durham (NC) guard Jackson Keith. He’s the one other guard with a current offer that UVA would continue to recruit if Mallory were to commit. UNC is lurking. They would be a big problem.
Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament visited on Friday. Duke just offered. Unless the Blue Devils back off, that’s probably where he’ll end up. Expect UVA to hang around in case.
Bennett also stopped by the Overtime Elite pro day event while in Georgia last week, in part to see highly-rated forward Bryson Tiller. Definitely a longshot for the Hoos, but he is a candidate to reclass up.
No one from UVA has been to St. Thomas More (CT) to see forward London Jemison yet. Coach Vandross should be up there soon though. Another one who could reclassify. He’s picked up recent offers from Villanova and Providence.
The first official practice is today. I’m sure there will be video highlights this evening, courtesy of Virginia Sports. Only six weeks away now from the season opener against Tarleton State.
Along with that, recruiting activity starts to slowly taper off from here. We’ll still be on top of it as always though. And in a couple weeks, I hope to gather some tidbits for you about how the team is shaping up.
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Tony Bennett has landed an important piece of his future frontcourt. Jacob Cofie announced his commitment to Virginia on Sunday, following a recent official visit. The 6’9” forward out of Eastside Catholic School in Washington is currently ranked as the 82nd overall player in the 2024 class, according to the On3 industry average. He chose the Wahoos out of a final four that also included Ohio State, Southern Cal, and Washington.
NEWS: 2024 four-star Jacob Cofie tells me he’s committed to Virginia.— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) September 18, 2023
The 6-9 Power Forward chose UVA over a final group of Washington, Ohio State, and USC.
Story: https://t.co/XNacvRJwfi pic.twitter.com/ANKUSBzOIG
Jacob Cofie’s Recruitment
Cofie was a popular recruit from the start. He had been heavily recruited by several Pac-12 programs since early on. All of the other finalists were in pursuit for some time. Virginia was the only newcomer to join the race over the summer, offering in July after Cofie had averaged nearly a double-double at Nike Peach Jam.
Associate Head Coach Ron Sanchez is responsible for Virginia’s involvement. This is his first recruit since rejoining the staff in the offseason. He eyed Cofie all summer, leading up to the scholarship offer. And then built a relationship to help put the Wahoos in position to close the deal.
Cofie named the four finalists in late August. Washington, his hometown school, was probably the top competition in the end. He had taken an early official visit there. And they had recruited him really hard. He was planning upcoming visits to Ohio State and Southern Cal, which are now canceled.
What Jacob Cofie Brings to Virginia
He fills Virginia’s most urgent need. They were very thin at the power forward spot. That presents an opportunity for him to come in and earn playing time right away. His natural position is in the four-spot, although he’ll probably be used at center on occasion too.
Cofie had a really good summer, averaging 11.5 points 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for NW Rotary in the Nike EYBL. His game is well rounded, bringing versatility on both ends of the court. He can stretch the floor, hitting 36% from three-point range. And he has the physical tools to defend a wide variety of frontcourt players.
Jacob Cofie is a 6’9 PF Class 2024 from Seattle, WA— Brooks Scouting Report (@ReportBrooks) July 26, 2023
☑️High School: Eastside Catholic
☑️AAU Club: NW Rotary Rebels
☑️Offers: Washington, Washington State, USC, Ohio State, Virginia, Colorado, Oregon. pic.twitter.com/wxfzB8HJJn
Virginia wanted to add scoring punch in their future frontcourt. Cofie certainly has the ability to bring that. He's a high floor recruit who should be capable of contributing immediately, which UVA will most likely need him to do. And in the years ahead, he has the potential to develop into a real stalwart in the Wahoo lineup.
Virginia’s Recruiting Going Forward
With the addition of Jacob Cofie, Virginia has 11 projected scholarship players for the 2024-25 season. They’re hoping to add one more.
Virginia has been in pursuit of two other forwards in the 2024 class, Matthew Hodge and David Punch. Both of them were scheduled for upcoming official visits. With Cofie’s commitment, it’s very likely that Bennett will bow out of those recruitments.
Full attention turns to Kon Knueppel now. The five-star guard out of Wisconsin Lutheran just completed a round of official visits, including a stop in Charlottesville this week. He’s the only 2024 recruit left on the board. UVA is a strong contender for him. Duke is seen as the biggest threat, with in-state schools Wisconsin and Marquette in the running as well. He'll likely decide by the end of the month.
The 2025 recruiting cycle is fully underway now too. Virginia can only guarantee two open spots as things stand. They’re after one guard and one forward.
Local product Chance Mallory of St. Anne’s Belfield is a prime early target. He was on grounds recently for an unofficial visit. As was Gonzaga (DC) guard Derek Dixon last weekend. And Sidwell (DC) combo guard Acaden Lewis was in town this weekend.
Grayson (GA) forward Jacob Wilkins, the brother of UVA assistant coach Isaiah Wilkins, has already scheduled an official visit for the weekend of October 14th. Highland School (VA) forward Nate Ament is expected for an unofficial visit soon. And St. Thomas More (CT) forward London Jemison is one to watch too.
The commitment from Jacob Cofie is huge for Virginia because it’s the spot they absolutely had to fill. A point guard and a skilled forward were the two non-negotiable items on Bennett’s 2024 list. With the earlier addition of Christian Bliss and now Cofie, they’ve filled those spots with quality recruits who fit well into the roster.
Virginia continues to assemble a great collection of young players. They’ve managed to find a consistency in recruiting the last several years that really hadn’t been there before under Bennett. Now, we’ll see if they can top it off by reeling in the big prize with Kon Knueppel’s upcoming decision. Either way, the future is awfully bright.