Recapping the 2023 Hoops Offseason

Reviewing the most wild offseason of roster turnover of the Bennett era.

Student athletes reported to Grounds last week for the summer session and that meant summer practices for the basketball team began. UVA dropped a practice video to mark the occasion, and while there's rarely much to take away from these brief highlights, the big impression is just how many new faces there are:

Of note, this offseason marks the most year-over-year turnover since Tony really got established a decade and change ago. Gone from last year's team are eight total players, which includes six of the top nine in terms of minutes played, our top 3 scorers from last season, and four of five starting positions.

I think a recap of a very hectic spring to properly sum up the near-total rebuild of Tony Bennett's roster is in order, especially for those that didn't have the time the last few months to watch the transfer portal or follow recruiting the way some of us obsessively do.

So let's rewind to March and talk about the eight departures from last year's team.

The Exodus

Going into the end of the season, we knew three players were out of eligibility. PG Kihei Clark, PF Jayden Gardner, and PF Ben Vander Plas were all finishing out their respective 5th years in college, each of them having elected to play their COVID bonus season. There went three starters off the bat when the buzzer sounded in the NCAAT loss. A fourth player who'd raised his jersey on senior night was converted walk-on Chase Coleman, a four-year program cornerstone who will return to UVA's sideline next season as a Graduate Assistant, pursuing a longtime dream of becoming a coach.

Next to depart was center Francisco "Papi" Caffaro, who entered the transfer portal March 23rd, one week after our final game . Papi had been a major part of the 2021-22 rotation, starting 16 games (of 35) that year. But he saw his role nearly disappear as a 5th year redshirt senior last year, finishing with 3 starts, only 8 mpg, and only 2 ppg. While we had expected he'd forego his last year of NCAA eligibility (his COVID relief year) to start his international career, he surprised us by electing to transfer to Santa Clara for his final season.

Four days after Papi entered the transfer portal, the near-total teardown of the front court was complete with a pair of additional big man transfers. 

First, redshirting freshman Isaac Traudt, a sharpshooting combo big and former consensus 2022 Top 75 recruit from Nebraska, announced his departure without ever having played a minute for UVA. The bottom line is that this was about homesickness (and not the redshirt, though speculation and debate is inevitable) and had been known for a while by the staff. He'll suit up this year back home at Creighton.

That same day, fourth year center Kadin Shedrick entered the transfer portal. This one was frustrating to many, as Kadin had looked like an all-ACC player at times early in the year after finally finding some consistency as a redshirt sophomore the season prior. But after starting 14 of the first 15 games this year, Shedrick got benched in favor of Vander Plas. Over the next 14 games, he would log 3 DNPs and six more games with only single digit minutes. Simply put, he was in the dog house. An injury to Vander Plas before the ACC Tournament would see Shedrick play a bigger role in the postseason by necessity, but by that point the damage to the relationship was done. Shedrick will play his redshirt senior season at Texas.

The following week would see two guards announce for the NBA Draft.

Armaan Franklin, who was finishing up his fourth year of college, elected to forego his COVID bonus year and will take a shot at his pro career, likely starting out in the G-League.

ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece Beekman also announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft, but did keep his options open to return. Reece would garner a good deal of interest from NBA teams and even performed reasonably well in scrimmages and testing/measurements at the NBA Combine. Reece would remain a giant question mark for the Hoos throughout the spring.

The Rebuild

As the calendar flipped from March to April, UVA was at proverbial square one with its roster. With Reece still two months away from needing to make a stay/go decision on the Draft, the coaching staff was looking at bringing back only three bench players from last year's team.

The Returners

Shooting guard Isaac McKneely had established himself as the first guard off the bench, playing 21.5 mpg, scoring 6.7 ppg, and hitting a valuable 39.2% on this 3-pointers as a freshman. ACC Digital Network compiled some of his freshman highlights here:

Freshman forward Ryan Dunn carved out a role over the course of the year as a high-energy backup to Jayden Gardner at the 4. His freshman year saw him finish with 12.9 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and a noteworthy 1.1 blocks per game. Check out Dunn's well rounded performance against Monmouth last season, perhaps a tease of what he's capable of against the ACC with a full year under his belt:


Sophomore wing Taine Murray failed to carve out a consistent role, seeing only sporadic time in just 13 games. Still, the New Zealand native opted to return for his junior year, perhaps with academic motivation after being accepted into the prestigious McIntire School of Commerce this spring. No good highlight tape for him on the web from his UVA years, but here's a reminder of what he was capable of playing with older pros in the NZNBL before COVID:

And that's it, only three players with meaningful game time at UVA under their belts were on next year's roster in pen.

But we did know of four incoming faces who'd be joining them.

The Known Additions

First is the last member of the 2022 recruiting class, consensus 4-star forward Leon Bond who'd redshirted last year. Expected to play a hybrid 3/4 role utilizing excellent length and athleticism, Bond used his redshirt year to work on his offense. Here's a reminder of his elite potential his senior year of high school 2021-22, the last time we saw him in competitive action.


UVA's 2023 recruiting class also had two high school senior signees from last fall.

4-star shooting guard Elijah Gertrude was a blue chip commitment who was pushing 5-star status last summer prior to an ACL tear shutting down his senior year before it started. Reports on his recovery this past winter and spring have been positive, and it's expected he'll be ready to participate in summer and fall practices this year.


Big man Blake Buchanan was a bit of an unknown upon committing to UVA last summer out of Idaho. But he quickly established himself as one of the better centers in the '23 class, and this spring had the honors of playing on the USA Team at the Nike Hoops Summit (and holding his own) before getting invited to audition for the Team USA U19 squad.


Lastly, Bennett had quietly added a mid-year transfer over the winter as well. Former Georgetown 2-year starting point guard Dante Harris had entered the transfer portal before the start of his junior year this past fall, and chose to enroll at UVA over the winter to redshirt his second semester. A small, quick PG, Harris is best known for winning Most Outstanding Player at the 2021 Big East Tournament as a true freshman where he averaged 11.8 ppg, 3.3 apg (vs only 1.3 topg), and 1.8 stlpg leading the Hoyas to the BE Tournament Title. As a sophomore, Harris averaged 32 mpg, 11.9 ppg, and 4.1 apg. With Kihei out of eligibility and Reece's NBA stock on the rise, this was a hell of a pickup by Bennett to provide a veteran option at the 1-spot.


This put UVA at seven scholarship players locked in for next year, though only four with D-1 experience and only one who'd been a power conference starter (Harris). A lot more help was needed.

The New Additions

The first player to commit to UVA this spring was Jordan Minor, a 6'8" 240 lb center from Merrimack. The rising 5th year was a walking double-double in the Northeast Conference the last couple years, peaking last year when he won both the conference's POY and DPOY awards with a stat line of 33.4 mpg, 17.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 2.6 blkpg. Oh, and Merrimack finished the regular season 1st in their league, so Minor was leading a winner. He's very much a true center, does all his scoring within 5 or 10 feet of the basket, and is career 59% from the FT line, so this isn't a stretch option. It's also worth noting that KenPom ranked the Northeast Conference as the weakest conference in D-1 last year, so don't expect a flawless transition to an ACC level of competition. Still, he's experienced and provides good size (bigger than either Ben Vanderplas or Jayden Gardner who we had anchoring the post last year after Kadin got benched) with good rim protection bonafides. Closest comparison may be a slightly bigger Darion Atkins (though TBD if he'll bring that same swagger).


The next addition was freshman guard/wing Andre Rohde, a 6'6" do-everything perimeter player from St. Thomas in the Summit League. Rohde took the Summit by storm as a rookie, winning the league's freshman of the year honors along with a spot on the all-conference 1st team. He posted an impressive stat line of 32.9 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, and 1.7 stlpg, leading his team in all those categories en route to a winning season and 4th place Summit League finish. A key to watch will be his 3-point shooting, which was only 33% on the season, but is supposed to be a strength of his. Of note, over his last 11 games, he shot 41.8% from 3 on over 6 3PAs a game, so the potential is at least there. I see him projecting to a Devon Hall-like role as a hybrid scorer and secondary facilitator; while we'll pair him with a traditional PG here at UVA, he was St. Thomas' de factor point guard last year with the Summit League's 3rd best assist rate. With three years of eligibility remaining, he's a name we may be hearing a lot for years to come.



The addition of Jordan Minor gave UVA a likely starter at the 5-spot to pair with the returning Ryan Dunn at the 4, but the loss of Traudt meant that we still had no obvious backup for the frontcourt. Enter rising 5th year Oklahoma transfer Jacob Groves, a 6'9" 215 lb stretch big (not to be confused with his brother, honorable mention all-Big XII big man Tanner Groves). Groves spent two years at Eastern Washington before transferring to OU with his brother and earned 34 starts there over two seasons. He's never put up eye-popping statistics, finishing last season with a modest 20.5 mpg, 6.8 ppg, and 2.5 ppg at the 4-spot. He did shoot an impressive 38% from 3 last season on good volume, so he's a proven stretch-big threat, but the tradeoff is he's not a shot blocker and his rebounding rates have been generally underwhelming for a guy his size. He's likely bought into a role player situation here at UVA, with his versatility and experience allowing him to pair well with most other big men in UVA's rotation for 15-20 mpg in his one last year of college basketball.


UVA wasn't done with high school recruiting, though, and one last 2023 pledge would be added when UCF-decommit big man Anthony Robinson would visit and commit at the end of April. Robinson stands an impressive 6'10" and 238 lbs with quality bounce and energy. But he's considered fairly raw as a late bloomer, and the expectation is that he committed knowing a redshirt year is planned.


We're also excited about the addition of Preferred Walk-On Desmond Roberts out of local prep powerhouse STAB. A player good enough to have competed for a scholarship at a mid major or DII, Roberts will join returning walk-on Tristan How on the Green Team providing UVA with excellent additional talent to practice with and against each day.


The roster wasn't complete, though, as UVA coaches and fans alike had to wait another month before Reece Beekman would ultimately announce his withdrawal from the NBA Draft and return to UVA at the end of May. UVA blessedly would not have to replace all five starters after all.

Your 2023-24 UVA Hoops Roster

So after all that churn, here's your 2023-24 men's basketball roster matrix. The usual caveats about positional semantics apply:


The Guards

When talking about guards, I define the position as guys trusted to play the 1 and 2 in our offense as either primary or at least secondary creators and initiators. By and large Tony Bennett will look to play at least two of these guys together at any given time, though we saw lots of success in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons with primarily three-guard lineups and may see some of that this year as well with impressive depth here.

First things first, Reece Beekman is walking back into a starting role, clearly, finally "the man" and no longer sharing PG responsibilities with the more-veteran Kihei. I expect to see him put up numbers similar to what we saw out of Kihei in 2018-19 when Clark was the lone featured PG on the roster: 32-35 minutes a game, low double digit points per game with upwards of 6 assists a game. Very little is controversial here.


On one side of him in the starting lineup, it's widely expected Isaac McKneely will promote into a starting role as the featured scoring guard. As a former Top 50 recruit and the only trusted shooter returning from last year's team, frankly it would surprise no one if he ended up our leading scorer. Go ahead and pencil him in for 30 minutes a night between the 2 and 3 spots.

Things get interesting from here, though, with Dante Harris, Elijah Gertrude, and Andrew Rohde all set to compete for perhaps the 3rd starting spot as well as that key "first guard off the bench" role that Tony seems to settle on every year (McKneely filling that role last year). 

Harris has been on the team since December and Tony's obviously proven willing to go with 2-small-PG lineups the last three years, though ultimately his size and thus far subpar 3-point shooting (26.8% career from deep) may make him difficult to pair with Reece when other options are available.

Rohde put up great numbers as a freshman and provides both size and a well-rounded skillset as both a shooter and a passer that would make him an intriguing complement to Reece and Isaac. But KenPom ranks the Summit League as the 24th strongest of 32 conferences in D-1, so a learning curve for the youngster against the high-major grind is to be expected. We would also like to see more consistency from his 3-point shot.


Gertrude certainly has upside as an ACC starter, boasting tremendous speed, defensive instincts, and scoring touch. Listed at 6'4" with plus wingspan he's got good size for the 2-guard position, but as with any true freshman his immediate readiness will be a question at this stage, especially given his lost senior year to the ACL tear and any potential rust that might entail. 

UVA's staff will ultimately look for two of these players to cement roles in the primary rotation this year, and honestly there's reason for optimism that all 3 can be ACC-quality players and provide the Hoos the best guard rotation we've seen in a few years. But that's all predicated on three new faces acclimating to high major college ball, mastering Bennett's systems, and developing chemistry with each other. That's not going to happen overnight.

The Wings

Here we're looking at guys who aren't going to be primary ball handlers, but will still be perimeter oriented options, capable of playing the 3 in bigger lineups and the 4 in smaller lineups.

I'm going to include Ryan Dunn in here, though I want to be clear given the roster makeup I think it's highly unlikely he spends any time at the 3 this year. Instead, as one of only three members of last year's regular rotation to return, his starting spot at the 4 is nearly guaranteed. In fact, ESPN is currently predicting him to break out so strongly he'll end up as a 1st round draft pick next summer (2024 NBA mock draft - The uncertainty with next year's class - ESPN) along with Reece. I'm pumping the breaks on this somewhat, as I think his defense is going to be great but I want to see more versatility to his offensive game (consistent 3-point shot, ability to create for himself) before I anoint him a 2-and-done. I see him in a hybrid Akil Mitchell / Isaiah Wilkins kind of role as a 2nd year.

Both Bond and Murray are going to be wild cards going into the season as they can play either as a traditional wing at the 3-spot or as a small-ball power forward. But of course, there's a lot of competition for minutes on the perimeter as mentioned above, so it's an open question how much either of them can establish themselves in competition to McKneely, Rohde, and others. And how much we see them backing up Dunn at the 4 may depend on how things play out with the big man rotation.

The Front Court

If there's one area that I'm a little worried about right now, it's the post, and with that mostly on defense.

Jordan Minor is going to start at the five. It's what he was brought in to do. But there are three noteworthy concerns here. First is the level of competition, as discussed above, as the Northeast Conference literally featured only a couple players bigger than Minor's 6'8", and none taller than 6'10". Second, also mentioned above, his offensive game is strictly limited to the vicinity of the basket, and now going against bigger defenders one wonders how much his production will translate. Lastly, he spent his time at Merrimack playing the middle of their zone defense. So while his DPOY honors are based on standout block statistics, he can thank anchoring a 2-3, and we're walking into potential trouble transitioning to the pack line man defense.

The bench options have their own concerns here. 

Jacob Groves is much more of a stretch 4 who only sporadically slid down to the center position in his two years at Oklahoma. His mediocre rebounding rates and non-existent shot-blocking bear out that he'd rather be on the perimeter than fighting in the paint. He'll be a solid offense-for-defense substitution for Dunn at the 4, but if and when he spells Minor at the 5-spot, we'll be holding our breath.

How much Groves is needed at the 5 may depend on whether rookie Blake Buchanan is ready. He played well in national HS events this past year, so he's arguably as close to ready as any incoming big man we've seen under Tony. But his initial weigh in at 6'11" and 215 lbs makes him pretty slight for the center position in the ACC; he will benefit heavily from adding good bulk over his career but it likely won't be enough for this coming season. And of course it's worth noting that Tony Bennett hasn't played a true freshman center since Mike Tobey over a decade ago, redshirting every center since then (Salt, Diakite, Huff, Caffaro, and Shedrick). So while I do expect Blake to play this year breaking that positional redshirt streak, it's hard to gamble on him playing a ton of regular minutes.

And as mentioned above, we do expect Anthony Robinson to redshirt this year assuming the other three bigs are healthy.

So all in all, thinking about watching these guys square off against some of the ACC's better centers like BC's Quinten Post, Clemson's PJ Hall, Duke's Kyle Filipowski, or UNC's Armando Bacot, we'll have our hands full many nights this coming year.


Last year we ran an article correlating UVA's year-over-year roster stability with its defensive performance. The main takeaway was that, with a couple outliers, the complex Pack Line defense performed well when returning well versed system veterans, and struggled in years following high offseason turnover. UVA returns only 34% of its minutes played from last year, the lowest year-over-year continuity in Bennett's tenure; the second lowest was 36.9% in 2021 and that year we had our worst-ranked defense since Bennett's first year at UVA and ended up in the NIT.

There's a lot of talent on this roster. Seven players expected to compete for rotation spots were 4-star recruits coming out of HS. And three of our four transfers won some sort of conference honor at their last stop (Harris' BE Tourney MOP, Minor's POY and DPOY, and Rohde's ROY and All-Conference 1st Team).

But there's also a lot of youth and inexperience being asked to gel quickly against a challenging schedule (which we'll preview later this offseason). Only three players can really be considered "known quantities": Reece, McKneely, and Dunn. And even they are being asked to step into new, bigger roles this season.

Tony Bennett is a guy who wins most consistently with rosters developed in-house over multiple seasons. This year will be a very unique challenge for him; if he can get this many new faces to coalesce and either challenge for the ACC again or get to the Big Dance and win some games, it may represent his best coaching job yet.

July 1, 2023