Several outlets have already published excellent articles about Casey Morsell's commitment with quotations from the player. Houston Wilson and Sam Blum wrote the two that I read, and both elicited meaningful insights from Casey. What interests me the most at this point is what his commitment means to Virginia Basketball recruiting strategically.
Casey's commitment on April 4, 2018, is huge. It might be the most significant recruiting event in Tony Bennett's tenure at UVA because of the context and the import. We've had several recruits who were more highly-rated and who came with more upside - a 6-2 guard has an enormous hill to climb to make the modern NBA - but I'm not sure we have had one whose individual commitment was as pivotal to the program's fortunes.
Where Casey falls on various recruiting rankings or how many stars the services give him is of little relevance in gauging his importance or potential impact at Virginia, because we know that he was Tony Bennett's top priority recruit. He was this year's Jahvon Quinerly - and we got him. Whatever other criticisms I might have of Coach Bennett, his eye for talent will never be one of them. My concerns with recruiting have not been because of the media rankings of the players we have missed or landed; they have been because of the Bennett rankings of those players. If we're landing a bunch of guys rated in the 100s and 200s but those are the guys Bennett targets first, I'm going to be excited by the class and shrug off the rankings. But if Bennett has struck out on two or three ranks of targets before landing those guys, I'm going to be concerned, because Plan C and D is not where you want to be. Tony's Plan C and D are probably a lot better than most coaches', but you don't win the ACC and do well in the NCAA with a roster comprised only of Plan C and D. You need some Plan A and also Plan B guys, too.
Casey insures a good likelihood that the roster will have at least one Plan A through the 2022-23 season. That's five full seasons. In 2019-20, the roster should have at least 3 Plan A guys and potentially as many as 5. Tony has time to come up with more for 2020-21 and beyond.
The Morsell commitment breaks the ice. From the time De'Andre Hunter committed in September 2015 through the end of March, Virginia Basketball went 2.5 years without landing a Plan A or Plan B recruit. At a certain point, you begin to wonder if you'll ever get another one. After the transfers out, the 2018 shutout, the nazi invasion of August, and the 1-16 debacle, Tony and his staff had a lot to overcome with the recruitment effort. Perhaps as much as anything else is the effect of all of that on morale in the staff and the Wahoo community.
Casey ends all of that. The Drought is over. Done. Finito. Kaput. A recruit Tony went after hard and who had other great options committed - and made it public. He didn't come on a visit, have a great visit, tell Tony he's coming - then go home and get talked out of it. No, Casey Morsell loved Virginia, wanted to come - and now has committed, with the support of his grassroots community. It's a huge moment, and it has to give the staff a shot of adrenaline.
The commitment also starts the 2019 recruiting class off with a bang early in the game. While not the quick jump of the Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy commitments way back in 2014, it still is one of the first commitments of the 2019 class and gives Virginia an early start. Now the staff can sell Casey to its big and wing targets, and decide if it wants to bring in another guard with Casey. They can decide who fits. Maybe Justin Moore would be the perfect companion - just bring that Team Takeover backcourt to Charlottesville. Or maybe Drake London would be the perfect complement. Or Josh Green from Australia by way of IMG Academy. Or Josiah James from South Carolina. A lot of options there, a lot of guys who could picture themselves playing next to Casey.
Getting the early commitment from a top player - consensus top 100 in the nation, and 247's #1 prospect in the Washington, DC area - gives other prospects some confidence in the program and the class, that they won't end up alone. In his interview with Sam Blum of the Daily Progress, Casey told us as a matter of fact that there are "a few recruits that are thinking of coming" to UVA and they had "literally just called me and said, ‘What do you think, this and that.’" Having a player you respect tell you why he chose a school can mean a lot to a kid who might be looking for a reason to commit. This is the flip side of what we were hearing about 2018, that after a few of Bennett's top targets went elsewhere others started wondering why nobody was choosing Virginia and it increased doubt in their minds.
With Casey, Bennett has finally broken into the WCAC. It is hard to believe that we have been shut out of the WCAC since Mamadi Diane, and that we have not pulled down a first rank WCAC recruit since Roger Mason, Jr., almost 20 years ago. It has not been for lack of Bennett trying, that is for damn sure. Finally, a WCAC player has committed to Virginia. With offers out to several other WCAC players in the 2019 and 2020 classes and already interest in some 2021 players, breaking that ice comes at a great time.
With all of the above, it is nice that while we might call Casey the "Savior of Virginia Recruiting", he won't have to be a savior on the court. With Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome probably the starters, Casey will be able to join junior Marco Anthony and sophomore Kihei Clark in providing depth and versatility. He'll have a chance to get over the shock of what "my defense is good" means at this level before he has to lead the team.