The 1st of May is a great point to take a step back and review our basketball recruiting posture. It's been a few weeks since we laid out our Spring/Summer recruiting strategy thought piece, and in that time we've seen the usual April flurry of activity. Late 2018 recruits, graduate and traditional transfers, and the start of the grassroots AAU circuits featuring 2019 and 2020 recruits have combined to make it a hectic few weeks. With the calendar flipping to May, however, we get to catch our breath. May and June are primarily Quiet Periods mandated by the NCAA, meaning college coaches can't go in-home or in-school with high school recruits, nor can they watch players in AAU settings. Phone calls and digital communication will still happen, but the only face-to-face contact allowed is during on-campus visits.
This will make Hooz Got Next's job simultaneously easier and harder: Easier because there won't be frenzied AAU weekends where dozens of Twitter accounts must be stalked continuously for mentions of who our coaches are watching; Harder because it means Tony will be operating with his desired degree of secrecy, everything happening behind the scenes, and updates are going to become often impossible to come by.
But all the same, we'll continue to track and update the recruiting picture as best we can. So without further ado, let's take this opportunity to restack the board.
2018-19 Season Additions
The roster for next year is one player too thin, as has been widely accepted by this point. Assuming the Kody Stattmann redshirt (and yes, that's a safe assumption), we're rolling out 9 players next year, which limits the lineup flexibility and leaves us with a razor thin margin for injury. The goal has been to add an immediately eligible player to next year's roster. For 2018 freshmen, no one has yet emerged that's been worthy of a scholarship offer. No late bloomers, no players de-committing in the wake of coaching changes, not like we've seen in past years.
So that leaves the graduate transfer route for immediately eligible players. The need is in the backcourt to allow Tony to play a small lineup with Hunter at the 4; to me the preference is a bigger guard, more of a 2/3 like Devon was, as the young Kihei Clark should give us some good minutes at the 1. Keyshawn Woods was the primary target here but he picked Ohio State (and for anyone counting, that's 3 priority Bennett targets that tOSU's Hartmann has snagged in the last 12 months, along with Musa Jallow and Luther Muhammed). Virginia also inquired about South Dakokta's Matt Mooney, but that went nowhere. The latest name we've been attached to is Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Brock Stull, a 6'4" utility guard who can back up either guard spot in a traditional lineup, or start at the 2/3 in a small ball lineup.
Quite a list of schools interested in UWM fifth-year transfer Brock Stull. Virginia, NC State, Georgia, Butler, Creighton, Xavier, LSU, Minnesota, Boston College, Utah State and South Florida have all called to express interest so far. Jeremiah Bell has also been offered by UAB.— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) April 27, 2018
Butler would be the one to watch, as their head coach, LaVall Jordan, coached Stull at UW-M before moving up to his current gig. It's easy to assume the Bennett family name carries weight for a Wisconsin kid, but Stull is from Illinois originally.
No other names are under serious consideration right now, at least not publicly. If there are other potential targets, they're kids who haven't announced their intention to transfer, so it's irresponsible to speculate. I'm not considering any 2018 "take and redshirt" candidates in this section; I'll address them below as they'll effectively become 2019 recruits.
When we went into the recruiting season, we anticipated the staff would be pursuing a 3-man 2019 class primarily, consisting of one guard (Casey Morsell), one combo forward (the heir to NBA-bound De'Andre Hunter), and one true center (the heir to Jack Salt). Watching how they've recruited over the last two weekends, we're prepared to modify that.
We do not list every player on our Big Board here, only the ones the staff seems to have prioritized during April, whether by staff visits or by watching them repeatedly during the AAU Live Periods.
Casey Morsell is still it here. The Virginia commit is straight up killing it on the EYBL circuit this year, the leading scorer on Team Takeover's undefeated squad, providing steady, all-around contributions and being a team leader. Casey is a 1/2 who closes the book on Tony's need to take a small guard in the 2019 class. AAU: Team Takeover (Nike)
They're continuing to evaluate 2020's, but it's too early to get invested in those.
Big Guard / Wing
This is the new one. There was some confusion last month with reports stating that, with Morsell's commitment, the staff was done recruiting guards. What's borne out since then, however, was the realization that Tony was done recruiting small guards (with 5'9-10" Kihei in 2018, there's a limit to the number of small guards you're comfortable being in the rotation), but still sees a very real place for a big guard to fit into the rotation, someone with 6'5" frame and some physicality to their game. A few players seem to have jumped to the front here:
Drake London - Drake is a fast rising 6'5" Californian that the staff has been involved with for most of the last year. The big question with Drake is whether he'll pursue basketball or football (where he's a 3-star WR prospect), or try to do both. If he's willing to commit to basketball only, Virginia may quickly become the leader. AAU: BTI Selects (Unaffiliated)
Josiah James - The 5-star 6'6" South Carolinian has held an offer from Virginia since last year, and has been blowing up this spring into true Blue Blood bait (just got a Duke offer). We continue to be mentioned, but this one feels like a long shot. AAU: TMP Elite (Unaffiliated)
Josh Green - The 5-star 6'5" Australian is prepping at elite IMG academy in Florida but is based out of California for the summer. West Coast schools expected to have the edge, but Virginia continues to be mentioned. Long shot but still one to monitor. AAU: West Coast Elite (Under Armour)
Au'Diese Toney - The newest guard/wing option, the 6'6" Toney got his offer this week after the staff caught him in the April AAU events. He's from Alabama but prepping in NC. Still too new to know much about what our prospects are. AAU: Team Felton (Under Armour)
Seth Lundy - Virginia has not yet officially offered Seth, not that we know of anyways, but that may just be a formality. The 6'6" wing hails from the same AAU program as Hunter. AAU: Philly Pride (Under Armour)
Virginia is looking for the heir to De'Andre Hunter, who is projected to go to the NBA next summer. At least one combo forward, who has the perimeter game of a wing but the size to rebound and defend the 4, will be taken this cycle.
Braxton Key - This is a traditional transfer option coming from Alabama. Virginia recruited him at the same time as Hunter in 2015. He's the nephew of Ralph Sampson, and while from TN, has family still in Virginia. He could be visiting Charlottesville this week. Would redshirt this season and have two years of eligibility remaining. Virginia is considered the team to beat here, though Texas may also be in play.
Jae'Lyn Withers - This is the name we've become most familiar with. The 6'8"+ long wing out of North Carolina was the first combo forward to get an offer from Tony this cycle, and they've prioritized him. However, he's said he may want to take his recruitment into the fall, and that he's hoping to get Blue Blood offers. We know how these recruitments go. AAU: Team Loaded NC (Adidas)
Gregg Gantt - The newest offer to a combo forward, Gantt is another North Carolinian that the staff has been evaluating for a while now, but only just this week came through with an official offer. He's picking up national interest this spring, so it remains to be seen how much traction Virginia gets, or what Gantt's timetable may be. AAU: Team Felton (Under Armour)
Patrick Williams - The 6'6" four star North Carolinian does not yet have a firm offer, while other ACC schools are prioritizing him. AAU: Team United.
Jaiden Delaire - The 6'8" four star CT prospect is one Virginia has been watching for a while. He's starting to get high major interest this spring, so Virginia's opportunity to get involved may be getting smaller. AAU: NE6 (Under Armour)
Robert Braswell - Braswell is a sleeper 2018 recruit that Virginia went to evaluate in April. He was a military kid who spent time overseas and has stayed under the radar. He would likely be a redshirt candidate, making him effectively a 2019 prospect. No offer reportedly came out of that April visit.
Withers and Key are options 1A and 1B right now. Withers is nowhere near deciding, though, so we get the feeling Virginia is waiting to see what Key decides to do before pushing with any of the other options. Key should decide in the coming weeks.
Virginia is involved with a number of big men right now, but none that they lead for. All the same, the staff continues to pursue. Here are the names worth monitoring.
Francisco Caffaro - The newest name, he's on top because he visited Charlottesville this week. The Argentinean (but trains in Australia) 7-footer is likely to come to the US for college this summer, but we expect Virginia would redshirt him as they've done with all their previous international prospects, making him a 2019 recruit for all intents and purposes. Like Jack Salt, he'd be quiet for two years with the hope to get three productive years out of him.
DJ Burns - Virginia is in a battle for Burns with South Carolina. Tony went in-home with him two weeks ago, but we've heard nothing about a visit being set up. Burns had previously said he wanted to pick a school early. AAU: Georgia Stars (Nike EYBL)
Oscar Tshiebwe - Virginia put in a lot of work this past year, but at this point Oscar is likely to go to West Virginia as the heir to Sagana Konate. AAU: ITPS (Adidas)
Aiden Igiehon - Virginia had been in a good position going into the spring but Aiden is trending toward "national recruit" status with Virginia likely fading. AAU: Team Rio (Under Armour)
Drew Timme - The newest offer, Timme is a bouncy 6'9" Texan with some swagger to his game. Virginia jumped in after seeing him the first live period weekend. Still too early to get a feel. AAU: Drive Nation (Nike EYBL)
Will Baker - I'm having a hard time getting invested in this one, because he's a 5-star from Texas with Blue Bloods hanging all over him, but yet our staff watched him repeatedly over the opening weekends and seem to have some reason to stay involved.
Armando Bacot - The Richmond (Trinity) standout had been written off by us as Blue Blood-bound, but for a couple reasons we're still watching. First, he's close with Casey Morsell, and just joined Casey's AAU program. Second, we're hearing the Blue Bloods may be backing off him in favor of their newest shiny prospects, and Virginia may once again be a realistic option. AAU: Team Takeover (Nike EYBL)
We're considering a true big man as the lowest priority remaining need in the 2019 class assuming the staff fully commits to, and builds the roster in such a way as to, play small more consistently. If we have the bodies to have a combo forward at the 4, then the 3 bigs we project for 2019-20 (Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, and Francesco Badocchi) should be sufficient to rotate full time at the 5 and for short stretches at the 4 (remember, we really only played 3 bigs this past season and won 31 games). I still think we take one in 2019, and if it's a home run, great, but it's okay if it's someone a little more developmental. Guard and Wing is where we need instant impact recruits.
There are a few guys who, if they're going to pop for Virginia, will pop in May or maybe June. The transfers will obviously be quick turnarounds, whether grad transfers (Stull or other) or traditional (such as Braxton Key). Ditto the 2018s who Virginia would be looking to Draft-and-Stash with a redshirt for 2019 (Braswell or Caffaro). As far as traditional 2019s, the only one we feel is anywhere near to committing (with Virginia still in play) is DJ Burns. All the other names, all 14 we gave you here, are likely to wait until August, after AAU play ends, to really start taking visits and making their choices. Though of course anyone could surprise at any time.