Recruiting moves fast, as we always say, when it wants to. That was as evident this week as ever. Tony dipped out of a VAF event on Monday night saying he had to rush back to Charlottesville for a big man recruit. On Tuesday morning, the media reported that visitor was 7-foot Argentinian Francisco Caffaro, a name almost none of us had heard before, and certainly not connected to Virginia. Quick Google searches showed he was also looking at Nebraska, St Mary's, Georgia Tech, and Oregon. By Tuesday night, he'd committed.
What to Expect
Caffaro is an Argentinian currently prepping at the NBA Global Academy in Australia. He's had international FIBA experience as a member of four Argentinian youth national teams. He's 6'11" or 7', depending on the source, with average length for his height. He looks to have a good frame, already weighing in around 215-220 lb, which is light-years ahead of where Huff was for comparison's sake. Coming from an NBA Global Academy you have to assume his nutrition, strength, and conditioning is going to be ahead of the curve for a traditional high school kid. And he's young, doesn't turn 18 for a couple more weeks. In an era where many top basketball prospects delay themselves a year and go to college at 19, that means he's still got a lot of upside.
But he's a project by ACC standards. International kids are just about always behind the curve in terms of competition. Even having FIBA U17 experience and playing in a Global Academy, he's not seeing the kind of talent and speed that the US kids are seeing, especially not on the elite travel circuits. This means he's got to get up to speed, which takes time; it's even harder for big men who just aren't as fast-twitch as their guard counterparts. Heck, even Mamadi, who prepped in the US for a couple years and played top-level AAU ball (Team Loaded on the Adidas Circuit, plus Adidas Nations) didn't really see the game slow down for him until this year.
I swapped DMs with a scout who watched Caffaro at Basketball Without Borders. Praised his physicality, and said he's going to be a good college player "for sure." Compared him to Jack Salt (my thoughts on this in a second), to include his lack of a dominant offensive game (and certainly no range to his offensive game; strictly low-post only). The scout cautioned that Caffaro (as well as Kody Stattmann, whom he also watched) will "need time and patience."
So he's basically our new Jack, being brought in effectively to take Jack's spot upon the New Zealander's graduation next summer. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not a great thing either. And so much of that depends on what the rest of the roster looks like, and how we're deploying it. Jack's a fine enough player (I've got my nitpicks, but that's for another day); the most glaring problem was deploying him alongside another offensively-limited / range-limited big man in Isaiah Wilkins. Caffaro is a fine player if we play him as the hub of a 4-out lineup, once he's had time to develop.
Now, time for my tiny ray of sunshine: I think Caffaro's upside is a little higher than Jack's. First, he's an inch or two taller and longer. Second, watching the briefest of clips online, he's more fluid / less mechanical in his movement, a little more explosive. The potential is there. I don't use the term "project" to mean any lower-ranked, under-the-radar recruit... to me, it has to mean the high(ish) upside potential is there. Mamadi was a project. Huff is a project. If they can put the pieces together, they can be dangerous, not just serviceable. I'm cautiously optimistic that can apply to Caffaro as well. It's just going to take a couple years to get there. In the interest of playing my predictions safe, I'm going to assume Caffaro follows the same development timeline as we saw with Jack (and to a lesser degree, Mamadi), and are now seeing with Badocchi. He'll redshirt this upcoming season, and be sprinkled in as a redshirt freshman in the 2019-20 season, before truly being counted on as a main rotation asset as a RS sophomore.
Let's start by plugging Caffaro into our scholarship picture over the next three seasons: (Reminder, projections of "readiness" are incredibly subjective, and I lean towards not assuming too much in terms of what an unknown can give us and when.)
What this doesn't change is the need to add an immediately eligible guard/wing for this upcoming 2018-19 season, which is kind of a no-brainer but it's worth saying anyways. What is relevant, taking and redshirting Caffaro doesn't cut too far into our scholarship count to make the moves we still want to make right now. Caffaro on the roster (even redshirted) next year puts us at 11 players on scholarship. That leaves 2 to play with: One for a grad transfer, one for a traditional transfer.
What this does affect is our 2019 recruiting. Caffaro, though a 2018 recruit, effectively becomes our 2019 big man commitment, and likely ends our serious involvement with big men previously discussed. Things were trending in the wrong direction with basically all of our 2019 big man targets anyways; Oscar Tshiebwe is a near-lock for WVU, DJ Burns is getting pushed to South Carolina, Aiden Igiehon is hearing the "national recruit" sirens, Texans DJ Thorpe and Drew Timme were always going to be hard pulls to the East Coast, and 5-stars like Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Will Baker, and Isaiah Stewart were always going to ultimately be out of Tony's league recruiting-wise. Tony learned a lesson from last season: be wary of wasting time holding out hope for star-studded recruits that don't have you as a leader.
And frankly, the more I think about it, and the more I watch Tony recruiting this Spring, the more I think a Big Man was our lowest need in the 2019 class, based on one giant assumption: we're going to primarily play a jumbo wing at the 4 going forward. Think about it. This past season, Hunter played as the 4 about 16 mpg in ACC play. We really only used 3 big men: Jack, Mamadi, and Wilkins. The more we play a wing 4 (that 16 mpg could grow to 25-30 if the right roster depth is in place at the guard/wing positions), the less we need a deep stable of ACC-ready big men. Three will do it. And looking at the roster for the next two seasons, barring attrition, we've got enough big men for that strategy to work.
But that means we now NEED to get TWO more guard/wing options on the roster for 2019, to ensure we have ample ACC-ready playable depth to run out our small lineup as much as Tony wants to. Yesterday, we laid out our current recruiting snapshot (link) that showed Tony recruiting for both (a) a big guard / small wing and (b) a combo forward / jumbo wing. Caffaro likely not being truly ready for a major role in ACC play before 2020 means we need the depth at guard and wing to roll out a 4-out lineup for a minimum of 20 mpg, to include injury/attrition insurance. With Stattmann similarly likely in development until 2020-21, and Hunter probably off to the NBA next summer, that leaves only the unproven Marco Anthony as a player with the physicality and skillset to play forward, and even then he's undersized for that role at only 6'4". We're now eyeing two players to come in with the 2019 class (transfers coming eligible with the 2019's included) at the 2/3 or 3/4 positions and contribute immediately. This will be the overarching focus of our coaching staff for the next 3-4 months.
And looking further down the road, the staff will begin laying major groundwork for 2020 targets. There are going to be clear needs in 2020 for both a lead guard (lots on the board right now) and another big man (Norfolk Academy / Team Loaded center Mark Williams is the lead dog here). Who we take on the wing will be largely dependent on who we get in the 2019 class, which is the only reason Trinity / Team Loaded wing Henry Coleman hasn't been officially offered, though the staff is clearly in love with his game.
Still a lot of recruiting excitement ahead, folks!