You may have noticed that we at Hoos Place didn't offer much in the way of hoops recruiting coverage during this recently-completed AAU season. Frankly, we've reached a point where, for us, tracking the day-to-day is less valuable than simply waiting until the dust settles for each phase and reassessing the Board at that juncture.
Well, the dust has largely settled on the 2018 spring and summer of travel ball, and now's a good time to take a deep breath and take stock of where the Hoos' hoops recruiting sits.
From a strictly open sholarship perspective, Tony is playing with one spot right now for the 2019 class. Yes, more will open up in the spring when Dre goes pro (or potentially Guy or Diakite), or we potentially lose a transfer. But for the time being, Tony doesn't openly shop scholarships that haven't yet been formally vacated.
Going into the summer, it looked like Tony's focus for the last scholarship was going to be a big wing / combo forward type who we'd sell as the next De'Andre Hunter. Offers went out to players like Max Agbonkpolo, Greg Gantt, Patrick Williams, or Jae'Lyn Withers, with others like Seth Lundy and Jaiden Delaire under evaluation. But while some of those players continued to get looks during the July live period, Tony's most recent offers told another story.
An offer went out to 6'3" shooting guard Chase Hunter. An offer also went out to 2020 guard Symir Torrence who's a candidate to reclass to 2019. Tony also spent real energy scouting 2019 combo guard James Bouknight (we haven't seen an offer yet but one wouldn't surprise us). The last offer that went out was to the 6'7" shooting guard Cole Bajema, a 2019 wing from a small northern Washington State school who didn't get a chance to showcase on a big stage until the end of July and promptly went into blow-up mode. Despite his height, Bajema should be considered a Joe Harris-ish perimeter player, and not an Evan Nolte-ish pick-and-pop forward. (Edit: after original press, Bajema committed to Michigan.)
These four (three) together tell a story of Tony's shifting priority to more of a 1/2 or a 2/3 for that last spot, instead of a 3/4 like Gantt, Pat Williams, or Withers would've been. Why? Reading between the lines, I'd wager that it's because they've got a declining confidence that Braxton Key will have his family hardship waiver approved for immediate eligibility, and so he'll effectively kick the need for another 3/4 down the road by a year or so (meaning we'd want one in the 2020 class, not the 2019). The offer to 2020 combo forward Henry Coleman this week (more on that below) also indicates the staff has shifted that priority to the right.
It may also signal they feel a need to accelerate the acquisition of another ball-handling guard, which in turn to me reads as smoke they're preparing to lose a guard next summer, the most likely attrition risk being Kyle Guy going pro (McDonald's All Americans almost never play 4 years, and Guy's getting married next summer... he may feel it's time).
While offers are techically still out to all of the players offered pre-July (Withers, P. Williams, Josiah James, and Josh Green), those recruitments all appear DOA at this juncture. And anyone else in the 2019 class who hasn't received an offer yet that Tony had had previous interest in? Safe bet that the offer isn't coming.
The other two 2019 names on the list that we haven't discussed are Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Oscar Tshiebwe. For JR-E, all my money is on one of UNC or Kansas, but he's staying on the list for that 0.1% chance his recruitment goes into the spring and a Final Four run plus some early NBA Draft declarations makes us extremely sexy to blue chip recruits all of a sudden. As for Tshiebwe, despite recently being included in his Top 8, I don't think it's an active recruitment at this moment, not with the only open scholarship being shopped to shooting guards. The only chance I see of anything happening between him and Virginia (and that's probably not even a 1% chance) going forward is if he changes his decision timeframe (currently aiming for this fall) and waits until April/May to commit, and in that interim Mamadi Diakite plays his way into an NBA Draft pick, allowing us to sell Diakite's incumbency to Oscar. Crazier things have happened, but I wouldn't get invested in that scenario playing out.
For now, focus on the guard quartet (trio) of Chase Hunter, James Bouknight, (and) Symir Torrence, and Cole Bajema. Tony will work to see which of these he can get on Grounds in August for an (un)official visit and try to close out the 2019 class, first come - first served. If he fails to gain traction with any of these players (to include Torrence deciding to stay in the 2020 class), expect him to continue to reach out looking for additional ACC-worthy back court prospects. We'll share any names as soon as they come available.
Chase Hunter Highlights:
Symir Torrence Highlights:
James Bouknight Highlights:
2020 is shaping up to be a big recruiting class with a ton of variety for Virginia. Technically they're playing with three scholarships at this point for the 2020 class (assuming that the last 2019 scholarship discussed above gets used on a 2019 commit), which are those slated to be vacated when Mamadi Diakite, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome graduate. At least one additional is likely to open up next summer as well with De'Andre Hunter tracking by most scouts to go pro.
Because it's going to be such a big class, much like the 2016 class was, Tony is going to be very motivated to get a big head start on the 2020 class this fall. I'd wager his goal is to have two 2020's committed by New Years, leaving two more grabs targeted for the spring and summer.
There are a lot of 2020 names on the board right now, what feels like an unusually high number when discussing rising juniors. I've got 11 guards on the board (5 with offers), 6 wings on the board (3 with offers), and 6 posts under consideration (all 6 with offers). You can head over to the Big Board to review all the names, it's probably premature for me to go through them all right now. The only one I'll draw specific attention to is Trinity (Richmond, VA) forward Henry Coleman, over whom Hoo recruiting junkies have been obsessing all summer. He's a local kid, his mom is a Hoo, every review about him praises his work ethic and intangibles... oh, and he can ball. Well, he finally got his offer this week, and if there's anyone who's most likely to be our first 2020 commitment this fall, Coleman is probably the one to keep an eye on.
Otherwise, the 2020s will be a secondary focus for Tony in August (the priority being closing out 2019), though one or two may make their way down to Charlottesville of their own accord. Rather, Tony is going to see how this 2019 class finishes out through August and into September, and look to his current roster to answer a few long-range-planning questions. Those questions are (a) does Key get his waiver, and (b) are Kody Stattmann or Francisco Caffaro going to redshirt, and how soon will they be ACC-ready? Getting those unknowns resolved tells Tony a lot about what exactly his 2020 needs are going to be, what kinds of holes his roster will have, where he's not going to have minutes to sell, etc, and that in turn will inform his strategy with the 2020s.
Once he has that strategy in place, with his knowledge of the 2020 targets well refined after an extensive scouting experience this last month, expect Tony to start swinging hard in September and October to get that class started. Guards, wings, and posts alike will all get his attention. Once that phase draws near in a month or two, and once we hopefully get a read on some of those same questions Tony is waiting to answer, we'll revisit the 2020 strategy with you all.