Early summer of 2017, we started hearing rumors of Virginia conducting a stealth recruitment. One astute recruiting watcher speculated it was an Australian sharpshooter named Kody Stattmann. The youngster was one of Australia's top youth prospects, playing with the Australian pros and on the youth national teams. First it was denied that the Hoos were looking at Stattmann and the rumors fell off, then it became undeniable. Clearly the staff wanted this kept under wraps. With good reason, too: Stattmann was in the process of blowing up. Coming into August 2017, Stattmann was being recruited primarily by St. Mary's and New Mexico, a couple of programs with a history of landing top Australian prepsters. With Stattmann's performance at Adidas Nations, where he was the best 3-point shooter in a competition loaded with top USA prep stars, Stanford, Missouri and UVA became heavily involved, and Arizona started sniffing around.
Virginia could offer opportunity, Bennett's player development track record, the ACC, and connections in the ANZAC basketball theatre. He was able to get Stattmann to visit, and the young gunner liked what he saw. Kody Stattmann became a Hoo.
Kody brings to Virginia a fairly complete offensive game from the wing. He comes in as a deadly three-point shooter with Ty Jerome range and confidence, and an under-rated ability to get to the hoop, particularly against aggressive close outs. When he gets to the hoop, he can finish. He's got length and he's got hops. He also has a good handle for a wing and passing ability. When I watched his games from summer 2017, I saw what attracted Bennett: Stattmann was like Joe Harris driving to the basket, and like Ty Jerome shooting from distance. He also looked like he was going to grow, as he had enormous feet. He could end up being a 6-8 or 6-9 wing.
Weakness is the first weakness the coaches will bring up, and one of the two main reasons I expected him to redshirt (more on this later). Kody is going to need to add mass and strength to be an ACC player. Perhaps his most glaring weakness right now, however, is defense. While he was at times unguardable this summer and showed an ability to contribute offensively, "he can't guard his own shadow," said one observer. That will keep him off the floor, and is his biggest challenge. Kody has other, minor, areas of concern to monitor: whether he has or can develop the lateral quickness to defend at the ACC level; whether he will be able to get his shot off against aggressive ACC defenses; whether he will still be the heady player he was in Australian and international ball at the greater speed of the American game (the other main reason I expected him to redshirt).
Originally, I thought Kody would almost definitely redshirt this season. Redshirting was the plan when he was signed, and his developmental needs make redshirting still a good option for him. However, if Braxton Key's waiver is not granted by the NCAA, the rotational needs of the team might force Kody's redshirt to go the way of Paul Jesperson's. Hopefully Kody's jump shot won't also go the way of Jesperson's. If Key's waiver is granted, it becomes more likely that Kody will redshirt, but depending on how the potential substitutes look in practice, he could wind up earning the 8th or 9th spot. He is going to be behind Hunter and Key at the forward position, and if Bennett was willing to redshirt Hunter when he was outside the regular rotation looking in at the start of the season, then the coach is sure to be prepared to redshirt Stattmann.
If he does play, Kody's role is going to be as a reserve wing. His game is pure wing, very similar to Joe Harris when he was in college. Harris played more of a wing forward, but also often a classic two-guard game. He was the prototype interchangeable wing, and Kody is that, too. If he is active this season, look for him to get a few minutes a game in most games, and none at all in the premium games.
As noted above, Kody was going to redshirt this year. Now it appears that he most likely will not redshirt, partly because of Key's waiver issue, and partly because other players may not have developed as hoped. If he does not redshirt, the reasonable expectation for his role remains small. He would most likely be used in emergency and mop-up situations, and if he's on the floor in the meat of a top-half ACC game, it's not a good sign for the Hoos.
One could argue that optimistically Key will be eligible and Kody will redshirt, because having Key is best for UVA and redshirting is best for Kody. In that case, that's your optimistic expectations. But let's look at this from the point of view of the most optimistic forecast of Kody's impact. Given his defensive shortcomings and everything else that goes into being a freshman international player, the optimistic scenario is that Kody improves his defense enough that Tony feels comfortable putting him on the floor for 10-15 minutes per game in the non-conference and bottom-tier ACC games, maybe 5 minutes in the middle-tier ACC games, and maybe looking in his direction once in the top-tier ACC games. The most we can expect from Kody is to be the third wing behind Hunter and Guy.
Although we can't expect much from Stattmann in his true freshman year, the young Australian has a ton of potential for the future. He has a guard's skill set in a long 6-7 frame. He has a scorer's mentality and competitive drive. He also has the drive to put in the hours on his game, and he came to UVA to learn from Tony Bennett. He'll become a fundamentally sound player. How high he rises will be determined chiefly by what happens with his jump shot. Will he be in the group with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Joe Harris whose jump shot came to college with them? Or will he go the way of Paul Jesperson and Evan Nolte, who never were able to consistently hit their jumpers against ACC-calibre defense? Nolte was a solid player in other ways. Jesperson was headed there before he decided to head to Northern Iowa instead. If Stattmann is able to reach the percentages in ACC play that he hit for Australia, he'll be a solid contributor his last two or three years. On defense, I don't like to assume a cap for a player early in his career because often those projections are based on poor assumptions. For the moment, though, let's project that Kody is never going to be a shutdown defender like Brogdon or Hunter, but he can become a superb positional defender like Nolte, who was always in the right place, always making the right rotations, always making the right reads, and in the process making the defense on the floor much better than it was without him - even without ever showing out in an individual capacity. But all of that is in Kody Stattmann's future. For now, the coach's would like him to be Francisco Caffaro's redshirt buddy.