It's December, and between the exam break and the holidays and the end of the football season, there's a lot of time to think big picture stuff without games to write about.
A few days ago I shared some thoughts about the first 9 games of this current season. While we wait for the next game, might as well talk recruiting as well.
I always like to start by taking a look at the roster for the next couple of seasons before talking recruiting. Tony's mindset and strategy is always going to be guided by positional needs and scholarship availability. So here's a color-coded graphic looking at our roster for the 2019-20 season to start.
Some notes on my assumptions to start:
1) I color green guys I'm projecting will be able to be starter-quality players, yellow for guys I think can contribute as reserves but with some uncertainty, and red (not used for the current group_ for guys I think will be in a developmental year. Obviously these are assumptions, and in many ways subjective, and open to disagreement.
2) For guys I think are 50/50 to go pro based on whatever buzz they've got, I put them on in (italics). Again, subjective, speculative, and just to be treated as a consideration when projecting need.
3) Badocchi is colored orange as his return is a question mark for this and future seasons based on his unspecified long term medical situation. We're rooting for the best for him, of course, but for this exercise we're treating him as a bit of an unknown, and assuming the staff has to plan for the contingency of his non-return.
4) I don't speculate on outbound transfer specifics, though when looking out a couple years I will acknowledge statistical realities.
And the big one that needs to be addressed:
5) I think the small lineup is here to stay, where combo forwards at the 4 provide additional versatility on defense and improved spacing on offense (admittedly with some tradeoffs on maybe rebounding and rim protection). That means our true bigs, the ones without the handles and/or shot to be a "mover" in our offensive systems, are limited to the 5 spot. This applies to Salt, Diakite, and Huff on our current lineup, and Caffaro and Shedrick in future years. The commitment to going "small" means only 3 true bigs are going to be in the rotation, maybe with one more soaking, in any given year. The rest of the rotation needs to be made up of guards (who I classify as plus ball handlers, capable of initiating the offense on a large percentage of possessions) and wings (who I classify as bigger scorers that can play inside or outside depending on matchups), with enough of them to play 4-guard/wing 40 minutes a night through a 30-plus game season. Ideally we'd have six of them going into a season at a minimum, preferably with a 7th "break glass in case of emergency" type. That means the target is 6(+1) guard/wings and 3(+1) bigs ready to bang at the start of the season.
So without further ado, let's throw up the 2019-2020 season for evaluation.
So the first thing you'll notice is that I've taken off Hunter. At this point I consider it enough of a likelihood that he'll turn pro that I'm not worried about it. Obviously this will get locked in come April. We're also looking at Ty Jerome being a bit of an NBA flight risk, as many mock drafts have him projected at the end of the 1st round or early 2nd next summer, which for him, where those spots get guaranteed contracts, would be a "should take it" opportunity. Kyle Guy is also someone worth watching, but my gut feel right now says we get to see him play his senior year.
When Kadin Shedrick committed, we talked about Tony Bennett hitting a sort of hybrid Pause/Stop button on recruiting 2019. Because technically, at that point, if everyone on the roster returned and Casey and Kadin matriculated, then the roster would be full at 13 scholarships. Tony recruiting further for 2019 with scholarships he didn't 100% have didn't really feel like something I saw him doing.
But depending on what happens with Jerome, Guy, and Badocchi, to say nothing of other attrition risks, that 13 scholarship players could quickly drop down to 10 or fewer. Some thoughts:
In the post, we're projecting to be okay. Diakite will likely start with Huff and the redshirted Caffaro coming in reserve, each offering their own unique skillset (Diakite's athleticism, Huff's length and perimeter shot, Caffaro's low-post offense and physicality), while Shedrick gets to soak for a year. If we took an unexpected loss from this group, I think we'd sink or swim with who we have, letting Shedrick jump right in as the #3 big man, unless the perfect grad transfer materialized.
In the backcourt (See #5 above, where we're looking for a minimum of 6 ready guys for 4 floor positions) we've got a best-case starting group of Clark-Guy-Jerome-Key. In reserve in the backcourt would be 4* freshman Casey Morsell, a junior Marco Anthony, and a sophomore Kody Stattmann. That's seven guys, and the quality of those seven depend on your confidence in Anthony and Stattmann to, simply put, look much better than they have so far this year. For Marco, we're about to get a glimpse, as the Clark injury should give him real opportunity to sink or swim. Casey we're optimistic can be an early contributor, though with all true freshmen we should be somewhat conservative of expectations. But if we see either of Ty or Kyle take the NBA route, then all of a sudden we're having to look to one of those "yellow" reserves to jump into the starting lineup.
Should we see any of those backcourt members leave this spring, the staff is going to need to go and find another body, preferably someone with the size to play backup small-ball-4 to Key; when Braxton sits, who from that group do you trust to defend and rebound from the 4-spot? There are no names really worth watching at this point, as the extra bodies could come from decommits from the coaching change carousel, or maybe a late bloomer, or maybe even a reclassification from someone currently in the 2020 class. The only name I'll throw out there is 4-star utility guard/wing Harlond Beverly, who reportedly picked up a UVA offer on/around Dec 12th, which indicates to me UVA thinking there's going to be a role for a multipositional 2/3 to play come next fall.
Now let's look forward into the 2020-2021 season:
We've already been looking at 2020 as a big needed class. By this point we know we'll have bid farewell to Jerome, Guy, Key, and Diakite regardless of whether or not they went pro early. This could mean replacing upwards of 80% of our starting lineup in one fell swoop. So who's left?
Post: Assuming no further attrition, we've got a top 3 in the post of Huff, Caffaro, and Shedrick, which is actually a good-looking rotation for the 5-spot. Again, assuming all 3 work out for the 2020-21 season (24 months away, admittedly), a 4th big is more of a luxury than a necessity. The only names we're seeing mentioned at the moment are Top 50's Mark Williams from Norfolk (numerous visits in the book) and Walker Kessler from Georgia (scheduled to visit for the FSU game in January). I think, assuming the scholarships are there and they're willing to battle for minutes with the incumbents, at the moment they're both takes. And if Huff uses his junior season to put all the pieces together and become that unicorn 5 that the NBA is finally willing to gamble on, then they immediately swing back to a necessity to have 3 good big bodies available in the post for that season.
Backcourt: We potentiall return just 4 players from the previous season in our backcourt, with confidently projected starters Clark and Morsell at the 1 and 2, and question marks at the 3 and 4 depending on the growth of Stattmann and Anthony. Another question mark will revolve around shooting guard Carson McCorkle, who is TBD on whether or not he'll matriculate as part of the 2020 or 2021 classes. Let's assume for the sake of being conservative that one of the above names won't work out over the next 24 months (no inkling on any in particular, just playing percentages), that leaves us with around four bodies for four spots, none of whom are all that suited to play the Hunter/Key role of Power Wing, who can hold it down as a small 4. We're also short a complementary PG to Clark, as Morsell as known a more of an off-ball guard in his playing style. Lastly, one last versatile wing, someone who's in a 2/3 mold with some physicality who can be the "downhill" counterpart to a Stattmann/McCorkle-type gunner, similar to the pairing of Justin Anderson and Joe Harris, would complete a versatile lineup.
Ultimately, one of these needs may be met as a late-cycle 2019 commit depending on vacancies opening up after this season, but otherwise the staff will be looking to fill a variety of positions through either the 2019 or 2020 recruiting classes to be in place for the start of the new-look 2020 class. The only position I'm confident won't be recruited late-cycle 2019 is another big man.
So there we are, a long way of getting to what we generally knew going into this, that the staff is recruiting for a number of positions, with identified true needs at point guard, physical guard/wing, and combo forward, as well as with a situational take of a true post.
Check in with Hooz Got Next of course for the latest news on who the staff is watching when, and who we've got visiting.
Speaking of visiting, this winter and spring sets up pretty fantastic for hosting visitors. We look for Saturday home contests (getting to C-Ville on a weeknight is just unrealistic for 95% of high schoolers), preferably against top-half ACC opponents, preferably after the students return. Last year, our weekend home ACC contests were BC (sleepy 12/30 holiday weekend), Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame. That's it. 4 home weekend contests, only one of which was against an NCAA Tournament team (VT... thanks for finally being relevant, Hokies!). This year, however, we get: FSU (prior to students' return), Miami, Duke, Notre Dame, Pitt, and Louisville. That's six of our 9 ACC home games on weekends, probably 3 against NCAAT teams (FSU, Duke, and Louisville/Notre Dame). Expect to see the staff working hard to get a number of players in for games this spring.
Let's talk expectations now. While we've had in-season commitments in the past, they're rare and damn-near impossible to predict. The high schoolers are just usually too focused on their high school seasons to be ready to decide, knowing the Spring/Summer/Fall straddling their junior and senior years are the normal time to get that done. So really, expect some visiting to go on during the season (UVA making road trips during winter down time, and recruits visiting JPJ when schedules permit), with a focus on closing on some priority targets before Memorial Day. Typically, UVA's busiest recruiting is April/May with a midsummer June/July lull, followed by August/September wrapping up a class. With around 4 spots being targeted, I'd bet the coaches are really hoping to have at least two commits by Memorial Day, letting them be a little picky and focused over the summer evaluation period trying to only find the last 1 or 2.
Summing things up, I think we're looking for the following for the remainder of the 2019 class and the 2020 class.
Pure point guard: Almost certainly a 2020 target, with Reece Beekman being the name we're most familiar with, but others like WCAC standout Chuck Harris under evaluation.
Physical 2/3: Could be a 2019 or 2020 (some 2020 targets are eligible to reclassify forward a year); current elavuees/offers including Harlond Beverly, Keon Johnson (probably a Tennessee lean), Kyree Walker, Darius Maddox, Johnny Juzang**, and Ziaire Williams**.
Face-up combo forward: Likely a 2020, with the current focus being Henry Coleman, Terance Williams, and possibly Noah Collier
**Note, some players listed as 2/3's could have the length to fill the combo forward position as well
True post: Definitely a 2020, maybe not a need until 2021, with Walker Kessler and Mark Williams being the two hottest names for the Hoos. If it pushes to 2021, I could see Efton Reid being in the conversation.
We'll revisit this after the close of the season when a lot more comes into focus with potential off-season attrition and a better feel from some of the recruits.