Virginia's hectic basketball offseason continued Wednesday with the announcement that Tomas Woldetensae has signed with the Hoos.
Who is Tomas Woldetensae, you ask?
Admittedly, it was a name we had never heard before about a week ago either when Hoo sources clued us in on him as a name to quietly pay attention to. He is a 6'5" guard from Bologna, Italy who started his career at the JuCo level likely due to transcript issues, not talent, similar to former Hoo Stephane Dondon. He didn't disappoint.
As a freshman he started at point guard and helped his team to an undefeated regular season, though unfortunately falling short in the national tournament. He scored a respectable 8.8 PPG but more importantly distributed 3.1 apg vs only 1.4 topg.
His sophomore year, he was challenged to be more of a ball dominant scorer and boy did he respond. He led the team with 17.4 PPG, dropping in a remarkable 48% of his 3 point shots on incredible volume (over 7 attempts a game).
Here is what National Champ @UVAMensHoops is getting with @IHCCAthletics standout Tomas Woldetensae per @SynergySST
1.107 PPP Half Court (94%)
1.323 PPP Trans. (93%)
1.351 PPP Spot Up (97%)
1.343 PPP ISO (98%)
1.107 PPP P&R Ball Handler (93%) pic.twitter.com/s1uBnP9PX1
— Synergy Sports U (@synergysstu) May 8, 2019
The performance netted him NJCAA 1st Team All American honors and a host of high major recruiting interest. He took visits to Nebraska and Illinois and reportedly drew interest from Oregon, Maryland, and UConn as well.
At UVA he will be able to play the 1-3 spots, both offensively and defensively, meaning he's an asset both on the ball and off it. He's at his best as a spot up shooter and should thrive running off our curls. Time will tell how well his defense will translate to the ACC, or his offensive moves against high major defenders.
One unfortunate note is that he broke his wrist in March and won't be fully cleared until likely June. Hopefully that doesn't put him too far behind, but if he doesn't suffer any additional setbacks he should be okay.
His Indian Hill coach raves about him. He sounds like a Grade A fit from a chemistry perspective. He wants to get teammates involved, he wants to be fully committed to the systems, and he'll do whatever his coaches ask of him.
So with that done, let's watch some highlights:
Woldetensae is, eligible. As a versatile perimeter player, we'll slot him in as a G/F into our roster matrix, though understanding he has the ability to play smaller when needed. So let's look at the roster picture as it stands today.
(The usual notes: Green means projected starter-quality, yellow means readiness question marks, light green / italicized means pro risk, and an asterisk indicates a redshirt was taken.)
The staff's big concerns has been about guard availability this coming year in the absence of Jerome, Guy, Hunter, and Anthony. Key as a combo forward can be counted on for some minutes at the 3, but in terms of ball-handlers, Tony started today with just Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, and Kody Stattmann projected. Kody, who may still need another year of development (ESPN's Jonathan Givony who scouted Kody at the Basketball Without Borders camp in 2017 projected him for a 3rd year breakout), is a bit of a risk, so getting this depth was crucial. Morsell has been tabbed as a great fit for Bennett's systems, but most freshmen still have some acclimating to do, especially when it comes to learning to be an efficient scorer. Woldetensae allows some room for growth with the youngsters and can eat minutes at the 2/3 alongside Clark while providing us a major scoring option. I expect the starting lineup to change a few times along the way, but this is a team that can win some games. How many games depends on Mamadi, and there are still other question marks with respect to 3-point shooting from guys like Key, McKoy, and Morsell. But Woldetensae provides key size and spacing that takes the roster up a notch and likely spends most of the year in the starting lineup.
With Clark and Morsell each having an extra year under their belts at this point, Woldetensae gives us a 3rd projected backcourt starter for that season, our 3-man at the opening tip. He essentially solves our starting lineup for that season (Clark, Morsell, McKoy, and Huff/Caffaro at the other 4 spots) and leaves the only real question marks at the reserve spots. The team will likely have some ups and downs along the way, the big sophomore class possibly still growing into a new, bigger role, but Woldetensae guarantees a senior presence in the backcourt to provide intangibles and leadership to go with his shooting touch and experience.
As of right now, Virginia is left with two scholarships to use immediately, possibly a third if Mamadi decides to remain on the pro track after his NBA workouts this week and next. Virginia is still recruiting for one more immediately eligible backcourt member, the first name to know being 2019 prospect Johnny Juzang, who will announce Friday between UVA and Kentucky (UK being the prohibitive favorite). After that, grad transfer is the most likely course of action, though no names we can confidently share right now.
They'll also continue recruiting for the swing forward position, with the sit-one-transfer pair of Sam and Joey Hauser visiting this week and 2020 top recruit Henry Coleman also in play. None of this changes UVA's priority for a 2020 point guard (Reece Beekman continues to be the name to know, with Caleb Love, Carter Whitt, and Cam Hayes also possibilities).
What does possibly change is UVA's pursuit of a 2020 big guard. Assuming Morsell comes along, as we've said above, the starting lineup for 2020-21 looks good with Woldetensae as the 3 and Clark/Casey at the 1/2. Carson McCorkle will back them up off the bench as another floor spacer, but in terms of another downhill-oriented bulldog type guard, it's a luxury. Tony may take one who is too good not to take and would find himself minutes regardless of who else is on the roster (Johnny Juzang would fit that bill if he comes to UVA and stays a couple years; Keon Johnson would as well). Otherwise this could move the Big Guard need to 2021, or if a 2020 Tony may take someone as more of a long-term solution at the 2/3 spot, someone who can intern quietly behind Woldetensae for a year and then challenge for a starter's spot as a sophomore. Obviously the continued development of Stattmann would push that need a little further down the list as well.
This is an intriguing pickup for the Hoos. As a two year player with some degree of positional versatility, he very effectively provides a bridge to the future, provides a veteran presence on a team lacking many upperclassman, and holds down the fort while young guards and forwards like Casey Morsell, Carson McCorkle, Justin McKoy, and any other 2020 commits get up to ACC speed. In the wake of an unprecedented exodus of Hoo stars following the title win, we needed a ray of hope, and this is it. Obviously we'll wait to see any last potential additions or losses before passing final verdict on future rosters, but Woldetensae definitely has us feeling significantly more optimistic.