Where there was smoke, there was, indeed, fire: Reece Beekman has committed to the University of Virginia. When top-50 point guard Caleb Love abruptly canceled his planned June visit and dropped UVA from the list of schools recruiting him the hardest, many speculated that it was because Beekman had committed. Then a number of 247Sports Crystal Balls flipped for UVA within four days in the first week of June, including Jamie Oakes who covers the UVA beat for 247 and who is notoriously slow to make a Crystal Ball projection. I wondered if Beekman might announce his commitment while in Charlottesville for the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week. That is exactly what happened.
Recruiting news:— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) June 13, 2019
Reece Beekman tells ESPN that he’s committed to Virginia. “Tony Bennett is a straight forward guy and they win big. I like his calmness in big moments and he definitely lets his guards play.” Beekman sits at no.44 in the 100.
The Beekman commitment means that for the second year in a row after a two-year drought, Tony Bennett has landed his #1 target. Beekman follows Casey Morsell, who Bennett identified as #1 for 2019 back before Casey was on anyone's top 100 list. Now Morsell is a consensus top 50 player expected to step right into the playing rotation and likely a starting spot. Ty Jerome was Bennett's first choice in 2016 - also targeted long before anyone considered him a top 100 prospect. Jerome is going to be a first round pick in next week's NBA Draft.
When we first recognized that Bennett had made Beekman his top priority for 2020, the young man was laboring in obscurity in Louisiana, far from the limelight and - you guessed it - nowhere near any top 100 lists. He then went and dominated his state in high school, racking up triple-doubles and dropping 30+ points on a regular basis as he led Scotlandville to its second straight Louisiana state championship. He got noticed, slipping into the back end of the top 100 before AAU season. When he brought his game to the EYBL and led Phenom University to a Peach Jam berth? Top 50. Tony Bennett knew all along. Those of us who have followed Tony Bennett for years strongly suspected.
Beekman breaks The Mom Curse. Biancardi quoted Reece's mom in another tweet this morning: “I want Reece to continue to grow as a person and as a player by learning from coach Bennett’s Five Pillars of life. Humility, Passion, Unity, Servanthood and Thankfulness.” Mom being a big fan has not been known to help Virginia in past recruitments. Taken together, the two quotations show that this is a family for whom development is important. Reece also clearly Gets It, because the conventional wisdom people spout about Virginia is the lack of "freedom" in the offense. While some past players who transferred out or graduated talked about enjoying the greater freedom at their new landing spot, Ty Jerome once said "if you can make the plays, you can make the plays."
Beekman can make the plays.
The triple doubles point to the first characteristic that drew Bennett to Beekman: Completeness. It's a word Bennett uses often - along with Continuousness (more on this later) - and it is a quality he prizes and develops. Beekman does it all: runs the offense, leads the break, scores, defends and rebounds. He is a particularly good rebounder for a guard, knowing where to be when the ball comes off the basket. Like all of Bennett's best players, he contributes to winning even when his shot is not falling or he isn't taking them.
Reece likes to play fast, as he said many times during his recruitment. He has good speed, getting up and down the court in a hurry, but under control. He also is quick of hand and foot. He is very difficult to keep in front of you. In the two AAU games I watched (see below), he blew by his defender constantly, reminiscent of the way Kihei Clark seems to be in one place one second and six feet away the next time you blink. Another way he plays fast is with surreally accurate long-range passes. When he gets the ball on the outlet or rebound, his eyes are upcourt immediately, and he can hit a player in stride like Troy Aikman.
That Completeness means that Beekman is a consummate floor general who can also drop 40 if need be. He will remind you of Ty Jerome the way he will just pull up and drop bombs. When he gets into the lane he can finish a variety of ways, and with either hand. He is capable on the catch and shoot. His handle is tight and secure, and he plays with his head up and eyes roving, so he is difficult to trap.
All of the above speak to Beekman's vision and basketball IQ, both of which are exceptional, as is to be expected from Tony Bennett's #1 choice.
What really jumped off the video at me in the two AAU games from this past May was that the ball never stuck on him. When he gets the ball he does something with it immediately, either attacking with the bounce, making a penetrating pass, putting up the shot, or if none of those plays is available, simply swinging it to the next guy. It makes him a force multiplier in the offense (and pads those assist stats when the player he swings it to jacks up a three).
Our Hoo Friends can see for themselves on these videos:
Where Reece will have to improve is - you guessed it - on the defensive end. He will need to learn Continuousness the way almost all entering players must. He will learn quickly that Bennett demands a whole nother level of focus and effort on the defensive end. He frequently was guilty of letting his man get by him, then trying to recover by poking at the ball from behind. But he has the ability, and he shares Jerome's knack for anticipating passes in open court situations and getting there first.
Where He Fits
As the second member of the 2020 recruiting class, Reece joins Carson McCorkle for a backcourt pairing that rivals Jerome-Guy in ability if not in joint rankings (McCorkle is absurdly underranked since reclassifying from 2021 to 2020). The two of them will join a backcourt that includes junior Kihei Clark, who will be the undisputed leader of the backcourt and the entrenched starter at point, Tomas Woldetensae as a senior shooting guard who can help with the ballhandling, and a sophomore Casey Morsell who should by then be drawing constant Malcolm Brogdon comparisons. Crowded, and insanely talented. It also will be well-rounded and completely unselfish. Look for another backcourt where everyone can score and nobody cares who scores.
What will be interesting to see is how much and where he plays his first two years. As good as he is, he's not as good a basketball player right now as Kihei Clark. No way is a freshman going to unseat a junior Clark. He's going to back up Clark, and how much he plays beyond that depends on how well the two point guards can share the backcourt. With guys like Woldetensae, Morsell and McCorkle, I'm skeptical how often Beekman is going to be the best choice as Clark's running mate. Kihei will always be challenged playing off the ball because of his size. Beekman probably can develop that part of his game the way Jerome did while at UVA, but it remains to be seen where he will fit. If he sticks around, he will be the unquestioned floor general as a junior.
His Recruiting Impact
Virginia now has one scholarship it can offer in 2020, and at least two top targets. Virginia native Henry Coleman and Tennessean Keon Johnson are both at Top 100 with Beekman this week, and they would have to be considered Bennett's next two priority recruits. Coleman is a combo forward who can guard 2-5, does most of his damage offensively from 15 feet in, and has the best motor in his class, making him a ball winner extraordinaire. Then don't forget 5* 7-footer Walker Kessler, who apparently has been told he can be a "3" in Virginia's offense (which we will believe when we see). There are several others.
Is it a coincidence that Beekman and Johnson are on the same team at NBPA Top 100? Or did someone do Tony a solid? No way to know and not worth much speculation. Johnson is down to UVA, Tennessee and latecomer Ohio State. For now. He is supposed to announce from those three on August 6, but with the way he is playing at camp, expect his offer list to go Big Time. Let's see what happens when that happens. Coleman just stated he will be cutting his list soon - which appears to be a quickening of his process.
StLouHoo will bring us an in-depth analysis of how it all looks and What's Next, but Johnson is a #1 scoring option wing who also defends (see his scouting video from November when he visited UVA), and that makes him my preference. We need that kind of wing more than we need another big who does not have a reliable three-point shot. If it is one of those two, however, it hardly matters, because both are fantastic ballplayers and better young men, and either one would be a great Hoo.