Virginia received a not-that-surprising commitment on Thursday from highly ranked 2020 point guard prospect Reece Beekman. He'd been Coach Bennett's priority target really since last year, and the young Wisconsin native (though living currently in Louisiana) is going to be an excellent addition to the national champions. He scores, facilitates, rebounds, defends, and is yet another team-first presence in the locker room. Check out Seattle Hoo's excellent commitment article for a deeper scouting report: here.
Reece joins sharp-shooter Carson McCorkle in the 2020 class. McCorkle switched back and forth between the 2020 and 2021 classes, but ultimately committed to matriculating next summer. He's a borderline 4-star prospect, depending which service you use (ESPN has him as a 4-star ranked ~105, Rivals as a 3-star ranked 125). But what that doesn't yet account for is the bump in value of shooters that I think the new deeper 3-point line justifies. I did a thought piece on that last week (you can read that: here), but the gist is that to gain the benefits in floor spacing from the new wider arc, you first must have shooters who are accurate from that FIBA distance, forcing defenses to stretch outwards to honor those shooters. Carson is ostensibly that kind of shooter, and his value to the offense is greater now than it was a few weeks ago because of that rule change. And it's why I think he may well be underrated; scouting services haven't yet adjusted their rankings mindset to account for the new rule set.
Let's take a look and see how they slot into the projected scholarship picture. As today's news doesn't affect this upcoming season, we'll skip ahead to the 2020-21 season.
(as usual, the key is green = starter quality and yellow = potential role player, which are entirely subjective and based on assumptions of varying development curves for freshmen, big men, and international players. * = redshirted)
While I think Reece and Carson are destined to be ACC fixtures, I'm conservatively tagging them yellow to start, indicating I think they'll be rotation-worthy but shy of starter-ready, out of the gate as freshmen with a chance to surprise. They'll slot in behind Casey and Kihei at the outset while our starting lineup likely rounds out with Woldetensae, Hauser, and one of Huff/Caffaro/Shedrick (the latter's redshirt situation TBD) at the 5.
A lot depends on the prospects of the stable of reserves. Tony and his staff probably have some idea of how the unproven cadre of Reece/Carson/Kody/McKoy/Baddochi/Kadin/Caffaro will shake out, but we as fans can only speculate. Those players round us out to 12 projected players for that season, meaning only one scholarship remains. What need should that scholarship be targeted to fill? Well, that depends on which of those seven youngsters ultimately break out and which don't, and your guess on that is as good as mine. November of 2020 is still another 17 months away, which is ample time for all of those players to turn a corner. Alternatively, we may see some of those players be victims of attrition.
Bennett may have some private knowledge of where his most pressing need will be, though I think he's dealing with the uncertainty here too.
That means that if Tony gives out another 2020 scholarship this summer or fall, it'll likely go to either (a) a "best available" type, someone too good to turn down, or (b) it will go to a high upside developmental prospect, a "draft-and-stash" type who becomes effectively a 2021 like we did with Jay Huff four summers ago.
If we go "best available," the names that pop right out are the following (alphabetically):
Jabri Abdul-Rahim - an athletic G/F from the same NJ high school as Tobey and Shayok, Virginia getting increasingly connected to him over the last month
Eugene Brown - Top 150 G/F from Georgia recently showing up on UVA's radar
Henry Coleman - a big, powerful, high motor combo forward from the 804, ranked Top 50 nationally. Plans to decide by this fall.
Cade Cunningham - a likely one-and-done big wing, the TX native continues to list UVA, though given UVA's historical lack of traction with guys rated this high (Rivals has him #2 overall), highly unlikely it comes to pass for UVA
Josh Hall - Another five star long wing, the NC native was connected to UVA early in the spring but nothing lately.
Donovan Johnson - a fast-rising true small forward from PA and the younger brother of former Pitt/UNC standout Cameron Johnson, we hear there's been casual contact with UVA, could increase this summer
Keon Johnson - a long slashing wing with a good jumper from Tennessee. Ranked Top 50 nationally. Down to a top 3 of UVA, the Vols, and Ohio State. Decision date set for August 8th.
Walker Kessler - A top 50 big man from Georgia, UVA had been heavily connected to him during the season though it's been more quiet of late.
Darius Maddox - Top 100 big shooting guard and former HS teammate of Casey Morsell at St Johns (DC)
Earl Timberlake - a Top 50 G/F from the DC area (Gonzaga HS), Virginia hasn't been heavily involved yet but may pick up steam this summer
Lots of great names in there and UVA's profile would rise with just about any of them. It will be very low-pressure for UVA over the rest of the summer as Tony can cast a wide net, or choose someone special to focus in on, and let the chips fall where they may knowing the future is bright regardless. As for options for a high-upside developmental prospect, there are no known names there right now, and likely won't be until much later in the cycle.
Looking down the road to 2021-22 sees three new scholarships opening up with the projected graduations of Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, and Jay Huff. Let's, for the first time, post the projected roster for the 2021-2022 season:
From a strictly numbers perspective, there are only 9 players projected for that season, meaning at least 4 scholarship vacancies to work with. That number may ultimately be even higher as attrition, to some small degree, is unfortunately a pretty regular occurrence.
There was a time we expected the 2020 class to be up to five players big. The inbound transfers of Hauser and Woldetensae shifted that big projected class back a year. That means that starting later this summer, UVA coaches will begin attacking the 2021 class in earnest across all position groups. I fully expect at least one true big, one big combo forward, and one long scoring wing to be included in that group (obviously unless the final 2020 scholarship is used for one of those in advance). True guards (either a point or a smaller combo) will be pursued as well but it will be debatable how attractive that spot is with the quartet of Clark, Morsell, Beekman, and McCorkle all in place ahead of them. 2021 guards may be looking at a fairly quiet freshman year before getting to expand their role in Clark's absence when they're sophomores.
It's too early to talk names, but come August or September, it won't be. With 2020 largely done, the staff with use late summer to get a jump start on the rising junior class, identifying their priority 2021 targets while most rivals are still trying to build their class of rising HS seniors.
It will continue to be exciting recruiting this summer and fall, trying to close out 2020 and getting a jump start on 2021. But there's no reason to think it won't end successfully. There are only 25 players in the Rivals 150 who have committed already, and two of them are coming to UVA. The vast majority of high major squads are still waiting to even pick up their first committment for their 2020 class. To me this indicates there's (like with the 2016 group) a sizeable slice of the best high school prospects who not only appreciate the unique blend of dominant winning basketball, pro-level player development, and honest family culture they find at UVA, but want to jump on the opportunity early. There's no reason to doubt that this positive recruiting momentum will do anything other than pick up steam with the new trophy and the imending draft success only further bolstering Tony's recruiting position.