April 17, 2014

April Recruiting Wars



Tony Bennett is already bringing in a solid recruiting class in 2014.  But fueled by the instant uptick in cred and program reputation generated by this past season's success, and armed with two spare scholarships (one open carryover, one from Teven Jones' departure), Coach Bennet is hitting the late recruiting landscape with a hunger and voracity.

Two things make this especially exciting.  1) There are a few remarkably good targets out there for Virginia.  2) We are suddenly attracting the attention of those remarkably good targets.

As in, there are Kentucky/Kansas/Duke/UNC-level recruits to be had, and all of a sudden we seem to have Kentucky/Kansas/Duke/UNC-level heft behind our program.  Anyway, by my count we are currently involved in three different April recruiting wars.  We have two scholarships to wield, so landing any one of these three players would be a massive coup for the Virginia program... and landing two of them... well...

Kaboom.


Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
mick-HAIL-yuck?

This athletic, sweet-shooting, skilled 2/3 from the Ukraine has been a secret target of Tony Bennett's for about a year now.  Did I mention the sweet shooting?  He's really young (16), but is a 2014 recruit after deciding to opt for college basketball instead of the NBA (where he was said to be a potential 1st round draft pick).  I don't know a whole lot about his game, but here's a scouting report from NBAdraft.net:

NBA Comparison: Manu Ginobli

Strengths: A body built for basketball with very long arms and big hands, a tremendous athlete who can finish above the rim, very explosive and quick with hand-eye coordination that is off the charts ... The best way to describe his body is a young Ginobili, similar kind of smoothness and control of his body ... He had at least one steal per game showing excellent ability to anticipate passes and the closing speed to get to the ball for steals ... But what really makes him special is his creativity and skill level ... Mykhaliuk is equally confortable with the ball in his hands or without, which is highly unusual for a 16 year old ... He played for large minutes as a combo guard (at U16) running pick and rolls for Ukraine and he showed that he can shoot from behind screens from 3pts land or attack the rim but also read the defense to make great passes ... Mykhaliuk can read the screen to take advantage of what the defense gives him ... He often attacks players in isolation, taking smaller opponents into the post ... When he doesn’t have the ball, he cuts to try to find a spot where he is open ... When he struggles shooting, he attacks the basket to get fouls. The variety of ways in which he scored was absolutely amazing for a player his age ... Despite being doubled or tripled teamed every game, he always stays composed, making the right decision most of the time ... On defense he has everything to be great, quick feet and good lateral speed and he uses his length to create steals and get out on the break ... Sometimes when he is of the ball he tends to lose his defenders, but nevertheless he relentlessly hits the boards and when he gets the rebound push it himself in Lebronian way ...

Weaknesses: Mostly related to a lack of potential development. He can do everything so well right now that it’s hard to think he will actually add a great deal to his game. So the challenge will be finding ways to improve ... Obviously he can improve his left hand, and the ball handling (although it is amazing right now) needs some improvements to be efficient in the NBA as a point guard ... Mostly for him it will be important to adapt himself to playing within a good team where he is forced to share the spotlight ... Ironically I think his talent could shine even more because he is a very underrated passer who had some amazing assists you can’t teach in a gym, but moving to a good team could still be difficult for him ... While he has to become stronger to be able to guard NBA guards, he will have to be carefully with his body development in order not to lose some of his unique athletic skills ... He is basically an Adetokumbo who should be considered until proven differently, a future top 10 NBA pick ...

Notes: The best prospect in Europe in a long time, probably since Ricky Rubio ... In the US he would be considered a 5 star recruit, and according to sources he will be recruited from colleges as a 5 star recruit ... What Mykhaliuk showed at the recent U16 European championships was a mix of athleticism, skills and feel for the game that is extremely rare to see in a European player, or any player of his age, for that matter ...

So... he's pretty much big-time.  Like, all caps.  BIG-TIME.

The bad news is that some of the blueblood programs are sniffing around, now that the word's out that he wants to go to college to play ball.  Kansas, in particular, seems to be gaining steam in the recruitment.  But Tony's been on him the longest, and can offer the most well-defined role...

In a nutshell, Mykhailiuk could step right into the
role vacated by Joe Harris.

Some will worry about the impact that recruiting this international superstar would have on our current roster, as in, how would Devon Hall, B.J. Stith, Evan Nolte, and Justin Anderson handle being recruited over?  The correct answer is...  It doesn't matter.  If we want to play 'big boy basketball' (and we do!), then the goal has to always be to bring in the best talent we can get, period.  Granted, that talent needs to fit the system and provide high enough baseline intangibles (smart enough for UVA, no criminals, no scumbags).  Bottom line, if a player can be recruited over, he's not good enough to win a national championship for Virginia in the first place.

Here's some video of Mykhailiuk.  My favorite part of his game is the levitation on his fadeaway --- that shot seems nearly unblockable, and he uses it a lot.




To land this kid would be incredible.  It would be absolutely huge for the reputation of our basketball program, almost as important as the dual ACC championships and Sweet Sixteen run.  Seriously.  Elite recruits follow other elite recruits, and elite recruits go to programs who put players into the NBA.  Mykhailiuk would give us both -- an elite-level recruit and a sure NBA prospect.  He might only play for the Hoos for a season or two, but this is the next kind of splash we need to make if our goal truly is to win a national championship.


Devonte' Graham

Graham is a late-blossoming combo guard with a 3-star ranking but a 5-star game, being recruited like a 5-star prospect after a somewhat bizarre path to this point.

The Cliff's notes: A little-known recruit, Graham committed and signed a Letter Of Intent to play under Jeff Capel at Appalachian State.  Appy State was his only offer at the time.  Graham then went to New Hampshire for a post-grad season at storied Brewster Academy, where he excelled.  At that point, Graham began to draw interest from powerhouse programs from the "Big 5" conferences, including Virginia... but Capel would not allow him out of his LOI because he thought NC State was tampering with the recruitment of a committed prospect.  Finally, Capel was fired, and new Appy State coach Jim Fox allowed Graham to escape. Graham had out-played his commitment to Appalachian State and was prepared to sit out the season if he wasn't granted his release.  Fox did the sensible thing, and the suitors quickly lined up in trying to win over Graham's affections, given his newfound "free agent" status.

This is another situation where Tony Bennett has been on the kid the longest, and that might pay off handsomely, despite blistering interest from Kansas and hometown NC State.


Graham is more on the point guard side of the 'combo guard' tagline.  He's a good ball-handler who is stellar in transition.  He's also an above-average defender with elite potential in that department.  But don't think he's just another Ontel Evans (no J) -- Graham can shoot, and he's at home attacking the basket off the dribble.  In essence, he's the kind of athlete and ball-handler we need, with the quickness we currently lack in the backcourt.

The thought is that if Virginia lands Graham, he'll play immediately for the Hoos, clearly leapfrogging Devon Hall in the pecking order among the guards, and potentially allowing Malcolm Brogdon to play the 2 exclusively.

Graham is a big-time recruit who projects to be a big-time player, and to land him, Bennett will need to out-duel Kansas, NC State, Providence, and Virginia Tech (Graham's four other finalists).




Marial Shayok

This happens all the time (and in fact, is exactly what happened with Justin Anderson).  Kid is recruited hard, ends up with two finalists, and then picks his favorite.  But then, the head coach is fired, and the recruit ends up re-opening his recruitment and signs with the school that finished #2 in the initial recruiting race.  That was our spot with Justin Anderson, who committed to Maryland but then bailed out once Gary Williams was fired.  It might be happening again with Shayok, who committed to Marquette over Virginia, but might be looking to the Hoos now that Buzz Williams has left the Golden Eagles.



The Justin Anderson parallels don't end there.  At this point in his basketball career, Shayok is more raw athlete than polished player, but he packs a ton of strength and athleticism onto his 6-7 frame.  He's already a good defender, so that's a major plus for Bennettball.  Another major plus: SuperMarial also has an uncanny knack for shooting the 3.  He's very similar to Anderson, but I'd say Shayok is probably less of an athlete but more of a shooter.  In any case, the big Canadian wing would be a very good player to add to the mix on the Virginia roster.

Furthermore, I don't think his addition would really disturb the carefully orchestrated playing time breakdown slated for next season's roster.  So where the addition of Mykhailiuk and/or Graham might disturb the brewing chemistry at Virginia, I doubt the addition of Shayok would carry such a potentially adverse effect.



In addition to Mykhailiuk (damn right I learned how to spell that in the last 24 hours), Graham, and Shayok, Tony Bennett is likely attacking the transfer market.  Silky-smooth Kansas shooting guard Andrew White and Rice bang-minded big man Sean Obi are two of the likely targets in that gambit... but I think both guys take a back seat to the three dudes I spotlighted above.




April recruiting wars... it's fantastic.


April 13, 2014

Spring 'Game' Notes

I was in sun-blasted Scott Stadium yesterday, paying more attention to my kids than to the 'game' (lame-ass offense vs. defense scrimmage -- thanks for not recruiting enough OL, Mike London!)  However, I do have some thoughts to share, and here they are...


-- Play was mostly ragged, with lots of turnovers, but by the end of the scrimmage... I think a starting quarterback emerged.  Greyson Lambert, welcome to the hot seat.



-- Now we'll see just how deep the incompetence runs on this coaching staff.  In my humble opinion, the announcement of our starting quarterback for the 2014 season could have - EASILY - been made in the press conference following the scrimmage.  The longer London waits to make this mindnumbingly obvious call, the less confidence you should have in his ability to coach his way out of a wet paper bag.

-- Lambert, btw, went 18-for-31 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.  He also threw two interceptions.  I'll take that, because he really looked the part, especially after he settled in later in the scrimmage.  He also showed a surprising ability to scramble for yardage.

-- But that's not to say that there wasn't also flashes of decent QB play elsewhere.  Matt Johns looked the part of a good backup, I thought.  He's got a nice arm.

-- David Watford wasn't very good in the scrimmage.  Big surprise, I know.  He's still trying to make throws that are just not there to make.  And he's still throwing into the dirt, and/or three feet over receivers' heads, and/or way behind his receivers. Watford went 4-for-14 for 31 yards with two interceptions and was sacked three times.  Ugh.

-- Guys who really caught my eye (in a good way): WR Andre Levrone, WR Kyle Dockins, RB LaChaston Smith, LB/OLB Max Valles, and LB Henry Coley.

-- Levrone looked tall and long, was surprisingly fast, and caught everything.  I think he should be in the mix with Keeon Johnson, Darius Jennings, and Jamil Kamara for the primary snaps at wideout this Fall.

-- Dockins was targeted a lot, and was productive.

-- LaChaston Smith was a baby bulldozer out there.  Low-slung and powerful.  Nice hands.  I could see him as KP's main understudy this season.  (Smoke Mizzell will get the #2 snaps at RB, clearly.)

-- Valles is a pass rusher, and a very, very good one.  I love the nickel look with him and Eli Harold at the ends, with Mike Moore and David Dean inside.

-- Coley was ab tackle machine in the scrimmage, just like always.

-- The secondary was also very good yesterday.  I mean, there were a bunch of interceptions, and two sacks from Kirk Garner.

-- Lambert, Levrone, Dockins, Keeon Johnson, Kamara, KP, Smoke, and Jake McGee give me hope for a halfway decent offense this season... but then I remember the offensive line.  The o-line was horrendous yesterday, as expected.  It's going to be the reason our offense sucks this season.

-- This year's defense is going to be pretty good.

-- Team captains were named, as voted on by the team: Anthony Harris, Henry Coley, Kevin Parks, and here's the big surprise, Greyson Lambert.  No David Watford.  GO AHEAD AND NAME THE STARTING QUARTERBACK, MIKE LONDON.

-- Mike Moore, Ryan Doull, and Connor Wingo-Reeves won the Rock Wier Award for most improved players this spring.

-- The Iron Cavalier Award (strength and conditioning standouts) went to Wilfred Wahee for defense and Darius Jennings for offense.  A defensive back and a wide receiver.  Too bad none of the big uglies stepped up to win this one.

-- The players who will make up the leadership council for the 2014 season include: Ross Burbank, Henry Coley, Conner Davis, Eli Harold, Anthony Harris, Darius Jennings, Greyson Lambert, Jake McGee, Kevin Parks, Demetrious Nicholson, Alec Vozenilek, Wilfred Wahee, and Jay Whitmire.  Again, no David Watford.

-- Based on what I saw yesterday, my expectations for the 2014 season remain at 4-8, with a housecleaning effort in December.  Get to know Pete Lembo, Hoofans.




April 11, 2014

Can Virginia Mimic UConn?

Here's a quick breakdown of the key pieces and parts of the Connecticut team that won the national championship Monday night.

Shabazz Napier -- 2010, 4-star point guard, #25 PG, #98 nationally

Ryan Boatright -- 2011, 4-star point guard, #9 PG, #42 nationally

DeAndre Daniels -- 2011, 5-star small forward, #3 SF, #10 nationally

Niels Giffey (international recruit) -- 2010, 0-star small forward, not ranked

Phillip Nolan -- 2012, 3-star center, #21 C, #118 nationally

Lasan Kromah (transfer from George Washington) -- 2009, 0-star shooting guard, not ranked

Amida Brimah (international recruit) -- 2013, 3-star center, not ranked

Terrence Samuel -- 2013, 3-star shooting guard, #29 SG, #118 nationally


Now let's take a quick look at the Virginia roster for the 2014-15 season, as it stands today (not accounting for any additional attrition / late recruits / transfers in or out).

Malcolm Brogdon -- 2011, 4-star shooting guard, #27 SG, #104 nationally

Anthony Gill (transfer from South Carolina) -- 3-star power forward, #29 PF, #144 nationally

London Perrantes -- 2013, 3-star point guard, not ranked

Justin Anderson -- 2012, 4-star small forward, #9 SF, #35 nationally

Mike Tobey -- 2012, 4-star center, #18 C, #76 nationally

Evan Nolte -- 2012, 4-star small forward, #18 SF, #91 nationally

Darion Atkins -- 2011, 3-star power forward, not ranked

Devon Hall -- 2013, 3-star point guard, #28 PG, #122 nationally

B.J. Stith -- 2014, 4-star shooting guard, unranked at his position, #48 nationally

Isaiah Wilkins -- 2014, 3-star power forward, unranked at his position, #107 nationally

Jack Salt (international recruit) -- 2014, 0-star center, unranked


So what does this tell us?

#1 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to find a transcendent star like Shabazz Napier.  A transcendent star that sticks around for all four years of his college eligibility and undergoes the associated development during his career, I should add.  Napier was a good recruit, not a great recruit... but he certainly developed into a great player.  I think we have a decent parallel in Malcolm Brogdon.  Vastly different game than Napier, but has a chance to be at UVA for five years and undergo the same sort of development and ascension to stardom Napier enjoyed.

Virginia's Shabazz?

#2 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia needs a few upperclassmen stars to align.  The Huskies' championship-winning nucleus was Napier (senior), Boatright (junior), Daniels (junior), Giffey (senior), and Kromah (5th year senior).  At Virginia, this one is easy.  The graduating class of 2016 includes Brog, Gill, Anderson, Tobey, and Nolte.  London Perrantes will be a junior when those guys are seniors.  That's a fantastic group of upperclassmen.

#3 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to cultivate a killer backcourt like Napier/Boatright/Kromah/Samuel.  Really, like Napier/Boatright.  Kromah was a pure role player.  Samuel allowed them to play three guards and really get out and press and run.  In any case, it was a truly dominant backcourt, totally feeding into the tired old cliché that "guard play rules March."  Can the Brogdon/Perrantes/Hall/Stith backcourt match what UConn just put on the floor?  No way.  Not even close.  Well... maybe a little bit close.  Our guys won't ever have the pure footspeed of the UConn guards, but their skill levels could approximate the Husky backcourt.  And while UConn runs and presses, we Packline our opponents to death.  So I think it's comparable.  However, the recruiting pedigree of the Virginia guards tracks well below that of the UConn guards.

Late 2014 recruit Devonte' Graham
could instantly elevate that pedigree, however.

#4 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to assemble a chemistry-laden 3-man group of stars.  Napier/Boatright/Daniels was that core for UConn; that trio was the engine driving the machine.  All could score, all could change games in specifically profound ways.  What does UVA have in terms of a trio of stars?  Brog/Gill/???  I think we need to see a third guy step up.  Maybe it's Justin Anderson.  Maybe it's London Perrantes.  Maybe Mike Tobey?  Heck, maybe even B.J. Stith or Devon Hall.  In any case, we need that third guy, as we don't currently have him identified.

Our terrific trio?

#5 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia needs to be able to unearth a few gems when recruiting internationally.  The Huskies found Brimah and Giffey, and those two guys were big pieces to the puzzle in Storrs.  Currently, our international man of mystery is Jack Salt.  If he's the big-balled banger the gurus are making him out to be, we might be in high cotton here.  In any case, I like that Bennett and his staff are casting a gaze overseas; it bodes well for our ability to mimic UConn's recruiting model.

#6 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia should be active on the transfer market.  Kromah's work as a one-season mercenary after graduating from GW proves that these short-term rentals can contribute greatly to big-time success.  Following that parallel, UVA [obviously] found Anthony Gill, and chased T.J. McConnell (who ended up at Arizona) and Alex Oriakhi (who ended up at Mizzou).  Currently, the staff is rumored to be in hot pursuit of potential Kansas transfer Andrew White, among others.  Bennett has been exploring the transfer market aggressively the last few years, and I don't see that trend ending anytime soon.

Andrew White could be a big-time transfer for the Hoos.

#7 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia's recruiting needs to target role playing bigs.  For some reason, the 4- and 5-star recruits at power forward and center don't always add up too success in the NCAA Tournament.  It might be better for offensive flow and team chemistry to bring in raw / underrated bigs and cultivate them into rebounders, shot blockers, and garbage scorers who know their roles and don't stray from the script and try to do too much.  This allows your guards and wings to be the stars of the team and dominate the ball on offense.  The role playing bigs, however, might be more symptom than cause --- there simply aren't very many offensively gifted big men, and they tend to go to blueblood superpowers like Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, and *vomit* Duke.  Anyway, other than Mike Tobey, Bennett has zeroed in on bigs who fit the role player / garbage man mold, which is very similar to UConn's current recruiting results.

Banger (and Mash) Jack Salt fits the 'role playing big man' mold.

#8 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to assemble at least five players in the regular rotation who can hit the 3.  Napier (87), Giffey (58), Daniels (50), Boatright (44), and Kromah (21) each made more than 20 threes during the course of the season.  The perimeter shot wasn't even a big part of their offense... but the threat of the 3-pointer was a key to opening up their attack.  So to follow the Huskies' lead, you have to recruit guys who can shoot.  Tony Bennett has always been very cognizant of this, and he always seems to be chasing after the next great shooter.  However, the recruiting results haven't always been there.  Currently, we can boast Brog, Perrantes, and Nolte as legit 3-point weapons.  Justin Anderson is working on that part of his game, as is B.J. Stith.  And who knows what Devon Hall might give us?  Anyway, Bennett's blocker/mover offensive system demands shooters to make it work, so he's recruiting shooters to the team, always has, always will.

#9 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to have a high enough baseline talent level, and then get hot at the right time.  UConn has been able to pull in guys like DeAndre Daniels, 5-star recruits.  UVA hasn't.  That has to change for us to start dreaming really big.  As for getting hot at the right time... well, that's just luck.

Meet 2016 recruit Thon Maker.
He's UVA's next good chance to land an
elite-level 5-star recruit.

#10 - To win a national championship like UConn just did, Virginia has to find some reason to play with a chip on its shoulder.  Given Tony Bennett's kind nature and squeaky-clean program, it might be hard to find the requisite amount of 'dirty' that UConn channeled during its championship run.  Where can Virginia find that grit, that edge, that chip?  Maybe from a simple lack of respect.  Whatever it is, and wherever it comes from, I think it's the magic elixir for a national championship run.  Tony might have to get creative to help his team find it.



In closing, the answers to two big questions:

Can Virginia recruit to the level of UConn?

The answer is yes.

Can Virginia mimic UConn's success?

Our next best chance will be with the senior class of 2016, with Malcolm Brogdon playing the part of Shabazz Napier.



April 7, 2014

Fare Thee Well, Teven Jones!

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Virginia men's basketball head coach Tony Bennett announced Monday (April 7) that sophomore guard Teven Jones (Kannapolis, N.C.) is leaving the Cavaliers' program.

"Teven informed me today that he is leaving the Virginia basketball program and will be looking for another school where he will have a better opportunity for playing time," Bennett said. "Teven's role on this team and attitude were a significant part of our success this year. I understand his desire to play more and we will support him moving forward."

The 6-0 Jones averaged 1.7 points in 59 career games at Virginia. He played in 29 of 37 games in 2013-14, averaging 0.5 points and 0.2 assists in 4.3 minutes per game. In 2012-13, Jones started nine of 30 games and scored a career-high 13 points in Virginia's 80-64 win against North Texas.

"I want to thank all of the coaches and my teammates for giving me the opportunity to be part of a special program," Jones said. "I would also like to thank the fans for their support over the past two seasons. This was the closest team that I've ever been a part of and it hurts to leave. But, I'm looking forward to continuing my basketball career at a new school."




I have a hard time pulling for the Billy Barons, KT Harrells, and James Johnsons of the world, but that will not be true for Teven Jones. He sacrificed to be a part of the Virginia team, and he exits with class. I'm looking forward to following the second half of his college basketball career.

Plus, this gives us an interesting extra scholarship to play around with...


April 5, 2014

Watching UConn/Florida...

...and I have a few quick thoughts.

1) Virginia was good enough to play on this stage.  We lost a 50/50 game against Michigan State, else I think we would have had a great chance to beat UConn and make it to Dallas.

2) All week, I was thinking that the main thing separating UVA from these teams that made the Final Four was a legit go-to low post scorer.  I'm talking about something better than rolled-ankle Anthony Gill.  Frank the Tank Kaminski, Julius Randle, Patric Young.  That concept is still true, but there's something to be said for the old cliché about guard play in the Tournament.  Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, damn.

3) On the topic of Napier and Boatright...  I'm [slightly] concerned that Tony Bennett isn't recruiting/landing guards with that kind of speed and athleticism.  Brog is great, London Perrantes is great, but they are not anything like Shabazz Napier.  Not many players are, I guess.

4) I think the ACC should just go ahead and bring in a 16th member -- UConn.  They don't help in football, but they're by far the best "free agent" basketball school.  Snap them up.


Go Huskies.

April 4, 2014

No-Hitter!

Just watched the UVA @ Pitt baseball game on ESPN3.

Nate Kirby set a school record with 18 strikeouts en route to a no-hitter in the 4-0 Virginia win.

Easily the best pitching performance I've ever seen, rivaling Will Roberts' perfect game.

Just awesome.

WA-HOO-FUCKIN-WAAAAAAAAAAA!



Hoos move to 26-4, 11-2 ACC.

We officially have a staff ace -- Nasty Nate Kirby.  Hultzenesque?

GO HOOS!