January 19, 2015

What If JA Goes Pro?

Anonymous question from the comments section of my previous post:

Love it Kendall. One question about item 3 above:

3) As good as we are, this season isn't even our best crack at a national championship. NEXT SEASON is when we'll have the real Virginia Basketball Juggernaut on our hands.

What if JA goes pro?

Okay, so WHAT IF Justin Anderson goes pro?  We'd be losing a lot, no doubt.  Our [current] leading scorer.  Our best pure athlete.  A plus-plus defender.  Our [current] best perimeter shooter.  That's a lot to lose.

Full disclosure: I expect Justin to go pro after this season.  Why would he stay, other than to get a crack at a national championship (if we don't win it this season)?  His current NBA stock is solidly in the first round, which is guaranteed contract territory.  If that status holds, he'd be a dummy to not make the jump to the Association.  So I am assuming he will go pro.

And I still think that next season is our year, even without Justin Anderson.

Here's why.

PG) London Perrantes -- In his third year as the unquestioned starter, full command of the offense, further exploring his offensive game.  There won't be a better point guard in the ACC... or in the nation, given the full context of what a team really needs from its point guard and how much benefit an experienced point guard brings to Bennett's systems.

SG) Malcolm Brogdon -- Brog will be a 5th year senior in 2015-16, a true grown-ass man playing against boys.  With Justin gone, Brog will be the focal point of our offense, our superstar, the guy at the center of the poster.

As good as Anderson has been, I still think Brogdon is our best player.
See also: the BC game.

SF) Marial Shayok -- This is me, going on record, saying that the drop-off from Justin Anderson to Marial Shayok will be miniscule.  Shayok doesn't have the size and isn't the athlete that Justin is, but he's every bit the shooter/scorer, and might even end up being a better perimeter defender in the packline system.  Seriously.  Super Marial doesn't jump out of the gym and he isn't a 6-6, 230-pound freight train, but he's already got all of the skill and polish that Anderson had to work three seasons to obtain.

PF) Anthony Gill -- Stud.  Like Brog, he'll also be a 5th year senior, and will bring all of the craftiness and physical development that only time can give a man.  Brog'll be the focal point of the offense, option #1... but Gill will be option 1a.  Plus, he should be an even better defender and free throw shooter than he is now.

Best UVA big since... Mike Scott? Travis Watson? Norman Nolan? Junior Burrough?

C) Mike Tobey -- The position, and all of the playing time, will belong to Tobes in his senior season.  No team in America will be able to boast this much experience - or skill - in its starting frontcourt.

~~~ Off the Bench ~~~

Here's where I expect to see the real improvement from 2014-15 to 2015-16.

6th Man) Darius Thompson -- Mark my words.  Like Gill in 2013-14, Thompson will be a revelation to Hoofans in 2015-16, after his transfer redshirt has been served.  He's the kind of guard who you bring into the game to catalyze the action.  He's a defensive disruptor and a slashing scorer.  I think Thompson will prove to be a more dynamic 6th man than what we currently have in Shayok/Tobey.  I know, big statement.

If you're not already excited about DT...
you should be.

7th Man) Isaiah Wilkins -- Tony Bennett's staff is at its best when it's developing bigs.  Expect to see HUGE improvement from Wilkins from this season to next.

4th Guard) Devon Hall -- Good handle, can score, solid defense, should be able to provide some quality minutes in the deep rotation.

4th Big) Jack Salt -- Big banger should be ready for some minutes as a redshirt freshman.

X-Factor) Evan Nolte -- His shot will start falling eventually... right?

So to summarize, I think we'll be better next season, even without Justin Anderson, BECAUSE we'll be bringing back three starters, and seven of our top nine players, plus adding Darius Thompson and Jack Salt (and maybe Jarred Reuter - if he doesn't redshirt) to the mix.  We'll have two 5th year seniors at the heart of the squad.  We'll have a point guard who has survived and excelled through two full seasons of the ACC grind.  Marial Shayok will be better as a starter (with starter's minutes and the associated ability to get into a rhythm and the flow of the game).  We'll have depth everywhere.  We'll have the confidence born from having two highly successful seasons behind us.  The defense will be rugged, with by far the most experienced Virginia team playing it.  The offense will be balanced and dynamic.  The five fingers will be formed into a fist, and this "great fighting" Rocky Balboa might become an Apollo Creed-style great fighter.

I guess we'll see.  Justin would be a huge loss, I'm not trying to spin it any other way.  And we'll miss Darion Atkins, too.  I just think that those vacated minutes will be going to highly qualified applicants, while the supporting cast will be another season bigger, stronger, smarter, and better.

But up first is the remainder of the 2014-15 season.


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