Big Man Development at UVA - Past and Future

There’s been a lot of discussion on this sprinkled in various threads.
Curious as to opinions on how actual development has happened since 2010 of our bigs.
Also, how have we fared vs peers recruiting bigs?
Partial list to get convo started:
Sene, Akil, Atkins, Tobey, Gill, Nolte, Wilkins, Nichols, Salt, Diakite, Huff, Caffaro, McKoy, Shedrick, Gardner, Milicic, BVP, Dunn, Bond, Traudt, Buchanan

Just going to throw in here at the beginning (not going to track this thread a whole lot) that this conversation also has to take into account our offense and what role our bigs play at UVA and also what roles bigs play in modern basketball.


Indeed. A big playing at Princeton will end up with WILDLY different stats than at UVA.

I will say that *very few of the the players that are 6’9 and above (true bigs) have been outstanding in our system. Our system’s success has been predicated on guys that are 6’8ish, whom are agile and have good foot speed and length. *Periodically we should sprinkle in someone that is taller, but recently we’ve neglected that sweet spot range, and either went *too far in one direction (not really hating on Gardner but he was undersized at 6’6, and not as long as we needed), or too far in the other direction (again nothing personal, but Papi, Kadin, Tobey were not right for our system).

With that said the *few players that I consider *true bigs that have done well here are Jack Salt, Jay Huff, and Mamadi as he was 6’9.

The ideal candidates for our 4-5 positions are Akil, Darion, Braxton, AG, Diakite, and Dunn-like.

Now if we some how reclaim the big man similar to Uconn or AZ we will *need to make some changes offensively and MOSTLY defensively for them to be able to contribute.

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I’ve been thinking of Tobey a bit in the context of Kadin. They have obvious differences in play style and strengths, but I think it’s worth pondering the similarities:

  • Chose UVa out of high school
  • True center / 6-11 / decent size
  • Highly ranked (Tobey - 92 / Kadin - 65)
  • Spent 4 years at UVa and got / will get their degree! (That’s great! That’s what I did, and think of what a beloved UVa legend I am)
  • High level pro potential that we could all see early on. Lacked or lack a few key criteria to be a top 40 or so NBA draft pick, but probably in the next 40 or so guys with top-level skill (Tobey proving this by playing multiple years in the top Euro league)
  • Similar fouling issues
  • Similar “he’s certainly not making this look pretty” issues
  • Could never quite fully establish themselves in Tony’s good graces for various (I think similar) reasons. Tobey never got the DNP treatment that Kadin did, but he got the single digit minute and shuffling back and forth from the bench treatment quite a bit.

Plenty of obvious differences, too. But for both guys, I just wanted someone to have that romcom sidekick chat with Tony, and play that role in the movie where the wingman just says to Tony, “stop focusing on all the things you don’t like about Kadin and Tobey – you will never run out – and love them for who they are!”

And then Tony goes running in the rain at 3am to knock on Kadin / Tobey’s door … and … well I took this to far, I gues.


I dont think Tony went knocking at 3am LOL. I dont think he loses much sleep over anyone leaving individually but it frustrates him maybe in terms of team building.

I think Tony’s preference is these small ball 6’8/6’9 athletic forwards which is good as that’s translatable to modern basketball.

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By “this” I meant the romcom theme. Lol.

You’re describing Tony’s ideal defensive 4/5, but he’s played guys for offense at least 50% of the time in that slot, too.

For every Akil, Darion, and Zay, we have an AG, Tobey, and Hauser. Maybe Mamadi in his 4th year was the ideal blend?

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Or Huff that was top 3 in the ACC on both defense and offense

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Yeah, golly, forgot about him. I was kind of hoping for Kadin to have that type of season his 5th year.

Well Kadin in his 4th year did this:
#1 in the ACC in offensive rating
#1 in the ACC in defensive rating

Just needed to play every game until he fouled out. That is all.


I only considered guys who played at least 3 years for TB, at the 4/5 positions, and put them in one of 3 categories based on expectations when they committed.

Exceeded expectations:

Met expectations:

Didn’t meet expectations:

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By “that type of season” I was thinking more of “Tony starting him and playing him 25+ MPG”

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Tobey and Kadin extremely similar in the fact they were so frustrating to watch, both struggled mightily to catch the ball in traffic. As a young gunner I went to Carolina basketball school and dean once talked for 45 minutes about the importance of being able to catch the ball, I never really understood that because personally that was never a problem I had but others did/do struggle with. He was probably the first person to say, that I heard you have to be strong with the ball. Looking back at his teams his bigs never fumbled the ball in traffic only Warren Martin maybe fumbled a few times but he was a bench player on his best day. Another point is Tony was a guard he sees the game thru their eyes, we have never had that post presence that dominated the paint, just some dawgs like Gill Atkins who made up for our roster shortcomings.


I love Shed and am upset he transferred but we asked him to do VERY little on offense. Of course his O rating is going to be inflated when his entire offensive existence is built on catching lobs or generally uncontested layups. You can count on one hand how many jumpers or post ups he scored all year.


True. And also true: how many other guys did we have again who could catch lobs and make layups in traffic?
And also defend at the highest level of any big in the ACC?


Again, I’m not saying Shedrick isn’t solid and I’d much prefer to have him than not. But you present his O and D rating as if he’s a premier big in the country, and I don’t buy that for a second.


I hope this change to 6’8-6’9 players is what he finally decides to stick with- similar to San Diego State, with some of them being able to hit from distance, along with the guards who can *also slash and hit from distance ie: Miami.

This is also a reason I’m a *little upset about losing Traudt as he may have been able to hit from distance, although I’m not sure how his D and rebounding would have been, as we definitely need athletes at the 3,4,5 spots.


I wonder if our recruiting out ran our scheme and program culture a little bit with bigs. The 2013-2018 teams were built with one 7 footer center type and sometimes multiple 6’8”, athletic, and very high motor forwards with minimal offensive skill. The true center (basically Tobey or Salt) was around mostly for specific matchups, and we really anchored our defense on those more workman-like power forwards (Mitchell, Atkins, and Wilkins).

Recently, we’ve recruited much more highly touted bigs (Mamadi, Jay, Kadin, Caffaro, and Traudt) to much more mixed success. Those guys all took longer to establish themselves than Mitchell, Jack, or Wilkins (and mostly as long as Darion), and had a much lower hit rate. I just wonder if these highly touted big men aren’t great fits for what we do. I also think that recruiting guys that will buy in to the program culture is especially important in the paint.

I see the Akil Mitchell type all of the country now but mostly playing for mid majors. That’s to say, they’re available and would probably jump on a UVA offer. Building a pipeline of those high motor guys to play center next to a versatile combo forward is probably our best bet to win in the modern game.

I also wonder if recruiting guys from a wide distribution of expectations is the way to go. We need those blue collar four year guys who don’t play consistently until their third year in our program, and top 75 players generally don’t see that path for themselves. Coaching staffs probably need to be careful about roster crowding from a recruiting pedigree perspective too.


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