Intel Report 4/7/22

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It’s been an eventful week for the Virginia basketball program. Another player was lost to the transfer portal. Their top recruit delayed his commitment announcement. I’ll get into all that.

But the focus this weekend will swing back to the high school ranks, as the coaching staff hit the road for the first of two spring evaluation periods. It’s time to find some new recruits in the class of 2023.

Igor

On Friday, freshman forward Igor Milicic became the second scholarship player to enter the transfer portal, joining sophomore guard Carson McCorkle. It wasn’t surprising news. Igor is the young player who was likely to leave that I alluded to in previous VIP posts. His family wasn’t happy that he didn’t play more. I think that’s all there is to it.

When Igor first arrived, the hype was loud. He was impressive in early workouts. But as they got into a more structured and competitive setting during fall practices, that died down. He had a more difficult adjustment than anticipated. Opinions vary as to what his future at UVA would have looked like. Some around the program believe he would have played a lot next season. Others saw him as a long term project.

The silver lining to Igor’s departure is it gives them an opportunity to correct course with the roster. There was a time late last summer in which they gave brief consideration to letting go of incoming recruit Isaac Traudt because his skillset overlaps so much with Igor’s. With his spot open now, they have a chance to fix that both through the transfer portal and/or long term with a 2023 recruit.

No official word

They’re probably done losing transfers. I’m hopeful that’s the case anyway. All the players that we were concerned about initially have either entered the portal already or I’ve heard are expected to return. There’s no guarantee in this new environment though.

There’s no official word yet on any of the seniors. Everything points to Jayden Gardner and Kihei Clark returning. I’d say 90% likelihood Kihei stays, even higher for Jayden. I assume Kody Stattmann is leaving, haven’t heard any talk otherwise.

Transfer Recruiting

There’s still very little in the way of specifics known about transfer recruiting. They’ve definitely shifted priorities a bit as stay or go decisions were made. Early on, it was mostly all guards. The last week it’s all been frontcourt players, essentially replacements for Milicic. Adding another guard is still possible, but will be hard if Kihei returns.

We can write off Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq. He’s already down to a handful of choices and planning visits. And 2022 Montverde (FL) forward Malik Reneau is in the longshot category, but they’re trying. He’s visiting Indiana next weekend. Miami and Florida State are considered the other contenders.

The player they’ve been tied to who best fits UVA’s needs is Akron junior forward Ali Ali. it’s early, but they were among the first to reach out to him last week. A good athlete at 6’8, he can play either forward spot and brings three-point shooting at 40% this past season. Ohio State and Tennessee are on the long list of others connected with him.

VMI transfer big man Jake Stephens could be one to watch. He just hit the portal yesterday. A stretch big, he hit a whopping 49% from beyond the arc this season on high volume. That will have him in major demand. He’s a senior, just one year to play.

Transfer recruiting will really pick up next weekend when the dead period is lifted. There’ll be a lot more names to hit the portal yet though. We’ll probably still be at this a month from now.

Going Live

The first of two spring live evaluation periods starts on Friday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon. For anyone new to this, live periods are kind of crazy. These two April weekends and two more in July are the only time coaches can attend AAU events. They make the most of it, moving between locations to see as many players as possible. This is when scholarship offers are earned.

Indianapolis and Orlando will be the center of action this weekend. The Adidas and Under Armour circuits are both in Indianapolis. Nike’s EYBL is in Orlando.

London

2023 Norcross (GA) point guard London Johnson surprised us by delaying his commitment announcement last week. His reasons seem to be innocent. He apparently just wants to have his announcement done exactly the way he likes.

But it’s also been seen as a window of opportunity for other programs. Even before that, Georgia under new coach Mike White had apparently been trying to sway him. And others have now reengaged this week. I’ve heard some are waving their NIL credentials around. Everybody wants him to visit this weekend, which I don’t believe will happen.

He was set to announce for UVA last Friday. I still expect that to be his choice, presumably on his new date next Thursday the 14th. But it’s not a lock anymore. If nothing else, he’s created a lot more intrigue.

London is playing in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland on Friday night. It’s a USA vs The World format featuring elite high school players. He’s representing his Jamaican heritage as part of The World team. College coaches are not allowed to attend that event.

It’s to be decided where London will be the rest of the weekend, and if coaches can see him in person. His Norcross team is in Tampa taking part in the State Champions Invitational, a four-team tournament made up of champions from different states. If his team wins on Thursday, London plans to be there with them to play for the tournament title on Saturday. If his high school team loses on Thursday, London instead plans to join his AAU team at the Adidas event in Indianapolis.

College coaches will be at the AAU event. They’re not allowed at the high school tournament. Nothing is ever simple with London.

Names to Know

These live periods will be about as interesting as any I can remember for UVA. Other than London, they’re basically starting fresh. He’s the only player they’re actively recruiting. That’s bound to soon change.

Forwards

Their top priority for 2023 is a frontcourt addition. Spring is when a lot of names recycle, the players they saw last summer pop back up. There will definitely be some of that, along with new faces that have emerged since.

One of those new names is Zayden High, a versatile forward out of Texas. Assistant coach Kyle Getter has been tracking him for a while. He’s turned heads in a big way in early AAU action. If he’s able to continue the production down in Orlando this weekend, he’ll get very popular quickly.

Big man JP Estrella out of Maine is one of the hottest recruits in the country. He’l get a look from UVA starting this weekend in Indy. They’ll definitely be tracking skilled forwards Sam Walters from Florida and Milan Momcilovic from Wisconsin, both in Orlando this weekend.

Two we’ve been talking about since last summer that are still in play. Athletic forward Alassane Amadou is with his Philly Pride team in Indy. And inside-out scorer Dylan James from Florida will require a special trip if coaches want to see him. He’s with his independent team at an event in Atlanta.

Guards

Word of God (NC) guard Freddie Dillione has been a major stock riser over the high school season. He figures to get a long look starting this weekend in Indy. .

It sounds like Texas sharpshooter RJ Jones could be one good weekend away from a UVA offer. He’ll get that chance in Orlando. And watch out for Cam Christie, the younger brother of Michigan State guard and former UVA target Max Christie. He’ll be in Indy with his Illinois Wolves

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Well, pretty sure we know the line that will generate “90%” of the discussion.

At this point it’s probably about how the 40 mins or so per game that will be available, will be split among Taine, the freshmen and (if applicable) any portal addition(s).

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Sounds like Indy is the move for the weekend. Check out a few of the targets mentioned and also recheck in with London Johnson if Norcross loses Thursday.

Also 10% chance ain’t 0. There’s still hope.

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Go Norcross!!!

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There hasn’t been a lot to talk about besides that and the decision is dragging, making it even more of a hot topic. I think we can all agree that it’s likely a foregone conclusion at this point and most of us agree it’s not good that he’s coming back. I’d argue it’s about the worst news we could get sans another major transfer out, but I’ve made that abundantly clear so I’ll stop beating the horse until it’s official.

Just really need LJ to commit on April 14th. I think it’s that day or never imo, and I still won’t feel good until it’s made official on signing day.

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Despite the obvious warts from this past season, we still probably make the NCAA’s without the OOC struggles early. Just making the tournament shouldn’t be our goal 3 years removed from a title, but this decision (either way) isn’t a program killer. I just hope a year from now we’re not talking about losing Taine or 1-2 freshmen because they got frustrated over lack of PT.

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If the decision is made still not sure why he wouldn’t have put something out there and flipside, if the decision has not been made, why? Season has been over several weeks

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Quite the consideration…Traudt was one of the biggest recruiting wins that I can remember.

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Next season will be the ultimate test of the importance of continuity with Tony’s system.

While this past season was frustrating, I do think we were closer to being top 25 than most think.

Add in an off-season of playing together and a very good group of first years and we might be decent, maybe even top 15.

I have absolutely no clue why I am feeling optimistic today. Must be the vacation talking.

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I don’t even think Kihei is a bad ball player. I just hate hate hate his fit with Beekman. And while two years ago Kihei had the claim to be the better player that is just so clearly not the case anymore

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I’m sure most of the talk here will be Kihei related, but this part jumped out at me for being pretty crazy. What a nightmare scenario it would have been to pull out of the Traudt recruitment because Igor was already in the program & then immediately lose Igor to the transfer portal after one season.

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I felt that way the other day, optimistic, but we’ll still have the same warts to some degree

  • Lack of shooting. I think Armaan will be closer to later season form but still game to game. I do not expect either RB or KC to hunt shots, despite what we’ll here to the contrary. Will Issac2 get enough mins to help this

  • Lack of wing defender. We’ll either be too short (armaan) or slow (jayden). Portal guy or Leon Bond pls come ready

  • Lack of a dawg, late game I want the ball dude. Maybe, maybe Reece will but will his shooting improve enough to be able to?

  • Rebounding. Jayden is not growing, Papi isn’t increasing his vertical. All comes down to Kadin’s improvement with positioning and lower body strength

  • Floor spacing, see above under shooting. Will the offense look exactly the same or can the returners, plus portal guy, plus Issac2 help and will the staff form the offense around strengths of the players

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Yep. Top 2 bullets are top top priority imo. Probably will be patchwork.

On rebounding, this got a lot better over the season, but was still uneven at times against teams with an elite big. Overall less of a worry for me given progression through the season.

Overall I think we will be very solid even despite these warts (like 15-25 range) with more time together over the summer and new talent.

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I know - hopefully this was crazy talk during a late night of beer pong, not a serious conversation.

I honestly hope we stop the foreign player experiments. We’re not very good at them.

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Interesting thought … what if part of Traudt signing was Tony deciding not to play Igor much this year to clear the path for Traudt in 2022-23?

At this point I’d be good with relying much less on international recruiting as well. Other than Salt, I’m not sure it’s paid many dividends…still TBD on Murray I guess.

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You guys are all smarter than me on the recruiting front and the transfer portal. But it dawned on me that we might be the only fan-base in the nation that is complaining that we might have all five starters back. I’m old enough to remember when this was a good thing! Maybe there is precedent for this but I admittedly am trapped in the 90’s mindset for everything Basketball related. #rumpshaker

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Rebounding also improves if we get the guards back up to positional size. Kihei at the 1 and Armaan at the 3 essentially puts it all on the bigs. Another reason I don’t understand letting Kihei take a bonus year.

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Would’ve been hard to reconcile. That kind of disfunction between recruiting and in season management is normally seen in programs with coaches about to get fired not with national championship winning coaches.