Top 10 UVA Players Under Tony Bennett
In Coach Tony Bennett’s ten years at Virginia he’s had a whole host of top-notch talent. As he is about to embark on his second decade with the Cavaliers, I’ve decided to look back at the ten best players he’s coached in his first ten years.
I want to be perfectly clear. This is not a definitive list, this is not the right list, this is my ranking and mine alone. I based this off of team success, analytics, how the player impacted the program, pure talent, along with where they were drafted (as that is a useful evaluation from top basketball scouts). I did NOT include NBA success in my assessment. Recency bias could certainly have come into play, but I did my best not to let it affect my judgement. With that said, rings speak louder than words. Please, share your own ranking! This is meant to be a conversation piece for UVA fans to enjoy. With my extended disclaimer out of the way, lets dive in!
Devon Hall: 5 years, a heap of success, Hall was part of great teams and developed into a very strong defensive player. He also became very efficient offensively, shooting over 40% from 3 point range his fifth season.
Akil Mitchell: Mitchell was one of the leaders of the first elite team under Bennett and was a defensive star, winning the first of many ACC DPOTY awards for Bennett players.
- Isaiah Wilkins
I debated for a while about the last few spots, and, obviously, Wilkins was the last guy in. But how could I leave this man out? His numbers never have and never will define how much of an absolute beast Isaiah Wilkins was on the court at Virginia. After the top guy on this list, Wilkins is likely the closest embodiment of Virginia basketball we’ve seen yet. But his passion and hustle went much further than just fitting into a system, as he was one of the leaders that built it.
Frankly, I’m not going to list one stat to support my case for Wilkins to be in this spot, not because they wouldn’t, but because they are not what made him great. What made him great were the dives into the fourth row of the bleachers to save a loose ball. What made him great were the fist bumps, the chest poundings, the arm waving antics that fueled the Virginia defense for what seemed like an era. Nobody deserves recognition as one of Tony Bennett’s guys more than him. No Virginia player deserves more praise for who he is, than Isaiah Wilkins.
- Anthony Gill
Anthony Gill is likely the best post player to play under Tony Bennett. He brought something different to the table that UVA hoops had lacked, and still to a certain degree, has lacked since he left: back to the basket scoring. At 6’8, Gill wasn’t ever really the biggest guy on the court, nor the most fearsome defensively, but he fought tooth and nail for every board, for every inch of real estate under the basket, and most of the time, he got what and where he wanted. Gill worked in flawless tandem with Malcolm Brogdon and provided a necessary scoring punch throughout his three seasons playing for the program.
- London Perrantes
The steady handed first year that Coach Tony Bennett turned to when he needed him most, London Perrantes was in every way a stone-cold killer. California cool can’t even begin to describe the level of composure Perrantes led the team with for his 4 years. Perhaps an unsung hero of some of the greatest Bennett teams, Perrantes was essentially the glue that held those groups of elite talent together, and he provided veteran leadership for the next crop of players that would build upon his success.
- Justin Anderson
When Justin Anderson introduced himself to Virginia basketball, he introduced something yet to be truly prevalent for a while. Swagger. He never led the team in scoring, but his impact was felt in every single aspect of the game. Chase down blocks, ridiculous alley oops, fourth and fifth row shenanigans, diving for any ball that dared to escape JPJ’s court, Anderson lit a spark.
His three years at Virginia would bring much success, but an injury during his third year, a breakout year at that, would derail some of the recognition he was due. Nevertheless, he was drafted 26th overall by the Dallas Mavericks after that display of raw athleticism and developed talent. That burst of athleticism Anderson and swagger has been reflected in a few Virginia players since, as he set a path for a number of younger, athletic, talkative, talented players looking for a school that could get them to the league.
- Ty Jerome
An extension of the California cool that preceded him, Ty Jerome became the floor general of the most successful team in Virginia basketball history. Averaging 9.6 PPG for his career, and 13.6 PPG to go with 5.5 APG his last season as a Wahoo, Jerome was the maestro of an elite offense. Most of the time the guy to initiate the offense, Jerome was also the one who got the ball in late clock situations. He hit a number of big-time shots in his Virginia career, most notably in 2018 at Cameron Indoor, clinching Virginia’s first win in Durham in 23 years. Jerome’s basketball IQ and savvy talent were crucial in UVA’s run to a National Championship. He never wavered in his confidence of his own playmaking ability, dishing out crucial assists for the biggest shots in the 2019 Final Four, while also getting to bucket and making plays.
- Kyle Guy
Boy oh boy. That documentary from ACC Network has brought everything back, and man oh man is Kyle Guy not the most clutch dude you ever saw? Guy, somewhat surprisingly for those assessing him when he committed to Virginia, only played 3 years for the Hoos, but he sure as hell left us with something to remember him by. Guy was the face of the program throughout the year following the UMBC loss. He took all the heat on the chin, and never ceased to amaze Virginia fans with his level of courage and tenacity.
As he scored 15.6 PPG in his third and final season in Charlottesville, Guy hit big shots time and time again, shaking off a bit of a cold streak during the NCAA tournament run to be named the MOP of the Final Four. He’ll go down in Virginia sports history with his teammates as responsible for one of the most remarkable redemption stories in sports.
- Joe Harris
A Bennett-Washington recruit, Harris moved across the country to play for his coach. The star leader of Bennett’s first elite Virginia team, Joe Harris led Virginia to their first season with both the ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championships. Harris and his team received the first #1 seed in the NCAA tournament since the days of Ralph Sampson. Harris averaged 12.6 PPG for his career and was named the ACC tournament MVP after beating Duke in the 2014 ACC Tournament Championship. That same year, Harris was picked 33rd overall in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Deandre Hunter
National Champion, 4th overall pick, NABC Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All ACC, Deandre Hunter appears to have been the beginning of a new wave of UVA basketball players. A versatile wing, elite on both sides of the court, Hunter was likely the most talented player Bennett has coached at Virginia.
A career 65-5 record, averaging 15.6 PPG his third year (second year playing), and, I don’t know if you’ve heard, a 27-point, 9 rebound performance in the National Championship (!), all point to the fact that Hunter was something Virginia had never seen before. Could his time in Charlottesville help pave the way for more elite, pro talent to come to Virginia? Certainly, as it is likely that Hunter’s career will have a ripple effect on the next decade of Virginia Basketball.
- Mike Scott
Although it may have taken a bit of a struggle, Mike Scott buying into Tony Bennett’s system was the first big step forward for this program’s rebuild. With a number of other players transferring out, leaving the team, and de-committing, Scott’s loyalty to Bennett was that first signal that the Bennett era might be going somewhere.
Robbed of an ACC POTY award his fifth year, Scott scored 18 PPG his last season in Charlottesville and led a hobbled Virginia team to the NCAA tournament. Playing with guys like Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris, Scott set an example of how to play at an elite level and what the buy in would have to be for UVA basketball to be a successful program. Drafted 43rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks, Scott was the first UVA, Bennett player to reach the NBA and would set a standard for others to build upon.
- Malcolm Brogdon
Two ACC Defense Player of the Year awards, one ACC Player of the Year award, NABC Defensive Player of the Year, unanimous consensus 1st Team All American his fifth year, three-time first team All ACC, 2nd team All American his fourth year, the list of accolades goes on and on for Malcolm Brogdon. He’s the epitome of what Virginia Basketball is. A 13.3 PPG career scorer, Humble Moses scored 18.2 PPG in his last year with the Hoos, bringing them to Tony Bennett’s first Elite Eight appearance. Brogdon has set the tone for what UVA basketball can be at its best and has reintroduced the Virginia program to NBA success in just over 3 years in the league.
Know I’m wrong? Great! Share who’s your top 10 UVA players under Tony Bennett! Also, if you have a chance, check out the Brogdon Fan Page on Instagram, @brogdonfanpage.