You gotta hand it to Tony Bennett. Four months removed from Virginia playing an NCAA tournament game with one hand tied behind his back, the team using six and a half scholarship players thanks to massive attrition and injuries, we sit in prime recruiting season with only one more scholarship to hand out. Don't believe me? Here's the list of players occupying a scholarship in the 2013-2014 year (which is what we're recruiting for right now.)
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Devon Hall (Fr.)
Justin Anderson (So.)
Taylor Barnette (So.)
Anthony Gill (So.)
Teven Jones (So.)
Evan Nolte (So.)
Mike Tobey (So.)
Darion Atkins (Jr.)
Malcolm Brogdon (Jr.)
Paul Jesperson (Jr.)
Joe Harris (Sr.)
Akil Mitchell (Sr.)
Yup, that's 12. Half of which are in that sophomore class of 2016, which could make for some interesting times two years from now when we're trying to recruit their replacements. But that's a ways off. Here's a look at the players Tony Bennett is recruiting this summer:
-- Jake O'Brien
OK, technically, O'Brien's not a 2013 recruit, unless by 2013 you mean the year he runs out of college rather than high school eligibility. O'Brien has been playing his college hoops at Boston University, which is changing conferences after this upcoming season and thus is ineligible to play in the America East tournament this year. So O'Brien, a fifth-year senior who's already got his degree, is looking for a place where he can play in the postseason and go to graduate school. NCAA lets you do that, if you study something that's not available at your original school, so a school that wants him has to find him a major that BU doesn't offer, and yes that's not even remotely in the spirit of the rule but whatever.
O'Brien would fill the one remaining hole we have on the scholarship roster this season and put us at a full 13. He's a 6'9" power forward with a decent shooting touch. And he'd fill a glaring hole in the roster. See, Anthony Gill can't play this year, leaving us with fours that don't play offense too well and threes that probably wouldn't defend the four very well. In the former category you have Atkins and Mitchell; in the latter, Harris, Nolte, and maybe Anderson. Jake O'Brien would be a guy who can theoretically do both (theoretically, because he'd be new to the pack-line), and thus if he chooses Virginia, you'll probably see him playing real minutes. O'Brien has a few other suitors, Temple chief among them.
-- Austin Nichols
Now we get into the folks that might join Devon Hall in the 2013 recruiting class. Nichols, truth be told, is nearly a carbon copy of Evan Nolte. He's 6'8" and a very generous 200 pounds, probably with weights in his shoes. Doesn't matter: he's got the kind of talent you don't turn away if it wants to join your program. He's a consensus four-star that had legit offers from places like Duke, Florida, UNC, and so on.
Thing is, Nichols likes UVA quite a bit, one, and two, a lot of those schools have taken commitments from elsewhere already. Nichols was digging on Missouri, but then an assistant coach they had (who Nichols has some ties to) was hired at Auburn, so now he's digging on Auburn instead. Other schools are involved, too, but UVA has as good a chance at landing Nichols as any other school. He and Hall would make for a star-power class.
-- Schuyler Rimmer
Rimmer doesn't have the star power, but he's still got the offers. Lately, schools have been blowing up his phone with 'em, such that he's taking a bit of a step back to digest it all. He's a tall forward like Nichols, but he's got a solid 25-30 pounds on Nichols and uses them to good effect. Less athletic and less polished than Nichols, but Rimmer fills a need that Virginia could sorely use going forward: someone that will beat the hell out of you to get at the basketball. ESPN's scouting report notes: "It's fitting that Rimmer plays the game without one of his front teeth." Not only that, but you could use the hackneyed A-Rod notation to give him a nickname and it'd actually sound good for once: SkyRim.
-- London Perrantes
Yup - a point guard. Even after convincing Devon Hall to reclassify, and getting commitments from Teven Jones and Taylor Barnette, and even though Perrantes's commitment would mean UVA has four legit bigs and nine backcourt players. This has spawned a few theories:
- Bennett is really happy with the bigs he has and doesn't want more.
- Bennett isn't happy with the point guard lineup.
- Bennett's talent evaluation is wack.
The second theory is the most troubling, because it would imply that after picking up Jones and Barnette, Bennett isn't happy with either, nor is he comfortable with the idea of Brogdon playing 10-12 minutes a game at the point. It also implies terrible roster management. But finally, it's also the most debunkable theory: I highly doubt Bennett has already given up on two of his players without having seen either one play in an actual game. I mean, the team hasn't even left for Europe yet.
No, I think the real reason for the offer to Perrantes (as well as Xavier Rathan-Mayes, for whom the Hoos got into the game too late) is that Bennett learned his lesson from recruitments like those of James Robinson and T.J. McConnell, and you can never count on anyone til they've signed on that dotted line. I'd rather have a big myself, and so probably would Tony, but if there's talent you like, you bring that talent in. Neither Nichols nor Rimmer is such a lock to come to UVA that you shouldn't hedge your bets, and no doubt a second lesson Bennett has learned is the value of a full roster.
The best part about this offer is that we can extend a hand of congratulations to the LA Times for being the first to use the two most overused headline phrases (as relates to Virginia) in one succinct shot.
What seems almost assured is that Bennett isn't going to save the scholarship for 2014. If he did he'd have two to spend, but there looks to be a concerted effort underway to fill the roster and keep it full. If I were a betting man, and I am but Vegas doesn't offer lines on this, I'd say that last scholarship will be spoken for by the end of September.