Head coach Tony Bennett has been at the helm of Virginia basketball for a mere eighteen months, but during that time, he's turned a program that went 4-12 in the ACC to one that's pulling in a top 20 recruiting class. The latest rankings, released by ESPN Thursday afternoon, have the Cavaliers' 2011 recruiting class ranked 19th in the nation.
The rankings have the Cavaliers as the third best recruiting class of the ACC, behind perennial powerhouses (last year notwithstanding, Heels) North Carolina (No. 2) and Duke (No. 7). Virginia Tech also checks in on the list at No. 24.
Virginia has three solid commitments as of now: SF Paul Jesperson, SG Malcolm Brogdon and PF Darion Atkins. UVa fans have reason to be excited about this class, as they've been specifically recruited for their shooting ability and their strong defensive play. Unlike the incoming freshmen for this year (who, by the way, are also ranked No. 19 as a recruiting class), these guys have had the opportunity to see Bennett ball in action before making any sort of commitment.
Four-star recruit Jesperson is the "prized possession" of the bunch, ranked in the ESPNU Top 100. He's got a range of 25 feet and because he's got a long body, he's usually guarded by the the bigger post players. He's got a great touch and gets good elevation, which makes him an excellent shooter.
Four-star recruit Brogdon is another great shooter who also has dribble penetration prowess. ESPN described him as "a tough, hardnosed shooting guard that can knock down an open 3 and had developed his game off the dribble. With his ability to defend he'll be a great fit to the culture Bennett has created in Charlottesville."
Finally, three-star recruit Atkins is a 6'8, 214 lbs power forward with, apparently, long lanky arms. Spending the summer bulking up a bit will increase his stock at Virginia, but he can already shoot over most defenders and has a 15-foot range. Bulking up will help him on the defensive end of the court, something Bennett undoubtedly will be looking for.