When Isaiah Wilkins arrived in Charlottesville as a freshman in 2014 he was surrounded by high expectations. Wilkins was coming off a high school career in which he won back to back Georgia State Championships at the same high school Malcolm Brogdon attended, was named the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season, and of course had the hype that comes with his last name. The fact that Wilkins is the step-son of NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins was mentioned on broadcasts so many times last year that it began to approach "Mike London was a cop" levels of repetition. By the time the season ended however, Isaiah was probably the only Wilkins on the mind of UVa students, as he emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his work ethic and prodigious athleticism.
In the 2014-15 season Wilkins was one of only two true freshmen, along with Marial Shayok, to see significant playing time. He appeared in 28 of Virginia's 34 contests, averaging 1.6 points—on 40% shooting—and 2.5 rebounds in just under 10 minutes per game. Those numbers may not leap off the page, but while watching the games it was clear that Wilkins brought a certain level of energy that could help spark the team when needed. Encouragingly, some of his best games came down the stretch in ACC play to the tune of seven points and five rebounds against Duke, and nine rebounds and three blocks at Wake Forest.
Heading into 2015, the challenge will be for Wilkins to string together those performances on a more consistent basis. While UVa's frontcourt is loaded with experience thanks to the presence of Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Evan Nolte, Wilkins has the opportunity to carve out a niche for himself as a defensive specialist and opportunistic rebounder. Wilkins seems to be the heir apparent to the big-man defensive ace role occupied in past years by Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins. While he doesn't yet have the experience in the Packline that his predecessors did as seniors, Wilkins' athleticism should enable him to perform the hedge-and-recover task effectively. If Wilkins is up to the challenge, he's likely to find a prominent spot in the rotation and one of Virginia's biggest questions will have been answered.
Position: Power Forward
Nickname: None yet but we're open to suggestions.
For a look at the bond between fellow Atlanta natives Wilkins and Brogdon, check out this great Jeff White piece.