If Malcolm Brogdon takes Virginia to a Final Four or beyond this spring, he'll enter a whole new level of discussion on his place in Cavalier history. He's already been a centerpiece player in a transformative era for the program. The names Brogdon, Justin Anderson, and Joe Harris will bring smiles to Wahoo fans for years when they think back on Virginia's recent success. But Brogdon also has a chance to get his name mentioned in the same breath as Sampson, Stith, and Parkhill as one of Virginia's all-time greats. He has one season left to take Virginia to the top of the mountain, and we all thankfully get one more season to watch him try.
Brogdon has a trophy case bursting with personal accolades. He made the All-ACC First Team in 2014 and 2015. He was the coaches’ selection for 2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s made two ACC All-Tournament teams. And he made the Associated Press All American Second Team in 2015, which is the highest national honor a Virginia player earned since Ralph Sampson.
But if you asked him, Brogdon would likely say that he’s gotten more satisfaction out of helping Virginia rise to national prominence. Along with teammates like Harris, Anderson, Akil Mitchell, Darion Atkins, Mike Scott, and others, he’s helped UVA achieve heights many couldn’t fathom when he arrived on Grounds in 2011. And he’s done it being the consummate team player.
Brogdon’s game isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have blazing speed. His teammates joke about his middling athleticism. He’s not a high-flyer like Anderson. His jumper isn’t as easy on the eye as Harris’. He’s not as slick of a passer as London Perrantes.
But the beauty of Brogdon’s game is that he can do almost everything well. He can score inside and outside. He can score off the dribble or he can spot up and shoot. He can spell Perrantes at the 1 or slide down and play at the 3. On defense, he can shut down lightning-quick guards to muscle up bigger swingmen.
Brogdon speaks to the media with a sense of perspective and maturity that’s rare for someone his age. In a "look-at-me" society, he’s always been quick to deflect praise and absorb criticism. He has ambitious goals to help others, which he recently shared with USA Today. His reaction to hitting a game-winning shot against Pitt in 2014 displayed his humble side. He’s reported to have exclaimed, "I’ve never done this before…what do I do?!"
But if the 2015-2016 version of Tony Bennett’s squad is to achieve its potential, Brogdon might ironically need to become a little more selfish of a scorer. He's led the team in scoring the past two seasons, but he’s done so quietly. We all saw how Virginia struggled late in the ’14-15 campaign after Anderson’s injury made Brogdon the primary focus for opposing defenses. Brogdon will see similar treatment this year, and he'll need to overcome it.
Brogdon’s most recent performances suggest he’s ready. His 25-point outing against North Carolina in last year’s ACC semifinal was a career high. It also showed off what he can do in the clutch: Brogdon scored 22 points in the second half. Brogdon topped 20 points against Belmont the next week, which marked the first back-to-back 20-point games of his career. Can he produce more of these scoring barrages in his senior season? Virginia's title hopes, and Brogdon's ultimate college basketball legacy, may depend on it.