Following the 2015-16 campaign, the Virginia basketball team will bid farewell to a quartet of key players, who have helped raise the program to the top of the ACC. Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Evan Nolte will be sorely missed, but have no fear Wahoo Nation, reinforcements are on the way.
Next year, head coach Tony Bennett will welcome his highest-rated recruiting class to date to Charlottesville. Virginia's four-man 2016 recruiting class consisting of Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jay Huff, and DeAnre Hunter is ranked among the best in the country, including as high as sixth overall by both Rivals and 247sports.com.
The high ranked as even more impressive considering that the Hoos' top-rated prospect for 2016 Mamadi Diakite reclassified, and joined the team a year early. With Diakite enrolling a year early and former blue chipper Austin Nichols transferring in from Memphis, the Cavaliers were able to hit the wing positions hard for the class of 2016. There is no shortage of offensive firepower in this class, and this group will be able to hurt teams in a variety of ways.
Let's take a closer look at the next crop of Virginia basketball stars.
Ty Jerome ****
New Rochelle NY (Iona Prep)
Tony Bennet decided to cast a wide net and offer quite a few point guards for the class of 2016, but in the end, the reigning two-time ACC Coach of the Year zeroed in on Jerome. The New York native was receptive to all of the love shown his way, and decided to commit to the Orange and Blue on September 2, 2014. Jerome was not the highest-rated of the aforementioned point guard targets, but his play during the 2015 season and offseason made Bennett look smarter every single day. The Iona Prep standout led his team to a deep postseason run this past March, averaging video-game like numbers along the way. As impressive as he was during the high school season, Jerome really took off during the AAU circuit over the summer. From the NBPA Top 100 Camp in JPJ to the Nike Basketball Academy in California, Jerome turned heads pretty much every time he took the court.
if you're a fan of London Perrantes, than you will love Jerome's game. Jerome's on-court vision is off the charts, and the future Wahoo can hit opponents all over the court with his pinpoint passes. Like Perrantes, Jerome is far more than just a floor general. The senior can light it up from midrange and from beyond the arc. Opposing defenders can ill-afford to play too far off of Jerome, and risk the talentd guard burying a deep three-pointer.
In short, Jerome is the prototypical Tony Bennett point guard, and he will have a year to learn under Perrantes. Bennett likes having multiple ball handlers on the floor at the same time, and Jerome could possibly see some time at the two, playing alongside Perrantes.
Kyle Guy ****
Indianapolis IN (Lawrence Central)
Guy still has another season left of high school basketball, but the athletic shooting guard is already a fan favorite among Wahoo nation. Ever since he committed to UVa on October 20, 2014, Guy has carried the flag on social media for the class of 2016. Regarded as one of the top shooters in the entire country, Guy has scorched nets all over the country, and like Jerome, the Indiana native saw his stock soar over the summer. Guy had Twitter buzzing at pretty much every talent showcase he attended this summer, and especially turned heads at the NBPA Camp in Charlottesville. The sharpshooting Guy was named to the Camp's All-Star team following multiple double-digit scoring games at his future home. Guy received rave reviews all throughout the summer, and has climbed to number-59 overall in the Rivals Top 150 rankings. The
It is no secret that the one thing that this Virginia basketball team has been missing is a pure shooter, and Guy fills that void, and then some. In addition to being able to light it up from beyond the arc, Guy is capable of taking it coast to coast, and makes up for his lack of size with his relentless pursuit of the basket. Guy is primary a two-guard, but is capable of playing both on and off the ball. Look for Bennett to get creative in the future on offense with both Guy and Jerome on the floor together.
Jay Huff ***
Durham NC (Voyager Academy)
Bennett, Joe Harris, and Jay Huff… What do they all have in common? They are all sons of coaches. Bennett is a big-time fan of having sons of coaches on the team, and the seventh-year head Wahoo added one in Huff. Son of Voyager Academy head coach Mike Huff, Jay Huff helped lead the Vikings to a 29-3 record in 2015. The younger Huff is match-up nightmare on the perimeter, with his ability to shoot over the top of opposing defenses. Huff is the prototypical "stretch-four" and has a unique ability to knock down outside shots for a guy his size. The near-seven-footer has a quick release and a good first step when facing the basket.
Huff suffered a broken finger in early June, which slowed him down for nearly six weeks. As soon as he got healthy, Huff decided to spend the summer working on his own game, rather than hitting the AAU circuit. The lanky big man is up to 190 pounds, and will spend this season attempting to add more weight, and getting accustomed to playing with the added size.
Huff has the frame to add even more bulk, and the Durham native will need to do so to be able to play in the ACC. The three-star big man will allow UVa to stretch opposing defenses in the future, but look for Huff to redshirt in 2016-17.
DeAndre Hunter ****
Wynnewood PA (Friends Central School)
With enough shooters to sink a ship, Bennett was determined to close out the class of 2016 with an athletic wing. Mere hours after the Virginia football team suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Notre Dame, Hunter provided the Wahoo nation with a little cheer. Hunter, who was enjoying his official visit to grounds, decided to cancel several upcoming trips, and commit to UVa on the spot.
While Guy and Jerome increased their gradually over the winter, spring, and summer, Hunter's recruitment went from 0-100 in a month's time. In mid-July, Hunter exploded at the Under Armour Association Finals in Georgia, and the college coaches came calling in droves. In the days that followed Hunter's big-time performance, the talented wing added offers from Virginia Maryland, Villanova, Georgetown, and Notre Dame among others in a span of two weeks.
Like Huff, Hunter will need to add bulk, but his athleticism will allow him to see the floor early in his career. Hunter is a difficult match-up at the 'three' and will be able to take advantage of smaller opposing wings. The four-star forward is a good shooter, but Hunter is best renowned for his ability to get to the rack and finish. As seen in the film above, Hunter will be bringing many high-light-reel quality plays to JPJ in the near future.
With Nichols and Diakite combined with four top recruits, Bennett and company did a masterful job of restocking the program with talent in what appeared to be a rebuilding year in 2016-17. Virginia is recruiting at an elite level, but the crazy thing is, these elite prospects are going to have to scratch and claw for playing time. Perrantes will be the unquestioned starting point guard, and Darius Thompson and Devon Hall could be in the mix to bring the ball up, leaving Jerome well-behind the veterans. In addition, between Marial Shayok, Hall, and Thompson, there is plenty of talent already at the wing positions. Guy is probably the best shooter of the bunch and Hunter is ultra-athletic, but the two rookies will trail the current Cavaliers in experience by two or three years.
In years past, Virginia could promise early playing time to top recruits, and the Hoos would depend on the rookies for 30-mins per game right off the bat. We live in a world now where this Cavalier roster is stacked with former blue chippers, spread out evenly among under and upperclassmen.
This program is not going anywhere any time soon. Buckle up Cavalier fans… The fun is just getting started.