With Sunday’s 79-62 victory against Wake Forest, Virginia basketball has reached the midway point of its season. At 12-3, and 2-2 in ACC play, the Hoos are off to a solid start, though their have been some minor speed bumps along the way. It’s too early to project what needs to happen for UVa to contend for the ACC crown, but we’re grading each player’s performance through the first half of the campaign and taking a look at what has and hasn’t worked thus far.
(Per Game Averages: 5.2 Points, 3.0 Rebounds, 1.6 Blocks)
Diakite’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but the redshirt freshman has made an immediate impact in his first 15 games. Diakite is already the one of the Hoos’ best interior defenders, leading the team in blocks and bringing an unprecedented level of athleticism to UVa’s backline. While his offense is still a work in progress, he’s shown great shooting touch for his size and is shooting 38% from 3 on the year. Diakite is still prone to the occasional missed rotation on defense and lacks any semblance of a post move, but his potential is undeniable.
(Per Game Averages: 8.7 Points, 1.5 Assists, 51% 3Pt%)
Admittedly he’s not yet a great on-ball defender, but Kyle Guy is the most offensively talented freshman Tony Bennett has ever had. Despite only playing just over 18 minutes per game, Guy remains third on the team in scoring and has scored in double figures in four of Virginia’s last seven games. He’s already an expert at using screens to free himself and his absurd 51% three-point percentage ranks in the top 15 nationally. If the past two games, 4 points on a combined 1-11 shooting against Wake and Pitt, prove to just be a blip and not an early freshman wall, this grade could get even higher.
(Per Game Averages: 7.5 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 85% FT%)
Admittedly I didn’t expect to give Hall a grade this high when I began this column, but he’s had a quietly impressive season. After a slow start, Hall has scored in double figures in five of the past six games, including all four of UVa’s ACC contests. Hall has been noticeably more aggressive on the offensive end this year and he’s done so without sacrificing his defense and contributing on the glass, ranking second on the team in rebounds per game. He’s making the leap many predicted this preseason.
(Per Game Averages: 1.9 Points, 1.3 Assists, 50% FG%)
This is not an indictment of Jerome’s potential, he’s still just a true freshman and his eight minutes per game are the fewest of anyone on this list, but this season has been less than stellar. Jerome has failed to score in four of Virginia’s past five games, and has taken only two shots in the last 29 minutes he’s spent on the floor. It’s not that Jerome lacks an offensive game, he just lacks confidence. Too often the ball stops when it touches his hands and he never seems to be remotely looking to score unless he stumbles into an opening as he did against Wake Forest. Defensively...there’s nothing positive to mention. Barring injuries or blowouts, Jerome’s playing time should be limited going forward.
(Per Game Averages: 11.0 Points, 3.0 Rebounds, 100% FT%)
The Preseason All-American hype may have been misguided.
(Per Game Averages: 11.3 Points, 41% 3Pt%, 2.47 Ast:TO Ratio)
Perrantes was the recipient of some (unwarranted) criticism following UVa’s losses to Florida State and Pitt, but seems to have quieted the doubters with a 24 point outburst against Wake Forest. Perrantes leads the team in scoring, has improved his field goal percentage from last season, and has maintained a virtually identical Assist:Turnover ratio, all while assuming a larger leadership role as the squad’s lone senior. This team will go as far as London takes it.
(Per Game Averages: 6.1 Points, 3.5 Rebounds, 63% FG%)
On the one hand, Reuter leads the Cavaliers in field goal percentage, is the only interior player who seems comfortable creating his own shot on the block and is shooting 81% from the free throw line, good for third on the team and by far the best of any post player. On the other hand, he’s a below-average defender whose lack of foot speed catches up to him when he tries to hedge on ball screens and when he does receive the ball on the block it tends to stay there, he’s averaging just 0.8 assists per game. Add those two together and you get a solid but not spectacular player. C+ it is.
(Per Game Averages: 4.6 Points, 3.8 Rebounds, 2.5 Fouls)
As a redshirt sophomore Salt is still exhibiting a lot of the limitations he showed during his freshman campaign. Offensively, Salt continues to rely almost exclusively on putbacks for his points as his jump hooks lack the requisite touch and consistently clang off the back of the rim. Defensively, Salt’s size is useful but he remains a foul machine. He’s averaging one foul every 3.9 minutes over Virginia’s last five games, a blatantly absurd statistic that provides insight into his limited playing time. Until Salt can get his foul trouble under control, his upside will remain limited.
(Per Game Averages: 9.2 Points, 0.9 Steals, 33% 3Pt%)
Shayok is probably the hardest player to grade on this year’s team. The junior ranks second on the team in scoring while playing just 18 minutes per game, has scored in double figures in each of UVa’s past three games, and is one of only two Hoos, along with London Perrantes, consistently capable of creating their own shot on the offensive end. Unlike Perrantes, too many of Shayok’s creations culminate in an off-balance runner or a contested jumper early in the shot clock. If he can work on picking his spots, and improve his three point percentage a bit, Shayok can become a focal point of the Cavalier offense.
(Per Game Averages: 7.5 Points, 48% FG%, 40% 3Pt%)
There hasn’t been anything wrong with Thompson’s season to date, he just hasn’t had quite as good of a season as his backcourt running mates. Thompson remains dangerous in transition and his three point stroke has improved vastly from last year, but he continues to struggle from the free throw line (60% on the season) and his turnovers are up markedly. Ultimately, he’s a good change of pace guard who brings another level of athleticism but the numbers don’t yet match his potential.
(Per Game Averages: 5.0 Rebounds, 1.5 Steals, 1.5 Blocks)
It’s fitting that Wilkins is the only player on this list who per game averages don’t include points, as his value to the team consists primarily in doing everything except scoring. Wilkins is Virginia’s most versatile defender, an expert at the hedge and recover required by big men in the Packline and capable of defending any position on the floor in a pinch. He leads the team in rebounding and steals and is the only Cavalier averaging at least one board, steal, block, and assist per game. Wilkins’ offense is still a work in progress which keeps him from getting an A, but his jump shot has started to come around and he’s shooting 57% on (mostly uncontested) threes. He’ll never be the post threat that Anthony Gill was, but Wilkins is critical to the Hoos’ success.
Agree? Disagree? Think I’m crazy? Feel free to let me know in the comments.