The NCAA announced on Monday that Virginia Cavaliers forward Braxton Key has received a hardship waiver and is immediately eligible to play for the Cavaliers this season after transferring from the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty reported in June that UVA would appeal to the NCAA on Key’s behalf due to an ill family member who might not be able to see Key play after this season.
Key’s availability provides much-needed bench depth for a team that is loaded on the front end but doesn’t have much in the way of experience deeper in the rotation. The Charlotte native averaged seven points and 5.3 rebounds for a Crimson Tide team that went to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year. As a freshman, he averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds.
The main question now: Exactly how much will Key be able to contribute this season? Alabama finished 20th nationally in defensive efficiency last year, according to KenPom, and was 302nd in the country for adjusted tempo. So playing on a slower and defensive-minded unit is far from a novel concept for Key, but no program in the country plays slower or keys in more on the defensive side of the ball than Virginia does. The intricacies of the Pack Line defense are difficult for any player to learn, and defensive proficiency is a non-negotiable for Tony Bennett.
Unless Key simply can’t pick up the concepts of the Pack Line, he will play a big role in the rotation. With Marco Anthony or Mamadi Diakite the first player off the bench depending on Bennett’s starting lineup, Key could be second with Francesco Badocchi, Jay Huff, and perhaps Kihei Clark all figuring into the equation.
Virginia’s 2018-19 season starts Nov. 6 when the Hoos welcome Towson to John Paul Jones Arena.