Fresh on the heels of getting a commitment from Argentinian big man Francisco Caffaro, the Virginia Basketball recruiting staff picked up another front court player in Braxton Key. A transfer from Alabama, the 6-8, 225 pound Key could add more depth for the Hoos.
Alabama transfer Braxton Key told ESPN he has committed to Virginia. Big pickup for Tony Bennett & Co.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 6, 2018
As a transfer, Key will have to sit out the 2018-19 season and will have two years of eligibility in Charlottesville.
Folks that stay up on the Virginia recruiting scene may recognize the name as Coach Bennett and the Hoos recruited Key hard, but that ended when De’Andre Hunter committed to Virginia (which has turned out ok so far). He also has some Virginia ties as the nephew of the legendary Ralph Sampson and is reportedly good friends with current Hoo Kyle Guy.
Key was expected to go to Miami for an official visit, but did not make the trip after what was clearly a successful visit with Coach Bennett and the staff.
Key played his senior season of high school at Oak Hill in Virginia where he was a four star recruit and a favorite of his former coach, Steve Smith.
Steve Smith REALLY, REALLY likes Braxton Key and thinks he'd be a great fit.— Douglas Doughty (@DoughtySports) May 3, 2018
A knee injury kept Key off the court for the first 10 games last season, but he saw action in 26 games and started 17. He finished with an average of seven points and 5.3 rebounds per game in just over 25 minutes per game.
His shooting percentages are a bit of a concern as he 41% from the field and made just 16 of the attempted 64 three pointers he tried (25%). When you take the three point attempts out of those numbers, he was 52% from the field, which almost identical to Hunter’s 52.5% for last season.
In advanced stats, his eFG% of 45.9% is better than Nigel Johnson’s (44.1%), but behind Isaiah Wilkins’s 49.4%. Those numbers are also affected by his high percentage of taken threes (he took one less three than he had overall made field goals).
His game in the paint is strong and he has solid moves to shake defenders. He is the same height and five pounds lighter than former UVA big man Anthony Gill, the best offensive threat in the post they’ve had in several seasons.
As a freshman at Alabama, Key was named to the SEC All-Freshman team as he averaged 12 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and shot 43% from the field and 33% from three. His second year numbers declining slightly could be a result of the knee injury, or just some struggles from the three point line.
Check out these clips from his freshman season:
Key appears to be an outstanding addition to the Cavaliers as he could be prime to fill in to the hole Hunter will likely leave as he departs for the NBA after next season.
Other Recruiting Notes
- St. Anne’s-Belfield’s Jayden Nixon will be joining the Cavaliers as a preferred walk-on in the fall. As a senior at STAB, Nixon averaged 20.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, then spent a year in Connecticut at Choate Rosemary Hall before deciding to return home.
- Five star point guard Josiah James has been getting a lot of attention from Coach Bennett and the Cavaliers. Adam Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG said Virginia, along with South Carolina, Clemson, Texas, and Florida, have been recruiting the 6-6 combo guard the hardest.
On Virginia, James said that Coach Bennett, “loves my ability to play defense. He definitely thinks I could fit in well with his system.”
His wishes for what he wants in a program fits Virginia to a T. “First off, it comes down to education.” James told Zagoria. “I want to find a place where I can exceed on the court and in the classroom, so I can get a degree because I can’t play basketball forever.”
He continued, saying:
“Another thing that is high on my list, is the relationship I have with the coaches and the coaching staff. I don’t want to go to college and stay the same that I am right now. I want to get better each and every day. I’m going to need coaches, who are going to be honest with me through constructive criticism. Those are probably the two main things.”
James is the No. 29 overall player in the 2019 class according to 247Sports. He doesn’t plan to commit until after his AAU play this summer, but he’s a name to keep an eye on.