Graduation has come and gone — and with it went some of Virginia’s most impressive individual athletes. But where did the Class of 2018 end up? We happen to keep uncomfortably close tabs on such individuals, so we’ve got you covered. Here’s a look at some of the ‘Hoos taking on the world of professional sports.
Baseball’s former Friday night ace Derek Casey was drafted in the ninth round by the Chicago Cubs—who had their sights set on Casey five years ago as a senior in high school—and is now playing for the Cubs Single-A affiliate in Eugene, Ore.
“I’m thankful for the way UVA has prepared me for this next journey in my life,” Casey said. “I face many challenges in professional baseball and UVA has equipped me with the tools to be successful.”
The right-hander was not the only pitcher to graduate and move on to the minor leagues. Bennett Sousa went in the tenth round to the Chicago White Sox and is now with their Single-A affiliate in Kannapolis and reliever Mack Meyer signed with the San Francisco Giants and has reported to their Class-A affiliate, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Former Cavalier catcher Caleb Knight is playing with the Chicago Cubs rookie team in Arizona. All four were part of Brian O’Connor’s 2015 College World Series championship team.
Tony Bennett’s Devon Hall—who graduated in 2017 but stayed for his fifth year of eligibility to complete a masters—was taken 53rd overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Draft. After a solid showing in summer league, it looks like Hall might be staying in OKC, at least for the time being. Isaiah Wilkins, the GOAT of pack line defense, is spending some time in Charlotte with the Hornets, with whom he signed a training camp deal.
OFFICIAL: The Hornets have signed guard Jaylen Barford and forwards Zach Smith and Isaiah Wilkins to the team’s training camp roster #BuzzCity https://t.co/Rngk4wki9G pic.twitter.com/Kh1JlRaK6f— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) July 26, 2018
Tara Vittese, former field hockey midfielder and three-time National Player of the Year, earned a spot on the U.S. Women’s National Team in March and decided to join the team full-time after graduating in May. She’s playing alongside her older sister Michelle, a three-time All-American and 2013 Virginia graduate.
“It’s been a busy summer, but an enjoyable and eye-opening experience,” Vittese said. “I’ve been to both Argentina and now London during these two months and I’ve been able to learn more about the game of field hockey and more about myself as an athlete and a person. It hasn’t been easy, but post-graduation is when the real challenges present themselves and it’s all about the opportunities you are given.”
Football’s Micah Kiser (ILB) and pal Andrew Brown (DE) were both drafted in Round 5 of this spring’s NFL draft. Kiser went to the Los Angeles Rams as the 147th overall pick and Brown went shortly after to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Kurt Benkert (QB), who graduated from ECU in 2016, completed graduate school at UVA and then signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons while Quin Blanding (S) signed with the Washington Redskins and Andre Levrone (WR) was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens, both also as UDFA’s. All three will have to stand the test of time—ahem, training camp—to see what comes next. The Falcons started on the 27th of July, Redskins on the 26th, and Ravens on the 18th.
“It has been a dream come true to be part of such a great organization here in Atlanta,” Benkert said. “To be able to learn from two great veterans, one being a future Hall-of-Famer, and one that has been in the League way longer than most is a great opportunity. And to have another head coach that is a great leader and teacher is awesome.”
Benkert added that “a lot of the principles here are similar to when I was at Virginia, so it has been a really enjoyable transition into the culture within this building.”
Scott Hooper of the men’s lacrosse team is working full-time in banking but is playing some Major League Lacrosse on the side with the Charlotte Hounds, who drafted the defenseman in the fourth round this spring.
With the 28th overall pick in the @MLL_Lacrosse draft, the Hounds select Scott Hooper!— Charlotte Hounds (@CharlotteMLL) April 19, 2018
Men’s soccer goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell, a December graduate, signed with the New York City FC, who drafted the North Carolina native in the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
Women’s basketball small forward Aliyah Huland El is going to Empoli, a small Italian suburb outside of Tuscany, to play professional basketball with U.S.E.
“I had about three viable options when it came time to make a decision,” Huland El said. “My family, agent and I decided the organization in Italy was ideal for me. I can’t wait to experience the culture and lifestyle in Italy, while playing the sport I love most. I am so grateful for this opportunity and [am] eager to experience life in Italy!”
The Class of 2018 is not short on athletes to keep track of in the pros, that’s for sure. If you want closer tabs on what the football guys are doing at camp, we’ve got you covered there as well.