Dear Tony Bennett,
Hi. It’s me again. Here is some unsolicited advice on what do to with that one roster spot that remains for next season from, well, someone who has never coached a day in my life. But I like basketball and I like the ‘Hoos so here we are. Picking up 6’8 forward Sam Hauser from Marquette was a good get for the front court — although he’ll have to sit out one season to play the next — but for right now, let’s talk about getting Kihei Clark some immediately available help running the floor. That’s our focus. Incoming four-star shooting guard Casey Morsell should be capable of contributing off the bat, but with Marco Anthony’s presumptive transfer, we’re still lacking a little thing called depth in the backcourt. How can we fix that problem? Funny you should ask!
Here’s the thing, Virginia could go for a guy like Quentin Grimes–a 6’5, 210-pound transfer guard from Kansas who was a top-10 prospect in the 2018 class, but the reality is that you guys need depth at the guard position and you need it now. Sit-out transfers don’t really do a whole lot for the upcoming season, hence the reason I’m about to talk about transfers who would be immediately eligible (either potential graduate transfers or those approved to play for a new team in 2019-20 for other reasons, ex: our boy Braxton Key). While many of the top backcourt transfers on the market like Texas A&M’s Admon Gilder (now committed to Gonzaga) and Charleston Southern’s Christian Keeling (committed to Carolina) have already pledged their allegiance to another program, there are a few players still worth conversation and consideration.
Quick recap of the team’s roster before we begin: Virginia lost Kyle Guy (15.4 PPG) and Ty Jerome (13.6 PPG, 5.5 APG) in the back and De’Andre Hunter (15.2 PPG) on the wing to the draft. Big man and resident meat stick Jack Salt exhausted his 10th year of eligibility (3.7 PPG and RPG) and guard Marco Anthony intends to transfer. Virginia has two returning starters in sophomore point guard Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite, the latter of which gave everyone a scare when he tested the draft waters and then waited until 45 minutes before the deadline to withdraw. Braxton Key and Jay Huff, who also saw minutes last season, add another pair of returners up front. Then we’ve got forward Francesco Badocchi and guard Kody Stattmann who both saw super limited minutes, and redshirt freshman Francisco Caffaro who can slot in for Salt at center all available to fill in on the floor.
The incoming class includes the aforementioned Casey Morsell, a talented four-star shooting guard who can slot in for Guy (who happens to be very physically similar to the Final Four MOP at 6’2” and a whole 175 pounds), center Kadin Shedrick (the country’s No. 70 recruit), small forward Justin McKoy and junior college guard Tomas Woldetensae. So while there are a few backcourt options coming to Charlottesville this season, having veteran help on the floor is never a bad thing.
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s take a look at four possible additions to Tony Bennett’s team who could play for Virginia in 2019-20.
1) Anthony Mathis: Shooting guard, New Mexico
Mathis, a grad transfer, has been one of the best perimeter shooters in college basketball the last two seasons. A lanky 6’3, 175 pounds, Mathis shot 47.3% from three his junior season and 41.6% his senior on his way to averaging 14.4 points per game for the Lobos. Given that Tony Bennett’s best sharp shooters, Jerome and Guy, are gone–Mathis could be Bennett’s next big threat from deep. Drawback: Mathis isn’t necessarily the best at creating his own shot. If Bennett wants a pure shooter, Mathis could be a good fit, but if he wants a more versatile combo guard to relieve Clark when necessary, he may look elsewhere. UPDATE: Mathis has committed to Oregon. Cross that name off the list.
2) Derryck Thornton Jr.: Point guard, USC
Though he doesn’t quite have Ty Jerome’s size, Thornton Jr. still fills in at 6’3, 195-pounds–decent size for a point guard who could come in as a potential starter or immediate backup for Clark. The former five-star recruit began his career at Duke before transferring to USC in his hometown of Los Angeles, Calif. Thornton averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 assists per game and shot 28.6% from deep, dipping below 30% for the first time in his college career. While he isn’t quite the sharpshooting type that Tony normally targets, Thornton Jr., is an athletic asset that any backcourt could certainly benefit from.
3) Curtis Jones: Shooting guard, Oklahoma State
Jones, a 6’4, 185-pound Richmond native, is not yet technically a grad transfer. But! There’s a reason he’s on this list: Jones is attempting to graduate this summer to be able to play immediately next season as a graduate transfer. The Cowboys’ guard shot 32.5% from deep and 33.9% from the field last year during his only season at Oklahoma State (Jones began his collegiate career at Indiana) and averaged 8.1 points and 3.0 rebounds through 23 appearances. With a little extra length that could help defensively, Jones is capable at posing a threat from both the perimeter and in the paint which is more in line with what Coach tends to look for in a player. Never having seen starters minutes, however, Jones likely isn’t an addition who would slot in as one of Bennett’s first five but he could be a solid sixth man off the bench.
4) Donte Fitzpatick-Dorsey: Shooting guard, Tennessee State
Tennessee State’s leading scorer could be the guy Tony Bennett is looking for. The 6’4, 191-pound sharp shooter sunk 38.1% of his shots from three last season to go with a nice 44.6% from the field as he averaged 14.3 points per game, 5.4 boards and 1.5 assists. Fitzpatrick-Dorsey has good size for a shooting guard (which is always a bonus when your starting point guard is all of 5’9” and not even 160 pounds soaking wet) and is athletic. He can shoot from all over the floor and could serve as another asset from the perimeter for Virginia.
That’s my two cents. Happy Friday, ‘Hoos.