With Trey Murphy getting picked 17th overall in the 2021 NBA draft, the 2021-2022 Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball roster is essentially set in stone. The transfer season is just about over, and while there’s always the slim possibility of a late class of 2022 commit re-classing to join the ‘Hoos in the fall, that’s unlikely to be of any significant impact for this upcoming season.
Now that we have a clear picture of the ten scholarship players on board for the 2021-2022 basketball season, it’s time to start evaluating what this team will look like come November.
As of now, the projected starting lineup and full depth chart for next season is fairly straightforward.
‘21-’22 UVA Basketball Projected Depth Chart
|I. Milicic Jr.
The projected starting lineup
Whether it’s the best fit or not, Clark and Beekman will be paired together in the backcourt once again and should be splitting point guard duties. Granted, there is potential that — with a breakout second season from Beekman — the Wisconsin native could seize control of the offense and relegate Clark to more off-ball duties. Nevertheless, they’ll start the season as they finished last — playing together in the backcourt.
Sliding down to play small forward will be Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin. He’s got the size and length to play as the prototypical big guard in Tony Bennett’s system and will be asked to be the team’s lockdown defender on the wing. Offensively, Franklin can be of great service to the two point guards and will be able to run the offense at times as well. He’s very flexible positionally and should be a Swiss army knife for Bennett to experiment with in the backcourt as he’ll also provide much needed shooting and scoring abilities.
At the four will be East Carolina transfer, Jayden Gardner. Likely the program’s best inside scorer since Anthony Gill, Gardner will be tasked with producing a great deal of offense from the power forward position. He’ll also likely see time playing as a small-ball center, but that’s more dependent on how a number of other players fare playing as a small-ball power forward.
Then, starting at center will most likely be Kadin Shedrick. Set to be in his third year in the program, the Holly Springs native has dealt with numerous injuries and illnesses through his first two seasons. That said, he’s got incredible potential on both ends of the floor and showed flashes through non-conference play last season that indicate the type of player he could be. Of note, Virginia’s lack of interest in centers in the transfer market points to the coaching staff’s confidence in Shedrick as the starter for the 2021-2022 season.
Looking past those first five, there is a real dearth of experience playing at the college level. In fact, Kody Stattmann — despite barely playing his first year in Charlottesville and then being sidelined throughout most of last season with health concerns — has the most experience of the remaining rotational pieces.
Murphy’s decision to leave will likely benefit Stattmann the most of anybody as he’ll be tasked with providing minutes off the bench at the three and four. He’s not going to provide much wow factor, but he’s comfortable and capable in the defense and doesn’t make too many mistakes offensively. If he can start hitting consistently from behind the arc he has the potential to carve out a more significant role.
The second most veteran presence of this group, Francisco Caffaro will be counted on to provide much needed front-court depth. While he’ll likely lose out to Shedrick for the starting role off of pure talent alone, the Argentinian will be critical to the team’s success as the ‘Hoos are fairly thin in the front-court.
If Caffaro can simply give quality rotational minutes, that’s all that’s necessary. He won’t be asked to do a ton offensively, so as long as he’s not exploitable defensively and is mobile enough to contend with Virginia’s physically-demanding expectations for its bigs he’ll be a good piece for the ‘Hoos off the bench.
Back to the backcourt, second year Carson McCorkle has a prime opportunity to establish himself this upcoming season. The sharpshooter from Greensboro could be the quintessential backcourt bench piece for this team if he can fit in defensively and then hit the shots he’s known to hit offensively.
Of course, there’s also first year Taine Murray who will be looking to fill a similar role to McCorkle. Granted, Murray provides a bit more physicality and athleticism on the wing. It’ll take a bit of time for him to adjust — it always does for international kids — but he should be able to provide some solid “three-and-d” rotational minutes as a big guard.
The other true freshman on the squad, Igor Milicic Jr. likely provides a higher ceiling, lower floor alternative to Kody Stattmann. He’ll likely get opportunities to play on the perimeter, but should also see some time as a small ball four. His adjustment on the defensive side of the ball is the big question mark for his potential first year impact, but he’s got the tools offensively to help this team.
All in all, this is a young roster that has spent very little time playing together. Really, Clark and Beekman are the only returning rotational players from last season and, frankly, their lack of cohesion playing together last season was an issue that plagued that team and has the potential to do the same for this one.
That said, there’s still a good deal of talent here. The additions of Gardner and Franklin are significant and each of those guys are capable of having All-ACC caliber seasons and really leading this team.
Milicic Jr. and Murray, while green, are both very talented as well. If they can efficiently integrate themselves into the Virginia system they could each provide meaningful contributions on the offensive side of the ball because they have the talent to do so.
But where next year’s team will either make it or break it will be in the form of second year jumps from Beekman, Shedrick, and McCorkle.
Those three will determine this squad’s ceiling. If Beekman and Shedrick have breakout seasons, this team is going to be at or near the top of the ACC and potentially even within a shout of the national stage. If not, it’s still a good roster but there are going to need to be a number of breakout seasons for this squad to reach the heights that have become expected of this program.