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Four question marks for Virginia basketball’s offseason

There are plenty of unknowns as the ‘Hoos hit the offseason.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 ACC Tournament - North Carolina v Virginia Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Virginia Cavaliers’ loss to the St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Tuesday, UVA now hits the offseason with plenty of question marks for the short and long term future.

Which seniors stick around for year five?

Determining which seniors among Kihei Clark, Jayden Gardner, and Kody Stattmann will return for a fifth season and utilize their extra year of COVID-19 eligibility will come first.

There’s an understanding that Stattmann will be moving on, while it also appears that Gardner is set to return. He was non-committal when asked after the St. Bonaventure loss, but his absence from senior day ceremonies alone implies that he’ll be back in Charlottesville next season.

The big question is what Kihei Clark does. Over the last year or so there’s been whispers of his plans that seem to have jumped back and forth all the time. Now, it sounds like Clark is planning to be coming back for a fifth year in the orange and blue.

He did take part in the senior day ceremonies and allowed UVA to honor him as though he’d be leaving. Nevertheless, he’s never definitively said nor really implied that he saw this to be his final season.

Who hits the portal?

It’s never fun to talk about, but the nature of college basketball in today’s age is that there will almost always be transfers out for each team. This Wahoo group is no different. Especially since Bennett limited his rotation to seven guys with a number of young guys on the outside looking in, there are a dew guys likely at risk of jumping.

This is solely speculation, but the three guys who stand out in that sense would be Carson McCorkle, Taine Murray, and Igor Milicic Jr. McCorkle is potentially the one with the highest potential risk factor since he’s now spent two non-redshirt seasons in Charlottesville without truly scratching rotational minutes. It would make sense if he wanted to look elsewhere for more opportunities, but still could stick around and earn a chance to contribute next season.

Earlier Friday morning preferred walk-on Malachi Poindexter announced his entry into the transfer portal which isn’t much of a surprise. As he earned minutes this season as a walk-on, he’ll be looking for as scholarship offer at a smaller D-1 school.

Who does Virginia look to bring in through the portal?

Those first two questions will determine this one as it’s to be determined what Virginia needs to get in the transfer portal. If Clark and Gardner are back, that means that UVA would have all 13 scholarships filled without transfers out.

That’s including the four 2022 commits who’ll be joining the squad this summer. Even with Leon Bond likely to redshirt, that’s still a stacked roster of 12 guys who will be expecting to compete for playing time.

Of course, with at least one scholarship transfer out likely, that does leave room for a transfer in, but does Tony Bennett want to stack the roster that much? Since the implementation of the immediate transfer rule he’s looked to limit roster size to try and prevent transfers out and maintain a limited roster that he can build with. We saw the ill-effects of using 13 scholarships after three guys transferred out after last season.

So, that means it will probably take at least two transfers out to generate significant interest in the portal. Back when there was the expectation that Clark would leave along with potential transfers there was a likelihood that UVA would seek an experienced combo guard in the portal.

That’s less likely now with Clark’s potential return. That said, the ‘Hoos do need to add shooting and could still be looking for a depth piece or — if someone of significant quality comes available — a difference maker

If there was to be a surprise transfer out maybe in the front-court then UVA could be in the market for an Akil Mitchel type hybrid big who could provide defensive and rotational versatility. That was lacking this season and Bennett would surely love additional lineup mobility.

What happens with 2023 recruiting?

With all the transfer and super senior drama, it’s natural that 2023 recruiting is at the back of the mind at the moment. But, after such a stacked 2022 class, UVA is looking to supplement that group with a few more elite talents.

Most notably, four star point guard London Johnson is the primary target. It’s appeared that Johnson has had his mind made up for quite a while and indications point to good news for Virginia. Of course, that’s never assured and he’s been taking his time to make his announcement. The other teams in his final six are North Carolina, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and Southern California.

Getting Johnson would be absolutely huge for UVA. Bennett loves to find his guy at point guard, and Johnson absolutely is that. The Georgia state champion has length, height, scoring ability at all three levels, and a great basketball mind especially as a passer.

Outside of Johnson, UVA will hope to add a hybrid big man. Before he blew up, Gregory Jackson had been that guy. Now, it’s unclear who the Wahoo staff will look to next. But they’ll look for a big who can play both the four or five in a bit of the Mamadi Diakite mold.

Otherwise, UVA could look for the next best player, potentially on the wing, to add to a class of Johnson and a big man. Of course, there’s no guarantee especially with how transfers can take up spots that recruits could fill.

Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn as we head into the offseason. There’s plenty of news to drop and tons of postseason discussions to be had as UVA looks to build a roster to improve on this mediocre season.