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Kihei Clark officially returning for fifth season

The point guard who won a National Championship back in 2019 will utilize his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility to return for a fifth season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 09 ACC Tournament - Virginia v Louisville Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kihei Clark has officially announced that he will be returning for a fifth year with the Virginia Cavaliers for the 2022-2023 college basketball season. With four years under his belt, Clark will be utilizing the NCAA’s blanket extra year of eligibility for players who played in the COVID-19 shortened 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons.

Clark’s return will no doubt be controversial in the UVA basketball world. He’s undoubtedly a Virginia great who was instrumental in the NCAA Championship run in 2019. But while he’s continued to be a huge contributor the past three seasons, his sometimes inconsistent play can earn him harsh criticism at times.

So far in his career Clark is averaging 8.5 points per game to go with 4.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds. He’s a career 34.8% three-point shooter while also converting 80.8% of his free throws in four seasons. Clark also boasts a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio in his four years in the orange and blue.

Clark being on the roster next year is an interesting prospect. On the one hand, he brings plenty of big game experience that will be valuable for next year’s squad as it was this season’s. He does tend to make big plays in the biggest moments and has improved over the years so that he can play in multiple roles.

That said his presence will likely stunt the opportunities for younger players. Notably, fellow point guard Reece Beekman will go yet another year without truly taking the reins. Considering Beekman’s size-able upside and the jump he made in his second year, it’s a shame that he won’t be able to take things over next season.

Of course, that’s not to say that Clark is unwilling to share the spotlight. The two played unexpectedly well together this past year. Ideally, Tony Bennett will continue to put more responsibility on Beekman’s plate even with Clark still on the floor.

As for roster construction, this now means that UVA has 11 of 13 scholarship spots filled for next season. They’re likely still to target two additions in the transfer portal — a guard who can shoot and some sort of hybrid forward — as Clark’s return has been expected to happen for a little while now. That also means that one and potentially two of the incoming 2022 class will be redshirting as Leon Bond and Ryan Dunn are the most likely options.

Lastly, this means that UVA’s starting lineup and sixth man will all be coming back for more next year. That’s an odd position to be in since this group didn’t necessarily live up to the program’s expectations last season. But, hopefully with a few additions in the transfer portal, growth from the returners, and some contributions from the incoming class, the 2022-2023 Virginia basketball team can get the program back on track.