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Consistency is the key for Virginia’s Kadin Shedrick to unlock his potential

After a season of high highs and low lows, the athletic big man needs to iron out a sometimes-erratic play style

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

After their first season without an NCAA tournament berth since 2013, the Virginia Cavaliers are currently set to return seven scholarship players: Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, Kadin Shedrick, Francisco Caffaro, and Taine Murray.

In this season review series, we’ll take a look back at each player’s performance this year and where each of them stands. At the end, we’ll wrap it up by discussing expectations for each player next season.

Last time, we focused on Indiana transfer transfer Armaan Franklin. This week, we’ll look at center Kadin Shedrick,

A tale of two seasons

Of Virginia’s returning rotation pieces from last season, Kadin Shedrick might have the most room to improve next year. That isn’t a backhanded insult, either — Shedrick was a productive player last season! However, the difference between his highs and his lows is larger than any other player on the UVA roster right now.

The highs, when they happen, are very high. Shedrick’s size and athleticism allow him to take over the game on both ends of the floor in a way that no one else on the Virginia roster can.

Two games that come to mind: the regular season finale against Louisville, where Shedrick totally controlled the paint and scored 20 points on 8-9 shooting in just 23 minutes, and the upset victory against Duke, where Shedrick went toe-to-toe with Mark Williams and finished with 16 points on 8-8 shooting.

Shedrick is very good at leveraging his athleticism to score efficiently. He shot 76% on shots at the rim last season (the next-best mark by a ‘Hoo with at least 25 attempts was Armaan Franklin’s 63%), and made 47 dunks — the rest of the team combined for just 50.

He’s also an effective defender, capable of switching and guarding wings if necessary, but his bread and butter is definitely protecting the rim. Last season, he blocked 11.2% of opponent two-point attempts while he was on the court and recorded 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes. Shedrick also finished tied for second in the ACC in blocks, despite playing fewer minutes than most players on the leaderboard.

Through the optimist’s lens, that was Shedrick’s season in a nutshell: efficient offense as a rim-running big, and elite rim protection on defense.

However, watching the games revealed a more negative side of Shedrick’s play: he constantly seemed to be getting pulled from the game for picking up two early fouls, committed lots of silly shooting fouls and would occasionally be responsible for dumb turnovers on illegal screens or dropped passes.

There’s only one thing Tony Bennett likes less than dumb fouls or careless turnovers: players responsible for both of them at once. Typically, players who commit more than 3 fouls and 1.5 turnovers per 40 minutes struggle to see significant playing time under Bennett; with the exception of Jay Huff, whose talent on both ends of the floor made his mistakes forgivable, Virginia big men just never make that many mistakes.

On the chart below, most bigs of the CTB era (Isaiah Wilkins, Anthony Gill, Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt) would fall outside the danger zone. For Shedrick and his backup Francisco Caffaro (who often checked into the game as a replacement for Kadin after his two early fouls), that wasn’t the case last season.

No basketball coach is a fan of fouls and turnovers, but Tony Bennett is one of the least rewarding coaches in the business. Virginia players who picked up two fouls in the first half last season played just 6.5% of available minutes for the remainder of the half, per KenPom, a rate which ranked in the bottom fifth of the NCAA. And every Virginia fan has seen Tony’s quick hook for a boneheaded turnover.

For being on a team that doesn’t tolerate mistakes, Shedrick made quite a few last season. These small errors soured an otherwise impressive campaign.

What’s next?

One thing I’m pretty sure of entering the offseason: the best version of next year’s Virginia team has Kadin Shedrick as its starting center. His upside outpaces fellow big Francisco Caffaro, and there’s no world where a small-ball squad with Jayden Gardner or Bennett Vander Plas at the five is competitive defensively against top-tier opponents. Kadin is the team’s best hope to anchor the defense.

From a positive-production standpoint, Shedrick is already there. His rebounding could stand to improve — the ‘Hoos were one of the worst-rebounding teams of the Tony Bennett era last season, and their rebounding numbers declined when Shedrick was on the floor in lieu of Caffaro — but every other aspect of his role as a rim-running big is good-to-great.

At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie: according to Hoop-Explorer, the moment Shedrick left the floor last season, their offense scored five fewer points per 100 possessions and their defense allowed five more points per 100 possessions.

When he’s on the floor, Shedrick makes the ‘Hoos a considerably better team. The next step for him is becoming able to consistently stay on the floor: lowering his foul rate (especially by cutting down on loose ball and offensive fouls) and making sound decisions on both ends of the court. Without many great options at center, Virginia needs Kadin to develop some consistency in the worst way.