With summer work kicking off shortly for the Virginia Cavaliers’ men’s basketball team, the new freshmen class has arrived in Charlottesville with plenty of hype surrounding the four of them and their potential over the next couple of years. Rated as Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class since the 2016 group that led UVA to its first National Championship, it’s easy to see why these four are considered to be the next core group to lead the ‘Hoos back into national contention.
All the excitement with this talented group is warranted for their individual talents and successes yet also comes after a number of down years for UVA high school recruiting. In fact, seven of the 13 players from UVA’s five recruiting classes dating back to 2017 have either transferred out or left the program. Granted, UVA’s benefited greatly from the transfer portal. But high school recruiting remains the pathway towards consistent national contention which adds to how critical this 2022 group is for Virginia.
The first commit of the class, combo guard Isaac McKneely hails from Poca, West Virginia and is a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year with a state championship from his senior season completing his impressive list of high school accolades.
Isaac McKneely is a fantastic pick up for Tony Bennett and UVA basketball. He’s a dynamic combo guard who is an incredibly high potential player. Here, I break down his game and detail what could make him a star in Charlottesville. Sound on : pic.twitter.com/JY5HkLYqPc— Zach Carey (@zach_carey_) January 31, 2021
As a player, the 6’4” McKneely is truly a do it all guard. He’s a lights out shooter off the catch or off the dribble and boasts a bit of Kyle Guy’s body-contorting ability with fall away shooting. But, perhaps a talent that Guy lacked, McKneely can also create form himself either in isolation or with a ball screen.
He is a prototypical scorer with the size, strength, and athleticism to get to the rim and finish through contact while also being a knock-down shooter from the midrange and, obviously, from deep. McKneely has great footwork and isn’t afraid to cross his defender over and step back to shoot with a hand in his face. He’s also a decent passer — particularly to a big off a ball screen — and should develop that ability in his time in Charlottesville.
On top of all that, McKneely played in a high school system literally built off Tony Bennett’s at UVA. In fact, his head coach spent time in Charlottesville with UVA’s staff learning the mover-blocker offense and the pack-line defense and so Poca’s finest spent four seasons learning how to play in UVA’s base offense and defense.
Joining McKneely as the second member of #IsaacSquared, Isaac Traudt is a similarly enticing prospect. As McKneely won the Gatorade State Player of the Year award in West Virginia this year, Traudt won it in Nebraska following a dominant senior season.
Potentially the player with the most diverse skill-set that has ever committed to UVA under Bennett, Traudt is another great three-point shooter and, standing at 6’10” can do crazy things with a basketball in his hands. He has a legitimate perimeter game and knows how to take the ball to the rim from the outside. His potential in ball screens is incredibly high as he’ll create loads of space as a popper but also can be deadly as a roller to the basket looking to finish through contact.
Traudt’s defense should be solid at UVA. He’s got good mobility along with solid length which should mean he can impact the game as a shot blocker at times while also learning how to play in a defensive system that is quite demanding for big guys. It may take time, but Traudt could easily be the best player in this four-man class.
Out of Tony Bennett’s home state of Wisconsin, Leon Bond is a 6’5” forward who should shine brightest on the defensive side of the ball as his ridiculous wing span, strength, footwork, and basketball IQ should make up for what he lacks a bit in height. On offense, Bond can play as a slasher and handle the ball a bit with passing in mind. He’s also developed as a shooter in the mid-range and should continue to grow as an offensive weapon with more work in that area.
2022 6’5 Leon Bond highlights with Tosa East HS (WI) @leonbx35— NY2LASPORTS.TV (@NY2LASPORTSTV) January 26, 2022
Bond is signed to play for coach Tony Bennett & @UVAMensHoops next season. @ny2lasports @IsaacDennis_2 @ChadELewis2 @Gibbs_Dan_ @414BClay @MTXEPREMIER @TosaEastBoysBB pic.twitter.com/PhX87aqCGS
Meanwhile, UVA’s fourth commit of the class, Ryan Dunn is a scoring 6’7” wing who has the handles and shooting ability that could project him to be an NBA type of player. He lacks strength but makes up for it with shiftiness and burst. It will probably take time for him to catch up to the speed of college play. But, if and when that happens Dunn could be a pure scorer with similarly high potential as a defender if he buys in and develops in the Virginia system.
These four are absolutely the future of UVA basketball as there really is no ceiling to what the four of them can accomplish in Charlottesville. Each player brings a beautifully diverse set of skills to the table as the four of them should fit incredibly well together in the orange and blue.