In the first game of their overseas trip to Italy, the Virginia Cavaliers took care of business against the Italian basketball club Stella Azzurra, winning in dominant fashion, 76-24. For the game story from today’s win keep on reading, but for highlights from the day’s action check ‘em out here.
As UVA plans to sit out three different players per game in order to make the rotations easier and ensure that all 12 scholarship players get meaningful minutes, Kihei Clark, Francisco Caffaro, and Taine Murray were the trio to sit out game one. As a result, Isaac McKneely replaced Clark among the starters with Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, and Kadin Shedrick joining the West Virginia native as the first five on the floor.
UVA started the game hot with Reece Beekman scoring five early points and putting the Wahoos up 9-3 quickly. The first quarter kept going Virginia’s way as the ‘Hoos led 19-4 after one period of play with Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas adding five points of his own and Stella Azzurra being held without a made field goal.
The second quarter was a similar story with the ‘Hoos outscoring Stella Azzurra 21-6 for a 30-point, 40-10 lead at halftime. Shedrick got to work in the second quarter and entered the intermission with eight points and five rebounds. Meanwhile, freshman Ryan Dunn added another seven tallies with four boards of his own. Then, Vander Plas scored an additional bucket and Beekman had four assists as he controlled UVA’s attack with Clark sidelined.
The Italian team truly had no answers for Virginia even when the ‘Hoos played three freshmen on the floor at once. Walk-on point guard Chase Coleman got run too, scoring four points of his own. The third quarter closed out with UVA up 57-16 before Stella Azzurra clawed back just a bit in the fourth stanza with Tony Bennett’s squad taking the 76-24 victory.
While the score was lopsided, STL’s sources on the ground (cough cough Darns cough cough) emphasized that what stood out was UVA’s particularly cohesive style of play. Even with two veterans (Caffaro and Clark) out for the game and five new guys among the 10 who played, there weren’t too many dumb mistakes as the new guys meshed together well. That’s a huge positive for Virginia as Tony Bennett and company considering that the success of this team is going to be quite dependent on new faces even with all five starters returning.
For context regarding Virginia’s competition, Stella Azzurra recently played Drexel with the Dragons beating the Italian club 78-47.
Shedrick was UVA’s leading scorer with 13 points to go with seven rebounds. It makes sense that the big man dominated in the paint against lesser competition. Here’s to hoping he can nail down that consistency he’s been lacking and have a breakout junior year.
Additionally, freshman Leon Bond filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, four rebounds, two blocks, and two made three pointers. That’s significant for the 6’5” forward as his development as a three-point shooter will be critical to determine his offensive ceiling. He’s already a good slasher and shooter from the midrange but adding a consistent deep ball would go a long way.
Beekman was all over the place in his minutes, scoring nine points, grabbing five boards, and dishing out seven assists. That’s hopefully indicative of another jump for the lengthy junior as he also will be trying to build towards a strong third season with a more focused, aggressive offensive approach. His success today also partially highlights the value in playing him as the true point guard rather than sharing duties with his elder, Clark.
Classmates of Bond, Dunn and Isaac Traudt were similarly impressive. Dunn finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, and a steal while Traudt added eight points of his own with four rebounds and an impressive three steals. It’s good to see Traudt, a prospect well known for booming potential as an offensive weapon, getting busy defensively and working as a disruptor inside.
Dunn is also a high ceiling prospect who comes to Charlottesville a bit more under the radar and less highly rated than his fellow 2022s yet may boast the most raw potential of the group. At 6’7” with handles and the ability to create his own shot from anywhere, he could be a sleeper to watch as an x-factor for UVA in 2022-2023.
Next up, Virginia will play its second game of four on August 16th as the ‘Hoos are set to leave Rome for Florence tomorrow.
(This story has been updated with released stats and additional highlights from today’s game).