With Elijah Gertrude’s commitment to the Virginia Cavaliers yesterday afternoon, the Wahoos add a meaningful piece to their 2023 recruiting class and a player with great long term potential on either end of the floor.
Elijah Gertrude Scouting Report
Gertrude is a 6’3 combo guard who played high school ball at Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, NJ and also played with City Rocks (New York) on the circuit. He was a late riser in the recruiting rankings, most recently soaring from 135th to 36th on 247’s list.
Playing in a hotbed of guard talent, Gertrude’s lockdown defense stood out during his high school season. He only cemented that reputation while playing with City Rocks on the EYBL circuit, where his offensive game also flashed: Gertrude averaged 11.8 points and 2.5 assists per game on excellent shooting splits, knocking down 55% of his attempts from the field and 43% of his threes, albeit on low volume.
Gertrude is a strong athlete with a lanky wingspan at guard, a combination that the Virginia coaching staff has historically loved — most recently in another combo guard recruit, Reece Beekman. Against elite competition on the EYBL and at Hudson Catholic, he worked as a defensive stopper against other top guards. His solid instincts on that end of the floor also occasionally result in highlight defensive plays, like this transition pin & snatch block into a one-man fast break.
Elijah Gertrude, 2023 guard, is a menace both on & off the ball defensively— Max Feldman (@MaxFeldman6) September 28, 2021
The 6-3, New Jersey-native employs a plus wingspan & vertical pop to produce some eye-catching sequences, like this one
Full cut coming soon || @madehoops pic.twitter.com/VptE27lpwW
Gertrude will bring a different offensive style to Virginia than the program’s prototypical combo guard, though. City Rocks played a pace-and-space offense around big man Gus Yalden, where Gertrude often shared the court with three other guards. He’s comfortable playing fast, and it’s arguably where he’s at his best at the moment: quick-paced offense accentuates his athletic advantages & his talent as a driver.
Part of what makes Gertrude so elusive is that he’s not only quick but is also adept at changing both speed and direction on a dime and utilizing different speeds to lull defenders into a false sense of security. He’s a good finisher at the rim and has the hops and strength to finish through contact. Additionally, Gertrude has the chops to be a pure scorer in college as his pull-up jumper game is pretty and his ability to stop quickly creates space for him to get off a smooth jumper.
With that being said, when playing for City Rocks, Gertrude struggled to create for himself against teams content to run a zone and clog up driving lanes; while his jump shot looks fluid off the dribble, the next step in Gertrude’s game is certainly to extend his range more consistently.
His most similar recent comparison at Virginia is Reece Beekman, who had a similar size and profile coming out of high school. The comparison isn’t exact — Beekman was a better passer and playmaker, and Gertrude is more athletic than Reece was at this point in his development. It’s unlikely that Gertrude is asked to handle the ball as much as Beekman has been at Virginia. Size-wise, he’s also similar to Casey Morsell, though coming out of high school Morsell was a better shot-maker but less adept with the ball in his hands and significantly less athletic.
Recruiting impact and roster outlook
The second commit of UVA’s 2023 class, Gertrude fills a spot as a shooting/combo guard alongside the center, Blake Buchanan. Virginia is still very much in the market for a point guard and — to a lesser extent — a power forward. But options for both of those positions are drying up quickly.
TJ Power’s recent commitment to Duke more or less closed up shop on the ‘Hoos bringing in a power forward before the spring and — while Tony Bennett is still very much recruiting him — highly-rated point guard Elmarko Jackson is a remaining target to fill Virginia’s gaping hole at point guard in the 2023 class.
Perhaps the remaining recruit that Tony Bennett and his staff have spent the most time recruiting is Davin Cosby Jr., a shooting guard out of Richmond, VA. Unfortunately for the Wahoos, Gertrude’s commitment will likely mean that Cosby Jr. looks elsewhere for fears of overlap with the New Jersey prospect. But it appears that UVA will continue to recruit him which makes Cosby Jr. a guy worth keeping an eye on.
From a wide lens, this 2023 class is a very good pair considering how successful the 2022 cycle was and how a stacked class in the year above can often turn off highly rated recruits looking for immediate on-court opportunities. In Gertrude and Buchanan, Tony Bennett has two players with high potential who ought to fit well in the Wahoo system given the appropriate time to develop.
That said, the number one priority and biggest question for 2023 remains — Who is UVA’s next point guard? After pushing off PG recruitment from the 2022 class to 2023 due to Kihei Clark’s return for a fifth season, Virginia seemed set with five star London Johnson silently committing multiple times last fall and spring. Of course, that fell through when Johnson got an offer he couldn’t refuse from the G League...
All summer the coaching staff has been trying to find their guy, but to no avail as the relatively few players they’ve been interested in have fallen through the cracks to other programs. Jackson is probably the last swing among the 2023s — unless Bennett finds one of his late, unheralded guys who he falls in love with — before the ‘Hoos push the point guard recruitment back to 2024 with the knowledge that a grad transfer PG for next season is always a possibility to play backup to Reece Beekman.
In terms of roster outlook, this is how UVA’s scholarship situation is currently situated over the next five years:
UVA Basketball Scholarship Tracker
|Kihei Clark PG||X|
|Francisco Caffaro C||X|
|Jayden Gardner PF||X|
|Armaan Franklin G||X|
|Bennett Vander Plas PF||X|
|Kadin Shedrick C||X||X|
|Reece Beekman PG||X||X|
|Taine Murray G||X||X||X|
|Isaac McKneely G||X||X||X||X|
|Isaac Traudt PF||X||X||X||X|
|Ryan Dunn G||X||X||X||X|
|Leon Bond PF||X||X||X||X|
|Blake Buchannan C||X||X||X||X|
|Elijah Gertrude G||X||X||X||X|
The ‘Hoos were always going to want to add two guards and a center in the 2023 class. Getting Buchanan filled out the first necessity and Gertrude is a surprising luxury as such a potentially elite player at the non-point guard position. His commitment balances out the lack of a PG commit so far and provides another perimeter weapon alongside Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn from the 2022 class. When evaluating UVA’s 2022 and 2023 commits so far, the athleticism of these six guys really stands out which projects well for the long term future of the program.
All in all, Elijah Gertrude’s commitment underscores the stability of the UVA men’s basketball program and emphasizes how the stretch of poor high school (UVA’s been killing it in the transfer portal for a while now) recruiting from 2018-2021 was just a blip on the radar as Tony Bennett and his staff build towards another National Championship run.