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Five takeaways from Virginia men’s basketball’s Blue-White scrimmage

Beekman flashes as a scorer, Bond is legit, Dunn improved as a playmaker, and much more.

Duke v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team played its Blue-White scrimmage this afternoon and, with it, we have five takeaways for the Wahoos as they edge closer and closer to the season opener against Tarleton State on November 6th.

First up, we’ve got full stats from the 28-minute scrimmage. Teams were moved around so much that it was hard to get a great grasp of the final score, but the White Team quite clearly won the game.

The rosters also changed back and forth some, but these were the starters for either side in each of the three quarters.

First quarter

Blue: Harris, Gertrude, Murray, Bond, Minor

White: Beekman, McKneely, Rohde, Dunn, Groves

Second and third quarters

Blue: Harris, Rohde, Murray, Groves, Minor

White: Beekman, McKneely. Dunn, Bond, Buchanan

Final stats

Stats courtesy of Ben Wieland

Ryan Dunn’s handle, scoring game looks improved

As a freshman, Ryan Dunn developed into a key contributor for Virginia late in ACC play and provided some of the team’s most valuable minutes in postseason play. However, his limitations as a ball handler and scorer restricted his upside — something good teams were able to exploit.

In the Blue-White Scrimmage, Dunn looked much more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Off the catch, Dunn squared up to the basket and looked to score with more confidence than last season. He threw some great live-dribble passes, a skill almost entirely absent from his game last season, and paced the team with five assists. A cross-court skip pass for a Leon Bond III catch-and-shoot three marked one of the high points of the scrimmage.

Dunn also looked good creating his own shot off the dribble, though he missed a few bunnies which would have goosed his final scoreline. He finished with 9 points on 3-9 shooting (1-4 from three). The second-year forward never needs to be this team’s primary ball handler. However, if he can develop into a lengthy wing with some ball skills and creation ability while remaining a defensive terror, Dunn will be one of the best players in college basketball.

Leon Bond should start for Virginia

If Dunn, Beekman, and Isaac McKneely have been the three penciled in starters for Virginia, Leon Bond looks like he’s making a push to be the fourth. He led the game in scoring with 13 points on 6-8 shooting and even knocked down his lone three-point attempt.

Notably, he played as the four after switching to the White team for the second and third quarters, leaving Dunn to play small forward. It worked out perfectly well considering the improvements Dunn displayed as a playmaker, and their chemistry was obvious with three of Dunn’s five assists going to Bond.

Considering that Bond’s biggest strengths are probably on the defensive side of the ball as a 6’5” wing who is plenty capable of guarding bigger players because of his length and overall plus athleticism, him having this sort of offensive performance is really great to see. He hit a number of midrange jumpers, played very well in space and consistently made the right decisions when the ball was in his hands.

Especially with Dante Harris (6 points, 2-9 shooting) and Andrew Rohde (4 points, 2-11 shooting) struggling to make put the ball through the net, Bond’s case for Virginia to roll with a pair of forwards rather than three guards in its starting lineup. The White Team lineup with Beekman, McKneely, Dunn, Bond, and Buchanan was absolutely menacing defensively, and if Bond can make this type of difference on offense then that group could be UVA’s best lineup considering how stellar it is on defense.

Jump shooting a struggle across the board

Jump shooting should be a strength for this Virginia offense based solely on its personnel. However, while the roster is full of players with high-level shooting pedigrees, it didn’t show in the Blue-White scrimmage. The ‘Hoos remained ice cold all scrimmage, finishing 4-25 from three in a discouraging performance.

The four makes: a Leon Bond III catch-and-shoot three off a Ryan Dunn skip pass, a Jake Groves catch-and-shoot from the wing, a Ryan Dunn triple after a jab step at the top of the key, and an Elijah Gertrude 35-footer as time expired at the end of the scrimmage. Those aren’t exactly the players expected to carry the three-point load.

In fact, it was Virginia’s best players beyond the arc who struggled the most in the Blue-White scrimmage. Before the game began, the Cavaliers held a three-point contest featuring four players Tony Bennett selected as the team’s top three-point shooters: Reece Beekman, Jake Groves, Isaac McKneely and Taine Murray. Those four combined to make just one of their 13 attempts during the scrimmage; McKneely, who won the three-point contest, shot 0-3 on great looks.

Reading too much into three-point shooting percentages in an ultimately meaningless scrimmage is a pretty futile exercise. The Cavaliers shot 15-32 in last year’s Blue-White scrimmage, and we know how ice cold they finished the season. But it’s never great to see an offense struggle to shoot this much in the early going.

Reece Beekman is ready to take over as the primary option

This season will be the biggest test for Reece Beekman yet, and he played as well as the Wahoo fanbase would’ve hoped in his first public appearance as the face of the team. His 11 (5-9 from the field, 0-2 from three, 1-1 from the line) points came in a variety of ways, notably including six points and 3-5 shooting from the midrange. That’s a sign that he’s growing more comfortable as a scorer and is taking that next step to be a three-level scorer who defenders have to respect everywhere on the court.

He made all of the right decisions in the pick and roll and arguably could’ve had seven assists (he finished with three) had his teammates hit the open threes he created for them. His vision and patience when coming off a ball screen remains top notch, and he played with a new and young batch of frontcourt teammates well, setting Blake Buchanan and Anthony Robinson up for a number of finishes around the basket.

The value of giving Beekman more touches and more opportunities to initiate the offense was obvious in this scrimmage, as was how much smoother he looks now that he’s seemingly gotten past the hamstring injury which hampered him throughout the 2022-2023 season. So far, so good for Virginia’s lead guard.

Question marks remain in the frontcourt

The biggest unknown coming into today for this roster was the frontcourt, and the biggest unknown for this roster coming out of today remains the frontcourt. It’s not that any individual player looked objectively bad or off, rather the general iffiness around UVA’s true bigs (Jordan Minor, Blake Buchanan, Jacob Groves and Anthony Robinson) held true in this scrimmage.

Minor is probably going to be the most productive in Virginia’s frontcourt from a stats perspective. He registered eight points in the scrimmage on 3-6 shooting from the floor and 2-4 shooting from the line. In the back half of the game he started to show some of his ability in the post with a nice move on Buchanan to score a little jump hook shot. Otherwise, he was active on the offensive boards and scored one bucket off a slipped pick and feed from Elijah Gertrude. He looked solid on either end, but didn’t look particularly special.

Buchanan flashed especially as a help defender. He was everywhere defensively, comfortable to switch onto smaller players and stick with them to contest shots and perfectly capable of absorbing shoulders to the chest from Minor in the post. The Merrimack transfer only scored on him once. The 2022 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year looked so, so comfortable in the defensive scheme with a reach on a hedge towards Rohde the only blemish on his defensive report card.

On offense, he beat Minor in the post once for a little fadeaway jumper and then finished a Reece Beekman alley oop off a ball screen and roll to total four points on the afternoon. He’s still adjusting to the college game offensively, but other than that he was solid for a true freshman.

Groves, again, didn’t look bad, he just didn’t flash anywhere. He shot 1-4 from three and 2-7 overall and was respectable defensively. But, like the two guys above him, he looks more like a rotational frontcourt piece than a starter deserving of 25+ minutes.

Anthony Robinson recorded two impressive dunks around the basket, including an and-one. With his physical profile and athleticism, he has the potential to be elite down the road for the Cavaliers. However, Robinson also occasionally looked out of position as a screener in the mover-blocker offense and fumbled a few opportunities for easy buckets on the offensive end. Nothing is set in stone, but Robinson will more likely than not redshirt.

Altogether, these four players performed as well if not better than how we expected. But that confirms the reality that the Wahoos don’t have a go-to difference maker in the frontcourt. Bond and Dunn will probably be the closest thing to that as wings who can play big in smaller lineups. That’s okay for now, but it does put more pressure on the rest of the roster to perform and for Buchanan to develop quickly.