The Virginia Cavaliers added four major transfers ahead of the 2023-24 season: Dante Harris (Georgetown), Jordan Minor (Merrimack), Andrew Rohde (St. Thomas), and Jake Groves (Oklahoma). Groves and Minor each offer unique frontcourt skillsets — three-point shooting and defense, respectively — with one remaining year of eligibility. The shifty Harris and scoring threat Rohde could grow into major future pieces in the backcourt. Here’s what to expect from all four players in the 2023-24 seaosn:
Harris, a shifty 6’0 point guard, joined the Cavaliers in the middle of the year last season, fleeing an imploding Georgetown program which lost 20 of its last 22 games under Patrick Ewing last season. He’d been overtaken at the starting point guard spot, reached a low point in his career, and needed a reset with a new program and head coach.
However, Harris’s pedigree is surprisingly impressive for a midseason portal pickup. As a freshman, he won the Big East Tournament MVP award as Georgetown put together an all-time surprising conference tournament run after finishing the regular season 9-12.
The career numbers aren’t exactly pretty: Harris finished his first two seasons below 41 percent from two and 27 percent from three as a college basketball player. There’s reason to believe in his improvement, though. The Hoyas produced a terrible offensive environment, dragging every player’s numbers down; Harris was most adversely affected by being constantly forced into late clock field goal attempts off the dribble. Ninety percent of his midrange jumpers came off the dribble, as did 65 percent of his threes in his first season at Georgetown. It’s a small sample, but Harris was more efficient on catch-and-shoot looks.
He’s also an absolute defensive pest whose backcourt pestering bothered even the even-keeled Reece Beekman in the Blue-White scrimmage and might occasionally remind Cavalier fans of another recently graduated undersized point guard. A shoulder injury reportedly limited Harris in recent practices, but as of right now he’s the betting favorite to start in the backcourt alongside Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely. And his table-setting ability should benefit an offense sorely lacking creators outside of Beekman.
Minor, a strong and bouncy 6’8 power forward from Merrimack, dominated the NEC last season: he produced a stat-sheet-stuffing 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game. The plaudits came pouring in as Minor earned the conference’s Co-Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and First Team All Conference for a team whose 11-game winning streak is currently the longest in college basketball.
Along with Andrew Rohde, Minor will be one of the Cavaliers’ two transfers aiming to adjust to a new role in a power conference. His experience should be beneficial, as Minor comes to the Cavaliers with 107 career games played and just one remaining season of eligibility. The ‘Hoos will aim to maximize the value Minor can provide in his one year with the team.
There are reasons to be concerned, though, about Minor’s immediate impact. While he stood out defensively at Merrimack, Minor spent four seasons in Joe Gallo’s 2-3 zone scheme — it’s not hard to imagine him struggling to adapt to the pack line from such a different defensive scheme. He also struggled to produce efficient offense, shooting 52 percent on largely self-created twos and a concerning 58 percent from the line.
A slow start to the year wouldn’t be a surprise for Minor, as his adaptation to the pack line may take longer than one would expect from a reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Rather than seizing a leading position in the frontcourt, Minor may play a complementary role alongside Jake Groves, Ryan Dunn, and Blake Buchanan. However, Minor’s defensive strength, athleticism, and playmaking instincts add a unique dimension to the ‘Hoos and once he fully acclimates Minor should become a big contributor as a traditional Bennett blocker-mover big.
Rohde comes to UVA as the second transfer with major conference-level hardware, the reigning Summit League Freshman of the Year. At St. Thomas last season, Rohde averaged 17 points and 4 assists per game. Like most effective jump shooters to come through Virginia in the past few seasons, he’s drawn comparisons to Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy.
As a jump shooter, Rohde is pretty typical; his reputation as a sharpshooter may actually be slightly unearned, considering that his body of collegiate work contains just one season of shooting below 34% behind the arc. His release isn’t quick enough to contend with catch-and-shoot studs like Guy, or even his teammate Isaac McKneely.
Rohde’s shooting talent is probably above average for his position, but his propensity for taking tough threes will keep his percentages suppressed. However, that’s not to say there are no reasons for optimism: Rohde has plenty of career left to improve, and a 41% three-point clip against Top 100 opponents last season offers reason to believe the sophomore can get his shot off effectively against good teams.
Where Rohde might surprise people, too, is inside the arc. He shot an impressive 60 percent on 145 shots at the rim last season, an excellent clip for a scoring guard. The buckets at the hoop weren’t freebies. either: only 18.4% of those attempts were assisted, a remarkably low mark. While there should be an adjustment to the ACC level of play — some of his craft and post work around the hoop just won’t translate against ACC athleticism — the finishing is a great skill for Rohde to have in his back pocket.
Rohde projects as a key scorer for the Cavaliers, even if he starts the season as a sixth man instead of a backcourt starter. When in doubt, Tony Bennett tends to default to defense and experience, two categories where Dante Harris outshines Rohde for the third backcourt spot alongside penciled-in starters Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely. However, Rohde’s offensive upside exceeds Harris, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cavaliers close with the second-year St. Thomas transfer on nights where he’s feeling it as a jump shooter.
Groves, a stretch four from Oklahoma, comes to Virginia as essentially a known quantity. A graduate transfer, Groves knocked down an impressive 38 percent of his three-point attempts for the Sooners in his fourth season, almost entirely coming off catch-and-shoot attempts. Only two of his makes beyond the arc were unassisted.
There’s not much to expect from Groves in terms of adding to his game. He’s more comfortable popping outside the arc than rolling inside it, a trait on prominent display in the Blue-White scrimmage. While that spacing threat adds a dynamic to the offense, the inability to pose a serious threat in the paint — Groves only scored at the rim 30 times last year — or create his own shot effectively limits Groves’s offensive upside.
On defense, he’ll likely struggle to be a positive contributor. Defensive woes limited Groves’s playing time in the Big 12 last season against teams able to effectively exploit his foot speed, and it’s hard to imagine any player coming into Virginia and receiving a longer leash on that end of the floor. We saw Tony Bennett experiment with drop coverages last fall to protect Francisco Caffaro; the same tactic might be deployed to keep Groves on the court.
All in all, though, it’s hard to deny the unique skillset Groves brings to a frontcourt starved for experience. Barring a massive leap by Ryan Dunn, there aren’t any proven shooters at the 4 or 5 for the ‘Hoos — Minor is a non-factor with his jumper, and while Buchanan might effectively shoot sometime down the road he probably won’t take many jump shots this season.
The coaching staff might be encouraged by the offensive benefits Ben Vander Plas provided before his back injury in the 2022-23 season and lean on Groves in the early going. He’s a low-ceiling but high-floor big for a Cavaliers team yearning for predictability at that position entering 2023-24, and while the best version of the ‘Hoos probably doesn’t require Groves to be anything more than a bench big, he’ll need to play a role as the team finds its footing.