After receiving praise from teammates Reece Beekman and Ryan Dunn at ACC Media Tipoff last week, Virginia Cavaliers freshman center Blake Buchanan has been further hyped up by teammate Isaac McKneely and Head Coach Tony Bennett ahead of Monday’s season opener against Tarleton State.
In an inexperienced frontcourt that lacks much true center size, Buchanan has an opportunity to play a much more significant role than most true freshman Virginia bigs typically do. And his teammates and coaches believe he’s ready for it.
“Blake’s really impressed me,” McKneely said on Monday afternoon. “He crashes the glass hard, he’s got good touch around the rim, he just plays hard. He’s gonna do the dirty work, block some shots, get some rebounds, and everything else. He’s really gonna help us this year, he’ll have a big role for sure.”
Bennett confirmed what McKneely said, adding that Buchanan is “quick-footed, he’s mobile, and he thinks quick. You guys have heard me talk all the years that I’ve been here that guys that are continuous, that can anticipate, that think quick, and that have some toughness usually are going to be darn good defensive players. And he’s already showing that.”
In UVA’s two secret preseason scrimmages against UConn and Maryland, Buchanan got his first chance to match up against DI competition. “He had a good scrimmage in his first one against UConn,” said Bennett. “Against Maryland, he probably wasn’t as effective. But he shows some things in practice.”
Bennett also mentioned that former Virginia Cavalier and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Wilkins, who is now an assistant coach for the ‘Hoos, is a big fan of Buchanan’s game.
“[Blake] has those things that we need, and because we are less experienced in the frontcourt I think there will be some opportunities for him.”
Against Tarleton State in the season opener on Monday, Buchanan could have an opportunity to put his height and offensive rebounding chops to good use with the Texans’ tallest rotational player standing 6’9”, two inches shorter than Buchanan. Of course, next Friday’s matchup against Florida will be a whole other kettle of fish against the Gators’ frontcourt including 7’1” Marshall transfer (and former UVA transfer target) Micah Handlogten and 6’10” Seton Hall transfer Tyrese Samuel.
How quickly Buchanan can get up to game speed and be a reliable option for the Wahoos in the frontcourt will be a key factor for the team this season. Fortunately, it seems like the team expects Buchanan to be able to contribute from the jump.