The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team tipped off its 2023-2024 season on Monday. So, with the start of a new season, we figured it’d be fun to try out a new column format. Following the win, we’ve decided to hand out 10 (sorta unserious) awards from the game to further our analysis heading into the remainder of the year.
1. The “OH SH*T” Award: Leon Bond
He was everywhere. He’s an absolute ballhawk, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more shocked by an individual play in JPJ as I was by Bond’s put-back dunk on Monday night. He’s exactly the type of wing you’d want coming off the bench for this team, and he seems destined to make countless special plays in his career at UVA.
2. The “Flamethrower” Award: Isaac McKneely
4-8 from three, 4-8 from the field, 3-4 from the line, 15 points. About as ho-hum of an elite shooting performance as you’ll see. The former Poca Dot is officially ready to step into the role of being Virginia’s next knock-down shooter, and he put that very much on display in the first game of his sophomore season.
Isaac McKneely was my favorite Freshman on Virginia last year and is my favorite Sophomore this year. Shot 39% from three as a Freshman, starts off this year 4/8. 6’4” combo guard with a gorgeous stroke pic.twitter.com/Q29MpYAdHD— Josh Padmore (@JPadmore92) November 7, 2023
3. The “Ralph Sampson?” Award: Blake Buchanan
True freshmen centers don’t simply show up to Grounds and get year one minutes. Yeah sure the roster doesn’t have anyone else who fits his mold, but that doesn’t diminish how good of a player he is right now and how fluid he looks on the floor. Blake Buchanan is seriously special, and I think Friday’s game against Florida is only going to be further confirmation of that fact.
4. The “2019-2020 UVA Basketball Offense” Award: UVA’s offense without Reece
Woof. Not pretty. In the 13 minutes Reece Beekman was off the floor, Virginia was outscored by Tarleton State 17-15. Yes some of that was garbage time at the end with random lineups and bad free throw shooting.
But the offense when Beekman was off the floor looked like a chicken with its head cut off, bringing back not so fun memories of a certain recent UVA basketball team that relied on one small point guard to try to make plays for everybody else. I have more faith in the staff and the players to figure something out for the few minutes per game Beekman isn’t on the floor. Still though it’s an obvious area for improvement.
5. The “Straw That Stirs The Drink” Award: Reece Beekman
On the flip side, would you look at what happens when you surround Reece Beekman with shooters and size? Gosh he looked completely in control of that game. His ability to penetrate against ball pressure and either score it himself or kick to the perimeter where his teammates either hit shots or moved it to the open guy was beautiful to see, and it’ll be the most common theme for this offense this season.
6. The “Get Ready for De’Andre Hunter Comparisons” Award: Elijah Gertrude
No I’m not saying Elijah Gertrude fits the same player mold as De’Andre Hunter. But next year when he takes the floor for the first time after redshirting this season, or maybe even further down the line, there is no question in my mind some color commentator will reference Dre redshirting and then being the #4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Extra credit if they give Malcolm Brogdon (who only redshirted because of an injury) a shoutout.
7. The “Big Guard™” Award: Andrew Rohde
Aha! The next Ty Jerome, Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, Devon Hall guy is here. Those players all have drastically different skill sets, but Rohde is big, can shoot, can sorta dribble and play point guard, and is a really good passer when given the opportunity. He’s got room to grow and developments to make. But it’s cool to once again see a big bodied guard roaming the perimeter and nailing catch-and-shoot treys.
8. The “Hey, You’re Not BVP!” Award: Jake Groves
I probably type cast Jake Groves too quickly when he announced his commitment here last spring. He’s actually a much different type of player than Ben Vander Plas, and I think that will probably pay off for this team.
He’s a better shooter, a more capable dribbler and playmaker off a pump fake, yet also a slightly worse and slower defender. For what he’s good at and what will get him on the court, he’s pretty good. When it comes to what will keep him off the floor... we’ll see how passable he’ll be against real competition.
9. The “Thank Joe Harris’ Beaten Down Pickup Truck You’re Here” Award: UVA’s outside shooting
45.5% on 22 attempts was a fun way to start the season! It’s been 297 days or 18 games since Virginia shot that well from three. What a relief. Who knows if this will keep happening. But at least we can tell ourselves it’s possible!
10. The “Please Don’t Let This Be a Problem” Award: Virginia’s free throw shooting
24-39 (61.5%) from the charity stripe. No thanks! 18-32 (56.3%) if you take Beekman’s free throws out. Again, I’m good! Let’s have this be a one time thing. Cool? Cool. Glad we sorted that out.