Ryan Dunn is going to be a 2024 NBA Draft pick.
The Virginia Cavaliers second year is not only an athletic freak, but he’s channeled that into being arguably the best defender in college basketball.
His blossoming status as one of the most impactful wing defenders to come through the college ranks in years and his developing offensive game that indicates room for improvement once he can fully divert his attention to basketball make him a near lock to be a first round selection next summer. And, with the nature of the 2024 Draft being one of the weakest in a while, there’s growing sentiment that he could slip into the lottery simply because of how easy it is to project his impact as a defender at the next level.
Ryan Dunn has emerged as perhaps the best defender in college hoops, racking up blocks and steals with the instincts and tools to guard all over the floor. Dunn moved into our projected lotto and could keep rising if teams buy his offensive growth.— Jeremy Woo (@JeremyWoo) December 12, 2023
So, another Wahoo gone early to the draft. Tough sledding, huh?
In one sense, yes. Absolutely, Dunn not being in Charlottesville beyond this season is going to mean that next year’s Virginia squad will be worse off and will need to add to the frontcourt to make up for his absence. As fans, it is totally reasonable to both be happy for him but also be bummed out that we only got two seasons from such an elite talent and an overall good dude.
On the other, though, Dunn going to the NBA and doing it after just two seasons at UVA furthers the program’s status as a place that produces high draft picks.
What’s crazy is it’s not necessarily that Tony Bennett and his staff took Dunn and made him an NBA prospect when he wouldn’t have been otherwise. Undoubtedly, the coaching staff majorly contributed to how good he is as a defender and how smart of a player he is in just year two. But what his success really underscores is how Bennett and company are absurdly good at identifying diamonds in the rough and then getting them the rest of the way. That is incredibly valuable for these typically late-blooming players who have been overlooked by the rest of college basketball.
Bottom line, Dunn is another in what is becoming a long line of athletically gifted wings who’ve put the pieces together in Charlottesville.
In April of 2015, Justin Anderson declared for the NBA Draft and became the first Tony Bennett UVA player to leave the program early for the NBA. Five months later, De’Andre Hunter committed to Virginia.
In June of 2019, Hunter became the next Wahoo under Bennett to be selected in the NBA Draft before his eligibility was up. Less than nine months later, UVA landed Rice transfer Trey Murphy.
A year and change after that, Murphy became Bennett’s first player to be drafted after just one season in the orange and blue (white and blue?). Wanna guess what happened three months after that?
Yup. Ryan Dunn committed.
Now, I’m not saying Virginia is going to land a commitment from a future first round wing in the next nine months. Heck 2024 commit Jacob Cofie might already be that dude. But what I am saying is that each of these guys leaving early directly led to recruiting success. That’s no coincidence. The success not only speaks for itself, but the coaching staff can actively use the success of these players in showing recruits the role they can play at UVA and how the staff can help develop them for the future.
In fact, before committing in 2021, Dunn specifically told us that Bennett had “compared me to De’Andre Hunter... a little bit of Justin Anderson, [and] a little bit of Trey Murphy.”
For high school kids or even college kids who are in the transfer portal, proven success at not only getting guys to the NBA but doing so quickly by providing early opportunities means something. Dunn is adding to that now, and fundamentally it reaffirms the program’s status among the best in the country of guiding NBA talents where they want to go.
When Dunn is drafted next summer, it will be the first time in three years that a UVA player is picked. That’s a sign that the program is on its way back up after from a raw talent perspective, and there’s reason to expect direct recruiting success after the fact.
For now, though, enjoy Dunn’s breathtaking athletic traits, bevy of blocks that send the ball into the stands, and thunderous transition dunks not just because we’re only gonna get 20 or so more games of them, but also because they’re what will attract the next elite wing to Charlottesville.