The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team just landed its second commitment of the 2021 class with 6’9” forward Igor Milicic Jr. announcing his decision to take his talents to Charlottesville this fall. A dual citizen of Poland and Croatia, Milicic is the son of former Croatian star player turned coach, Igor Milicic. The younger now joins Kiwi Taine Murray in a skilled 2021 class that will likely be expected to fill in with some rotational minutes next season.
Scouting Report and Fit as a Wahoo
At 6’9”, Milicic has guard skills offensively. He’s got the ball handling ability and feel for the game that allows him to play on the perimeter. Coupled with a smooth stroke and distance extending a few feet behind the three point arc, he’s got the shooting proficiency to stretch defenses and put stress on opposing bigs.
Granted, playing in the German BBL, Milicic plays a much different style of basketball than he will at Virginia. Primarily a small forward for his Ratiopharm Ulm squad, he plays in a spread ball screen offense where he spends the majority of his time as a secondary or tertiary option to attack ball screens while mostly acting as a floor spacer on the perimeter.
Defensively, Milicic has some good length and has solid off ball instincts as he fills space well. He has average quickness and lateral speed for his size. The issue that will arise for him will be the fact that, in college basketball and the ACC in particular, teams roll out three guard lineups which — at least early in his career — will force Milicic to play the majority of his minutes at the four, similar to how Sam Hauser did this last season for the Wahoos.
Igor Miličić Jr. (2002) with another 20 point game for OrangeAcademy. The 2002-born prospect has great size to shoot over the defense. He's actually shooting better on contested threes (11/20, 36.7%) than uncontested threes (8/23, 34.8%) this season, according to @InStatBasket. pic.twitter.com/5kB4cBb8bm— ID Prospects (@idprospects) March 6, 2021
There will be an adjustment for Milicic to defend ball screens as a big, especially with Virginia’s hard hedging tendencies. He doesn’t have much experience guarding ball screens like that and will undoubtedly be thrown into the fire this summer and fall so that his ball screen coverage will be satisfactory enough for him to get some spot minutes in the front court next season.
At Virginia, Milicic will be at his best when allowed to play on the perimeter offensively. Ideally, in the long term that will be in a modernized form of the UVA offense that won’t restrict him to screening and popping on the perimeter and will instead generate opportunities for him to utilize his ball skills and shooting threat on the outside. Next year, though, he’ll be tasked with more grunt work than he’s accustomed to as a screener.
In the long term, Milicic fits this new mold of Virginia big men as a talented stretch four who allows for the experimentation with a diverse set of offensive schemes. Similar to Sam Hauser in that sense, Milicic has a great deal of offensive upside as he has the potential to be a high impact scorer in his years in Charlottesville. It will take time for him to adjust defensively and his positional fit is uncertain. But with time on his side and a Virginia coaching staff committed to developing raw offensive talent, Milicic has a solid floor and high ceiling assuming he can adjust where necessary defensively.
Taking a broader view, this is an interesting move with a series of implications for future roster building. Milicic fills a need in the front court and is essentially taking the forward in the 2021 class spot that Bennett and his staff had earmarked for Trey Kaufman or Caleb Houstan. In that sense, Milicic is a logical late addition to the roster and to an admittedly light 2021 class. That said, his presence will cause a ripple for the potential dream class of 2022.
Since Virginia missed on a number of their initial targets in the 2021 class, 2022 has long been viewed as the next reload class, a la 2016. With Isaac McKneely already on board and the ‘Hoos in good positions with other top-targets Austin Nunez, Isaac Traudt, and Bobi Klintman, there is serious potential for the Cavaliers to pick up four or more guys total.
But, with Milicic on board that will likely limit what Tony Bennett can do with 2022 wing prospects. Specifically with regard to Traudt and Klintman, the Wahoos could really only get one of those two guys at this point. Ideally, that’s the super talented Traudt.
Of course, 2022 recruiting will be thrown up in the air as live periods kick off for real in the late spring and early summer so top targets now may be abandoned for prospects who are looking at more immediate decision timelines.
Nonetheless, Milicic does complicate matters a bit for 2022. Obviously there are pluses and minuses to that, but having him on board for next season is a plus as he should be able to fill needed minutes in the front court right away while being an intriguing option for the future of the program.