Virginia Basketball Sabre Scoop: Recapping The Evaluation, Recruiting Periods

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In what is a new addition to the Division 1 men’s basketball recruiting calendar, a four-day recruiting period followed the April 26-28 live evaluation period. Per the NCAA, this new recruiting period, which ended Thursday, May 2, allows “coaches to contact or evaluate recruits immediately following the April 26-28 nonscholastic events evaluation period.”

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett used this recruiting period to make an in-home visit on Wednesday with one of the Cavaliers’ top targets in the class of 2020, Trinity Episcopal (Richmond, VA) forward Henry Coleman III.

Coleman, a 6’8”, 220-pound junior, was offered a scholarship offer by Virginia last summer. Kansas, NC State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and many others have offered as well, while Duke is among the schools showing serious interest. Vanderbilt’s new head coach, Jerry Stackhouse, stopped by Trinity Episcopal on Thursday.

Virginia’s in-home did not yield a commitment from the talented combo forward. That’s not surprising if you have followed Coleman’s recruitment. He has said previously he does not plan on committing until his senior season. What the visit, which included Coach Bennett, associate head coach Jason Williford and assistant coach Orlando Vandross, did do was send a clear message to the Richmond (VA) native of where he stands on Virginia’s wish list.

As for other Virginia basketball recruiting news since last weekend’s evaluation period …

– Class of 2019 point/combo guard Boogie Ellis, who is rated a 5-star recruit by 247 Sports and a 4-star by Rivals, is back on the market after he asked for and was granted a release from the letter of intent he signed with Duke. Adam Zagoria reports Virginia as one of the schools that has contacted the Mission Bay (San Diego, CA) star since he gained his release. Others include Arizona, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Kansas, Memphis, Oregon, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Washington.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Ellis would like to pick his new college by May 15, which is the final day of Division 1 men’s basketball’s regular signing period. The 6’3” guard would certainly address the needs UVA faces next season, first and foremost with his ability to score but also with his ballhandling and playmaking ability. At this point, though, there is no reason for Cavalier fans to get too excited unless the coaches can secure a visit.

– Pat Lawless of Prep Circuit conducted an interview with Fairmont (W.V.) wing Jalen Bridges, a 6’7” prospect who could be one to watch as a possible class of 2019 or class of 2020 recruit.

Corey Evans of Rivals.com reported that Coach Bennett was among those watching Bridges and the Wildcats Select team in action at the Adidas Gauntlet last Sunday. Bridges poured in 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting (3-of-8 from 3) as his team downed Mass Rivals, 56-54. The performance capped off an impressive weekend for Bridges, who received a scholarship offer from TCU on May 1 and is scheduled to visit Pittsburgh today. West Virginia and Xavier are among the other schools in the mix right now.

Bridges told Lawless that Virginia is one of the schools that is recruiting him and has discussed the possibly of staying in his original class of 2019. He tells Lawless, “I think I’m going to stick with 2020,” but could that change if UVA comes through with an official offer?

Stay tuned to see if Virginia throws its hat in the ring here with an offer. As of this writing, no scholarship for either class has been extended.

– UVA was represented at Paul VI (Fairfax, VA) on Tuesday, likely primarily for top class of 2021 backcourt target Trevor Keels, who has been offered a scholarship by Bennett.

Adam Ayalew of Prep Hoops tweeted that Virginia was represented at the Nike EYBL 17U matchup between Team Takeover and the NY Lightning last Saturday afternoon, as well as the 16U contest between Team Takeover and Team Durant. No surprise there, as Team Takeover features prospects from DC/Maryland/Virginia. Keels had 7 points and 6 rebounds in Team Takeover 17U’s win over the Lightning. Team Takeover 17U also features sharpshooting Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) forward Terrance Williams, who has been offered by UVA and made an official visit to Charlottesville last fall.

Williams, a junior who has also taken an official visit to Stanford, tweeted that he will take an official to Notre Dame this weekend.

– UVA evaluated a pair of 2021 prospects on Thursday. According to Andrew Slater, the Hoos were expected to be represented at Highland School (Warrenton, VA) to see guard Angelo Brizzi (no offer). Brizzi attended a Virginia home game this past season. The Hoos were also reportedly at the Miller School (Charlottesville, VA) for point guard Quadir Pettaway (no offer).

A Look Back At The April 26-28 Evaluation Period

Virginia’s lone commitment in the class of 2020 is Greensboro Day (N.C.) guard Carson McCorkle, who was impressive while helping Garner Road 17U AAU to a 4-0 record at the Adidas Gauntlet in Dallas, Texas. The 6’3” standout averaged 16.8 points while making 38.1% (8-21) of his 3s, 50% of his field goals (23-46), and 92.9% (13-14) of his free throws. He poured in 27 points (making 5-of-8 3s) in victory over OSA last Sunday morning in front of Coach Bennett.

Henry Coleman III impressed as well in Dallas, helping Team Loaded VA to a 4-0 record. He averaged 18 points per game while making 25-of-37 from the field, good for 67.6%, and added 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Coleman scored 24 points, including 13 of 18 points from the charity stripe, in Sunday’s win over fellow Virginia top target Keon Johnson and EAB (TN). According to Hooz Got Next, who reports on Virginia basketball recruiting via Twitter and Facebook, Coach Bennett watched this contest.

I would be remiss if I didn’t post this see-moment from Coleman last weekend …

As for Johnson, the Webb School (Bell Buckle, TN) star received some positive pub for his play last weekend.

Johnson has taken official visits to Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. He has been to Mississippi unofficially. The Volunteers had a great deal of momentum following his official visit to Knoxville last fall, but no commitment has come. UVA remains heavily involved – Bennett attended a Webb game last December – while other schools are entering the picture as well, including Ohio State, which offered the 6’5” standout this week.

Coach Bennett spent last Friday night and Saturday in Atlanta watching the Nike EYBL circuit. Hooz Got Next reported Bennett’s first stop of the weekend was to watch Phenom University (WI), which features one of Virginia’s top point guard targets in the class of 2020, Reece Beekman. Phenom U’s Friday night game was cancelled, so Bennett would have to wait the following morning to see Beekman, a Wisconsin native who attends high school in Louisiana. The 4-star junior didn’t disappoint, scoring 16 points, pulling down four rebounds, and dishing out three assists in an 85-78 win over Drive Nation (TX) last Saturday morning.

Beekman received a scholarship offer from Bennett in July of 2018. He made official visits to Houston and UVA last fall but appears in no rush to make a commitment. The Hoos continue to stay hot on his trail since offering last summer. Iowa State, LSU, Marquette, Texas A&M and Wisconsin are among the other schools that have offered.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Virginia was represented at Phenom University’s Sunday matchup with Texas Titans. Beekman was solid once again, scoring 12 points and distributing five assists. Texas Titans prevailed, however, thanks to a big-time performance by another UVA top class of 2020 target, guard Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham poured in 32 points, had eight assists, and corralled six rebounds in the win over Phenom U. The Montverde Academy (FL) 5-star guard and Dallas (TX) native, who measures in at 6’7”, 215 pounds, had back-to-back 32-point outings on his way to averaging 25.5 points, 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game as his team went a perfect 4-0.

Bennett watched Cunningham last Friday night, according to Rivals.com’s Krysten Peek. Cunningham has been very quiet in terms of naming favorites, but make no mistake, the versatile backcourt star has his pick of schools so there is a lot of competition for Virginia here. He tweeted on April 19 that he was “completely open” in his recruitment.

Virginia Basketball Recruiting Summary

Much of the above information is on class of 2020 prospects, but Virginia’s focus right now surely is on the 2019-20 season and the three open scholarship spots available. There remains a big need for backcourt help next season, but as of now there are not a whole lot of known, definitive targets (high school, grad-transfer or otherwise) who can play immediately.

Certainly, there are key decisions left to be made. Five-star guard Johnny Juzang, who has reclassified to the class of 2019 and narrowed his list to Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Virginia, is expected to make his college decision very soon. He took an official to the perceived favorite, Kentucky, earlier this week. No other visits are scheduled. While it’s a positive that he hasn’t announced for the Wildcats, the consensus remains that he’ll likely end up in Lexington next season. If your Virginia, though, you wait to find out what the decision is before moving on to other targets.

Virginia is also waiting to learn if redshirt junior forward Mamadi Diakite will return to school or stay in the 2019 NBA Draft. Once those decisions start coming in, I suspect the ball will start rolling more on other targets. Outside of Juzang, Virginia is still scheduled to host Marquette transfers Sam and Joey Hauser the weekend of May 17-19. The Wisconsin natives took officials to Wisconsin this past weekend and are scheduled to go to Michigan State this weekend. As I mentioned last week, the May 17-19 date to UVA is ideal for the Hoos, as it means more time to figure out the exact scholarship situation.

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