Virginia Basketball Recruiting Notes: Hoos Await Decisions From Top Prospects

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Four weeks and change are left until the beginning of Division 1 men’s basketball’s Early Signing Period, which runs November 11 through November 18. Following the September 13 commitment from guard Taine Murray, the University of Virginia men’s basketball program has two open scholarships left available in the class of 2021.

Six high school seniors who have been offered by Virginia remain uncommitted. At this point, the three to focus on are 5-star guard Trevor Keels, 5-star guard/forward Caleb Houstan, and consensus 4-star forward Trey Kaufman.

No new scholarship offers have gone out in the either the class of 2021 or the class of 2022, a strong signal that head coach Tony Bennett is content to wait and see how the Cavaliers fare with these class of 2021 targets. We don’t know for sure if Keels, Houstan, and/or Kaufman will sign early, but if they do, we’ll know where they are headed in less than five weeks.

Trevor Keels, Guard, 6’5”, 210 pounds, Paul VI (Fairfax, VA)

Keels has narrowed his list to Duke, Villanova, and Virginia. Rumors that a decision was coming on Thursday were quickly shutdown. Three 247Sports.com analysts have picked Duke in the site’s Crystal Ball feature, but I don’t think anyone truly knows for sure where Keels is leaning. I could see him ending up at any of the three, but the timing of his decision remains unclear.

If he decides on Virginia, Keels could follow a development path similar to Malcolm Brogdon. I’ve thought of him also as a more skilled Devon Hall. Keels isn’t a dynamic athlete – I’d say Brogdon had better quickness entering college – but he is a good shooter, has a high IQ, can do multiple things, and can play the role of a physical guard.

Caleb Houstan, Forward, 6’8”, 210 pounds, Montverde Academy (FL)

Houstan’s recruitment had been relatively quiet until this week, when he revealed his four finalists: Alabama, Duke, Michigan and Virginia.

Houstan, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, announced in July that he was reclassifying from the class of 2022 to the class of 2021. Virginia offered prior to the announcement, and the offer stood after Houstan reclassified. This was not a surprise as Houstan is a consensus 5-star recruit.

Of his decision to reclassify, Houstan told ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony in July: “I feel like I’m ready to take the next step. Being at Montverde and playing for Canada at the FIBA level has helped prepare me for that. The best decision for me is to go to college in 2021. That will help me get to next level and eventually where I want to go, which is the NBA.”

Of the reclassification decision, Caleb’s father, David, said this to ZagsBlog in July (click here for the full article): “It’s not necessarily getting to the NBA earlier. I think that that can be a mistake in many cases. It’s really a case of what he wants to accomplish, what he’s looking to do, what the opportunity is, and how he’s doing in school.”

Houstan told Givony at the time that he had no decision timetable. However, narrowing his list to four this close to the Early Signing Period may indicate an early decision is on the way. There is no consensus favorite among the final four. Neither Rivals nor 247Sports analysts have put in any college predictions with Houstan.

If he were to choose UVA, I think Houstan fits the De’Andre Hunter/Sam Hauser mold. Like Hauser he is an outstanding 3-point shooter – Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle told ZagsBlog.com that he made roughly 53% of his 3s last season.

(Highlights below courtesy of Courtside Films)

Trey Kaufman, Forward, 6’9”, 210 pounds, Silver Creek (Sellersburg, IN)

The reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana has narrowed his list to five – Indiana, Indiana State, North Carolina, Purdue and Virginia. In this EDGE article on September 18, I asked Kaufman if waiting until the spring to sign was a possibility. He said it was “impossible for me to say a decision or timeline. I don’t know the answer.”

I think an early signing is likely, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him wait, either. Because of how close he is with family and because he has been around the program for so long, Indiana is the logical favorite. However, if he were totally sold on IU he would have committed by now. I think he is considering Purdue, North Carolina and Virginia strongly, with Indiana State probably on the outside looking in.

Of UVA, he said the following in the EDGE report: “Coach Bennett, we talk a lot. I think we do have a really good relationship. Not just with Coach Bennett, but a lot of coaches on the staff. Players there have contacted me as well. The style, the way they conduct themselves, I’m still trying to figure out if it fits me. The culture definitely fits me. I’ve got to see if the scheme is what I want to play in.”

Virginia is selling Kaufman on using him in a similar way to De’Andre Hunter.

As mentioned, three other seniors who earned Virginia scholarships remain uncommitted. Forward DaRon Holmes II, an Arizona native who will play alongside Houstan at Montverde Academy this season, took an official visit to UVA last fall, but both parties have moved on since. Virginia made the top 10 for consensus 5-star Patrick Baldwin Jr. but I don’t think of the Cavaliers as one of the favorites. That leaves former Steward School (Richmond, VA) and current IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) star post Efton Reid. Coach Bennett pushed hard for the skilled seven-footer, and perhaps things change, but at this point I just don’t see Reid heading to UVA.

Taine Murray Update

Since Murray pledged to UVA, the New Zealand native has been ranked by 247Sports. The 6’5” guard comes in as 247’s no. 75 overall prospect in the class of 2021 and is rated a 4-star prospect. Rivals.com also has him on the 4-star level.

Murray, who attends Rosmini College School in Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand, has signed on with the Sky Sport Breakers in the NBL as a developmental player. He won’t get paid – thus keeping his eligibility to play at UVA intact – but will train with the professional team.

The NBL season has pushed back its start timetable to “early 2021” according to this release. If/when the league does play, Murray could see playing time according to head coach Dan Shamir.

Class of 2022 News

Before he reclassified, Caleb Houstan was the only class of 2022 prospect to receive a scholarship offer from Virginia. As we reported in this article in June, the Hoos have reached out to plenty of 2022 prospects, but to date there are no known scholarship offers on the table. Not being able to scout during the AAU season like usual because of COVID-19 is a factor, but the likely major reason is that Coach Bennett and company are just waiting to see what happens with 2021 prospects before moving forward with a plan for 2022.

There has been some reported activity between Virginia and high school juniors recently, including …

Isaac McKneely has visited UVA a few times and has received strong interest from head coach Tony Bennett, who, according to Stockrisers.com, was scheduled to meet with the Poca (W.V.) star junior shooting guard via Zoom on Wednesday (October 7).

West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Iowa, Wake Forest, Creighton, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State, and Cincinnati offered the 6’4” junior this spring and summer. McKneely discusses some of those schools, recent interest from UNC and Kentucky, and the interest from UVA in this article by Stockrisers from earlier this week.

– Also according to Stockrisers, Coach Bennett met via Zoom with Isaac Traudt on September 18. The 6’9” junior forward out of Nebraska boasts offers from Georgetown, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and others. And, just this week, he picked up an offer from Louisville.

– Virginia continues to keep tabs on athletic in-state wing Alphonzo Billups III. The 6’7” junior hails from Varina High School, which produced former UVA football standouts Doni Dowling and Tim Harris. Mississippi, Richmond, Texas A&M and Wake Forest are among the offers he boasts at this point.

Endless Motor Sports reported UVA’s latest contact with Billups.

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