Special Offseason Continues For Virginia Basketball Commit Isaac McKneely

Virginia basketball commit Isaac McKneely. ~ Photo courtesy of McKneely, from his Twitter account.

When we last spoke with University of Virginia basketball class of 2022 commit Isaac McKneely, the 6’4” guard had just been named the recipient of the 2021 Bill Evans Award. It was the first time a player from Poca High School had won the award, which is given annually to the top basketball player in the state of West Virginia.

The Bill Evans award was the first of several early offseason highlights for the future Hoo. On June 4, McKneely was named West Virginia’s 2020-21 Gatorade Player of the Year, an honor that recognizes a student athlete’s accomplishments on and off the court. As a junior, McKneely averaged 23 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists while leading the Dots to the Class AA state final, carried a 4.1 GPA, and assisted with the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank. This summer he has helped coach at a local basketball camp as well.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” McKneely answered when asked what the Gatorade Player of the Year Award means to him. “It means you’re not only a good basketball player, but you get it done in the classroom. You are a good student and good in the community.”

Further success has come while playing for the Wildcat Select AAU program. Wildcat Select, which will compete this weekend on the Adidas 3SSB circuit’s Live 1 Session in Birmingham (AL), prepared for a busy month of July by playing in the Southern Jam Fest in Hampton (VA) and The Battle in Akron (OH). The latter took place last weekend at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School’s LeBron James Arena. McKneely shined, scoring 20 points (6-15 shooting, including 6-11 from 3) in a 73-69 overtime victory over a Strive For Greatness team that included LeBron James’ son, Bronny, who is a 4-star guard in the class of 2023.

Yet another offseason accomplishment came McKneely’s way earlier this week.

Amidst the awards, accolades, and on-court highlights, McKneely squeezed in an official visit to the Virginia the weekend of June 11-13. It was the consensus 4-star prospect’s first visit on Grounds since committing to the Hoos in January of this year, and he let the Twitter world know mid-visit how the experience was going.

“Everyone is amazing there,” McKneely answered when asked for the reasons behind the tweet. “Obviously every high-major school has a great arena and a great weight room. The thing that makes UVA different is the people. The coaches. The players. The people you are going to be around in college. That reassured me that I made the right decision.”

The experience allowed McKneely to further connect with head coach Tony Bennett and to get to know his future teammates.

“Coach Bennett is a great guy, easy to talk to,” McKneely recalled. “He’s really funny too. Me and him went to the airport to pick up (UVA class of 2022 forward target) Isaac Traudt. I really got to talk with him then. Got to know him a lot better. I was able to talk to all the coaches and got to know them.”

Of the players, McKneely said: “There was a party at Coach Bennett’s house Saturday night. “We got together, ate some food, got to know each other. I think Kody was in Australia. Igor wasn’t there yet. Everyone else was there. I got a feel for everyone else’s personality. We played ping pong. I found out I’m not very good at that (laughs). Most of the time I spent with Taine Murray. They are all great people.”

More with Isaac McKneely

What were the highlights of your UVA official visit?

“Probably the food,” McKneely said with a laugh. “JPJ was cool too.”

Speaking of JPJ, what are your thoughts on the upgraded weight room?

“That weight room is unreal,” McKneely said. “I talked with Coach Curtis. They have an app they use. I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed on that until I sign. When I’m allowed, he can send workouts so I can prepare for the next level.”

So you rode with Coach Bennett to pick up Traudt? How was that experience?

“Coach Bennett said that was the first time any recruit has ever done that,” McKneely said. “That was pretty cool. It just worked out that way. He asked if I wanted to do that and I said sure. I think [Traudt] was surprised to see us both at the airport (laughs).”

Isaac Traudt said Coach Bennett feels you and him could help UVA return to the Final Four.

“[Coach Bennett] said he thinks it’s a great fit,” McKneely said. “Obviously, I’m already locked in. [Coach Bennett] really wants Isaac. The mover-blocker system, he thinks we can thrive in the offense and get shots. He thinks me and him are two big pieces in this class.”

Hanging out with the players, did you talk a lot about what to expect at UVA or was it more just “getting to know you” type of stuff? Were you able to speak with Kihei Clark, who was obviously a part of the national title team?

“It was more just kind of getting to know each other,” McKneely said. “I got to know Kihei. We went out to dinner. We talked more NBA than college basketball.”

Academically, what do you think of what UVA offers?

“Obviously the academics are top-notch. That’s another reason why UVA is a great fit for me,” McKneely said.

Finally, UVA seems to take a methodical recruiting approach, getting to know recruits, their families, coaches, etc. before making a scholarship offer, which may result in UVA taking long to offer than other programs. What is your take on that approach?

“I did appreciate it and I think Isaac appreciated it,” McKneely said. “Some people kind of throw out offers. I don’t think that’s as good as what Coach Bennett does. He got to know my family, even my brother. He wanted to see me play in person. He couldn’t really because of the pandemic. He does things the right way.”