When Virginia basketball standout Malcolm Brogdon joined Ralph Sampson as a NBA Rookie of the Year winner, some quickly viewed it as win for the Hoos on the recruiting trail. Coach Tony Bennett now not only can point out UVA’s recent success but the program’s development track record for an NBA career with Brogdon.
The Cavaliers, after all, have earned a bid in four straight NCAA Tournaments with at least one win each March. They’ve seen at least one player selected in the NBA Draft in four of the last six seasons, starting with Mike Scott in 2012 followed by Joe Harris in 2014, Justin Anderson in 2015, and Brogdon in 2016. Mike Tobey also made the league briefly last year as a free agent signee.
Brogdon’s NBA Rookie of the Year selection only further solidified the Virginia’s status as a professional preparation program. The Atlanta native entered UVA as the No. 99 ranked recruit nationally in 247 Sports composite ranking, overcame a significant foot surgery with a redshirt year, and then left as a fifth-year senior with the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year accolades in tow. Bennett could already push all of that in recruiting messages about the consensus All-American that had his number retired.
Now, he can throw in that hard work and dedication with the Hoos can not only produce college recognition, but NBA success as well.
Brogdon led NBA rookies in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (1.12 per game), while also becoming just one of five rookies in NBA history to shoot 40% or better from 3-point range while also averaging at least 4.0 assists per game. He ranked second among rookies with a 3-point shooting percentage of 40.4% and second in free throw percentage at 86.5%. He was third in overall field goal percentage at 45.7% and fourth in scoring at 10.2 points per game. Brogdon also posted the first triple-double by a rookie in franchise history when he put up 15 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds at Chicago on New Year’s Eve.
All of that brings to mind something Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said a few years back during the 2015 NCAA Tournament. In a response to a reporter’s question about the one-and-done rule that requires players to be 19 years old to be NBA eligible, Izzo pointed out that putting players in the NBA helps recruiting as much or more as winning in the NCAA Tournament. (The full quote is at the end of this article and part of it is included in this New York Times article as well.)
“If we get a guy back, I’m happy. If he goes to the pros, I’m even happier because that will help my recruiting, sad as that is to say, more than winning a National Championship,” Izzo said. “But I’m more worried about what happens to the kids.”
Bennett clearly has put Virginia basketball on the right track with six straight postseason appearances, including the NCAA Tournament in five of the past six years. Adding players that reach the league and now Brogdon as the NBA Rookie of the Year to that narrative can only help on the recruiting trail.
Full Tom Izzo quote
“You know, I’m on a million different boards and I’ve been on boards with the NBA and talking to them. No. 1, as we all know, it’s completely out of our hands. That’s No. 1. Number 2, I get condemned for acting – if I could have five one and done guys tomorrow, I would take them, okay? My biggest worry is what’s happening to these guys. Like everything else in the world, smoking cigarettes was cool, then after research of years and years and years, it develops lung cancer. So we change our thoughts. We have not researched where a large majority of these guys that come out early, one year I think there were 70 some that came out, there’s only 30 first round picks and there’s only 60 picks so that doesn’t include – so somebody’s getting fed a bunch of baloney.
Especially for me at this point, I’ve had a million chances to do a million things, it’s not like I’m living every day – if we get a guy back, I’m happy. If he goes to the pros, I’m even happier because that will help my recruiting, sad as that is to say, more than winning a National Championship, but I’m more worried about what happens to the kids and I think everybody outside thinks it’s the coach that’s holding him back. Some day, 10 years from now, there’s going to be a study of how many kids came out and ended up on the streets. That’s the crime of this whole thing.
There is nothing wrong with being an apprentice. There is nothing wrong with being a graduate assistant working your way up that way. In fact, there’s some good things for it. You know what, my buddy Mariucci and I, every time we get together, the first thing we say is we both made a lot of money, we’ve had a lot of success in different areas. God, I would die to go back to college. You know, I really would, too. I think like a lot of my former players that are in the NBA, it’s a job. It’s a nice job, but it’s a job. College isn’t a job and I think so many kids are missing out. So I would take a completely different approach, not what’s best for the NBA, not what’s best for the college, what truly is best for the kid and how can we work around it. Is it the baseball rule so LeBron can come out and the other guy has to go. I also worry that so many of these kids go to school and they never get to enjoy it – every shot that’s missed, does that mean that I’m not going to be able to come out. I feel bad for them.
I take a completely different look at it. Whether some people think that’s, think of the right word here since we’re on TV, since it’s not – some people think I’m just lying or really I’m looking out for my own. Michigan State is going to be there if the kid leaves early or not. I’ll be there some of the time if a kid leaves early or not. It’s the kid that is going to lose out, and there’s so many that have left because people have convinced them to leave. Do I think it’s healthy? No, and I think 99 percent of the coaches, I think 99 percent of the NBA people, I just think there’s other people that get in there and that’s where the problems are. But I’ll do it anyway. I’ll take a four year guy, a two year guy, a two year guy and a one year guy and if he can play it, it doesn’t matter to me.”