Virginia men’s basketball received some big news Sunday morning (May 6), when Alabama transfer Braxton Key revealed his commitment to the Cavaliers. ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman was the first to report the commitment, revealing the news first via Twitter.
A 6’8”, 225-pound combo forward, Key arrived in Tuscaloosa as a heralded member of the class of 2016. Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN.com all ranked the former Christ Presbyterian (Nashville, TN) and Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) standout as a 4-star recruit. Key was ESPN.com’s No. 33 recruit in the nation in his class, while Rivals (64) and 247Sports (64) also ranked him among the nation’s top 2016 Class prospects.
Key averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in his first year with the Crimson Tide. A knee injury (torn meniscus) and subsequent surgery cost him the first 10 games of the 2017/2018 campaign. As a sophomore he would end up starting 17-of-26 games and averaged 7 points and 5.3 points per contest.
On April 20, Key announced he was transferring from Alabama.
“For my personal growth, I feel I just need a change of scenery,” Key wrote in this tweet.
Key visited Virginia earlier this week and then cancelled a previously scheduled trip to Miami. He’ll have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in the 2019/2020 season.
“I chose Virginia because of the relationship with the coaches since high school. I love how close the team is, and it’s my uncle Ralph Sampson’s alma mater,” Key told Goodman. Click here to read the entire ESPN.com report.
Coach Bennett established a good relationship with Key early on. In the summer of 2014, prior to his junior year, Key had the following to say about the Cavalier head coach.
“Coach Bennett’s a great guy,” Key told TheSabre.com at the 2014 NBPA Top 100 Camp. “A man of God. He’s kind of like my high school coach, [Christ Presbyterian (Nashville, TN) head coach Drew] Maddox, so it would kind of be like playing for my high school coach in a way. [Bennett] knows how to win. He proved that last year and they’re just going to get better and better.”
Key’s commitment is significant to Virginia on several fronts, with one of the most important being that he could be an ideal replacement for 2018 ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter should Hunter turn pro after the 2018/2019 season. He has similar size, athleticism and versatility to Hunter, assets which should enable him to guard multiple spots (including the 4) in head coach Tony Bennett’s Pack Line defense. Key has shown a solid all-around offensive game as well, which you can see in his freshman season highlights below (courtesy of Beach City Hoops).
Virginia now has one available scholarship remaining for the upcoming season. Perimeter depth remains a need, so look for Coach Bennett to continue to pursue the grad-transfer market for help there. Virginia also now has one scholarship remaining for the class of 2019.