Virginia Basketball Getting A “Complete” Guard In Tomas Woldetensae

New UVA commit and 2018-19 JUCO All-American Woldetensae ~ Photo courtesy of Bryan Stewart, Indian Hills Community College

“We fell into him kind of at the last second,” Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa, IA) head coach Hank Plona said, recalling guard Tomas Woldetensae’s road to IHCC.

Woldetensae, a 6’5”, 195-pound guard and now University of Virginia men’s basketball commitment, spent the first three years of high school in his native country of Italy before transferring to Victory Rock Prep in Florida, where he spent two years, including a postgraduate year. He signed with the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a member of the class of 2017; however, he couldn’t get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and decided to enroll at Indian Hills C.C.

It didn’t take long for Plona to realize he had a good one.

“I will tell you the first day I saw him on the floor I thought he was a mid-major to a high-major player,” Plona said of Woldetensae. “Coming in here, for sure he was underrated.”

Woldetensae has proven his coach right, turning in significant contributions – 8.8 points (43% FG, 39.4% 3PFG, 89.3% FT), 3.1 assists, 1.4 turnovers and 1.2 steals per game in 34 games – as a freshman on a team that went 33-1 team. The talented guard took his game to another level as a sophomore, averaging 17.3 points (46.7 FG%, 47.6% 3PFG in 210 attempts, 88.8% FT), 2.5 assists and 1.4 turnovers per game in 28 games. Woldetensae earned National Junior College Athletic Association 1st Team All-American honors for his performance.

While Woldetensae entered IHCC as an underrated prospect, many major Division 1 coaches knew all about him prior to his standout sophomore campaign and then into the spring.

“He was recruited at a high level,” said Plona, who listed Arizona, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon as some of the schools that either offered or expressed serious interest in Woldetensae. “He’s just one of those kids who trusted his skills and waited to find the right situation.”

Virginia, coming off a national championship and then seeing its top three players – guard Kyle Guy, guard/forward De’Andre Hunter and point guard Ty Jerome – declare for and remain in the 2019 NBA Draft, suddenly had a major need in the backcourt. Woldetensae had taken an official visit to Illinois but had not made any college decisions when Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett entered his recruitment.

“I think they had heard about Tomas a little bit,” Plona said. “They did some homework on their end. I have a good relationship with [UVA Director of Recruiting/Player Development] Kyle Getter, and he got my take on Tomas. Once they decided to go down this road, Coach Bennett … I mean, he recruited Tomas. He showed a lot of interest. Each thought the other kind of had what they needed. It picked up steam from there.”

Woldetensae made an official visit to Virginia this past weekend. He didn’t commit while in Charlottesville, choosing instead to think over his decision for a few days.

“It took a couple of days afterwards for him to decide, but I think he really enjoyed the visit,” Plona said. “Obviously it was a quick recruitment with the players leaving and them developing that need. I would say he was kind of leaning in [Virginia’s] direction from the moment he got back. We wanted to make sure everything added up and that he would be accepted by admissions. We wanted to make sure all the details worked out. I think they made a really strong push and he had very strong interest from the start, though.”

Virginia needs ballhandling and scoring and appears to be getting both in the lefty guard, who will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“Like a lot of European players, he’s a real complete guard,” Plona said. “He has led the team as a point guard-type, but he is also a scorer. He has kind of done it all here. He’s a good passer, but his biggest strength is shooting the ball. He can shoot the ball at a very high rate. He can make it from 23, 24 feet, in every which way. Obviously, that makes him a weapon. In addition, he’s a very smart basketball