Virginia Fan Q&A: Basketball Thoughts, Football Positions Of Need

Ben Vander Plas committed to Virginia to use his ‘Super Senior’ year. ~ Photo courtesy

It’s Friday so it’s time for the weekly fan Q&A feature. This mailbag series lets Virginia fans ask questions. We’ll share our opinions or find answers for you.

This time, let’s dive into some questions from previous weeks that still need answer. If you click on the question, it takes you to the message board post where anyone can provide an answer or join the conversation.

Do we have former players you would compare Ben Vander Plas to in skill set? Just trying to figure out how he connects in maybe in comparison to some of Tony’s past teams. ~ Oregon Hoo

This question came up almost two weeks ago. I sat on the question for a little while because I didn’t really have a great answer. I think it’s hard to find the perfect comparison from Virginia teams in the Bennett era.

The best thing I could come up with is sort of a Sam Hauser, Braxton Key hybrid vibe. A lot of tricks in his offensive bag like Hauser, good playmaking and passing skills like Key. Not as good of a shooter as Hauser, not as good a defender as Key. Good rebounder like both.

Again, it’s not a perfect comparison I don’t think. Here are some examples of where I see similarities. (More video here.)

His mid-post game has a feel to it like Hauser.

His driving and cutting game has a feel more like Key.

When you pull in stats, you see some things that look similar. Hauser, for example, shot 53%.8 on 2-point field goals his last year at Marquette and 59.6% his year at UVA. Vander Plas shot 53.8% on 2-point tries two years ago at Ohio and 60.0% last year. Per 100 possessions, Key averaged 5.9 free throw attempts and 3.3 assists in his junior year with 6.5 free throw attempts and 3.6 assists his senior year. Vander Plas posted 3.6 free throw attempts with 6.2 assists per 100 as a junior and 6.5 free throw attempts with 5.0 assists as a senior. All three had double-digit rebounds per 100 as seniors with Key at 14.6, Hauser at 13.1, and Vander Plas at 11.1.

Of course, both Hauser and Key were asked to handle hybrid wing roles at Virginia where they played both wing and post in different lineups. That meant both players defended opposing small forwards and power forwards or face-up players in opponent small ball lineups. Key was better at it than Hauser, but the latter competed and improved throughout the year there.

It appears that Vander Plas might be asked to play a similar hybrid role. Otherwise, the fit with fellow senior Jayden Gardner becomes a little more clunky. You could potentially play them together in the frontcourt for small-ball lineups, but to create options for both of them in heavy minutes territory that can’t be the only option and splitting them up in platoon at the traditional four spot seems limiting.

Can Gardner and Vander Plas function well enough together to play alongside a center?