Five Questions To Ponder While Virginia Basketball Plays In Italy

Reece Beekman and the Hoos are scheduled to play four games in Italy. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/

Excitement for Virginia basketball season has steadily increased over the long offseason months. Luckily for Hoo fans, they don’t have to wait quite as long this year to get their first peek at the team as UVA scheduled an NCAA allowed foreign tour this month.

The Cavaliers traveled to Italy to begin a four-game and sightseeing tour from August 10-20. The exhibition schedule includes games in Rome (Saturday), Florence (Monday), and Rapallo (next Thursday and Friday). Two of the contest come against strong European club KK Mega Mozzart of Belgrade, Serbia.

“We are very excited to take our team to Italy,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in a news release. “We are adding four freshmen and a graduate transfer to an experienced group which showed improvement last season. The additional practices and quality competition during this tour allows us to improve and prepare for the 2022-23 season. We are looking forward to bonding and growing as a team in a beautiful country.”

The tour provides an opportunity to build team chemistry and has educational components as well, but there are obviously basketball benefits too. Bennett told Jeff White at that the extra practice component, both before and during the trip, is where the most value is gained on the court. “It’s just a good way for them to get practices and get some game experience. You’re not really worried too much about the win-loss [aspect],” he said.

For this particular year and team, that’s a big advantage for the program because the Hoos must blend an experienced core of returning players with an extended cast of newcomers. They return the top 6 rotation players from last year’s team in Kihei Clark, Jayden Gardner, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Francisco Caffaro, and Kadin Shedrick that produced a 21-14 record and advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals. A talented and highly ranked freshman class – Leon Bond III, Ryan Dunn, Isaac McKneely, and Isaac Traudt – plus Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas join the group as UVA attempts to return to the NCAA Tournament field.

Virginia fans, of course, are already eager to see that new mix in action and they’ll gather some feedback from this tour, though it may be limited. Here are five questions that could begin to develop answers during the Italian trip.

Does Virginia Have More Shooting Potential?

Easily one of the top storylines from last season revolved around the Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting or more specifically the lack of it. Virginia shot just 32.3% (176-545) from behind the arc and ranked 247th nationally in the category. That was slightly better than the 2019-2020 team’s 30.4% that ranked 310th, but that team still outshot its opponents by holding them to 29.3% shooting from 3-point range. That wasn’t the case for last season’s team, which allowed 33.6% on 3’s.

No one in the regular rotation shot better than 34.6% from 3-point range, the number posted by Kihei Clark. Toward the end of the season, Armaan Franklin found a groove after a reported mechanical change to his shooting form. So while he shot 29.6% for the season, he matched his career high in each of the last two NIT games with 5 3-pointers in each on a combined 10-18 shooting (55.5%). Over the final nine games, he hit 19 of 43 triples (44.2%). The four games on this trip will be the first opportunity to see if that shooting