UVA basketball lands Alabama transfer Braxton Key

UVA basketballUVA basketball added a stellar transfer recruit over the weekend with Alabama sophomore Braxton Key coming on board.

Key averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a freshman, and after missing 10 games in 2017-2018 following offseason knee surgery put up 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

The 6’8”, 225-pound forward will have to sit out the 2018-2019 season, per NCAA transfer rules, and would have two years of eligibility remaining.

With a year to acclimate to the UVA system, Key would be expected to contribute in the frontcourt as an upperclassman, with center Jack Salt (3.4 ppg, 4.0 rebounds/g) graduating next year, and the likelihood that Virginia will also lose small forward De’Andre Hunter (9.2 ppg, 48.8% FG) to the NBA.

Coach Tony Bennett had recruited Key as a high-schooler, but lost out on him when Hunter committed. The four-star recruit has one other UVA tie: he is the nephew of Cavalier legend Ralph Sampson.

On the horizon

The ‘Hoos are still likely to be on the lookout for a grad transfer who can be eligible to play and contribute in 2018-2019, ideally a guard, where the roster may be at its thinnest, assuming Hunter is used primarily in the frontcourt.

Ty Jerome (10.6 ppg, 3.9 assists/g) and Kyle Guy (14.1 ppg) are entrenched at the 1 and 2, but the third slot in the backcourt is up for grabs with the loss to graduation of starter Devon Hall (11.7 ppg, 4.2 rebounds/g, 3.1 assists/g) and key reserve Nigel Johnson (4.9 ppg).

Marco Anthony (2.0 ppg, 7.9 minutes/g), who played well in limited action as a freshman in 2017-2018, is at the least a rotation guy next season, but behind Anthony, the pickings are a bit slim.

There are two three-star recruits in the Class of 2018 coming in next season – Kody Stattman, a 6’6″, 170-pounder from Australia, and Kihei Clark, a 5’9″, 145-pound point guard from California.

UVA is also adding a third guard in preferred walk-on Jayden Nixon, a local product from St. Anne’s-Belfield.

Given the demands of the Pack-Line and Mover-Blocker systems, it would be a stretch to assume any of the three would be in a position to contribute as true freshmen, and it’s more likely that you will see each of the three redshirt in 2018-2019.

Actually, looking this over, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hunter shifted back to the backcourt, with Mamadi Diakite (5.4 ppg. 3.0 rebounds/g) and Salt starting in the frontcourt, with Jay Huff (3.4 ppg, 1.9 rebounds/g) as the first big off the bench, assuming a healthy return from surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Any way you look at it, it looks like the rotation is missing one guy right now.

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