Home Are Malik Mack (Harvard), Joshua Jefferson (Saint Mary’s) good fits at Virginia?

Are Malik Mack (Harvard), Joshua Jefferson (Saint Mary’s) good fits at Virginia?

Chris Graham
uva bennett staff
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

The focus of Tony Bennett’s transfer-portal recruiting efforts seems to have zoned in on Harvard freshman point guard Malik Mack and Saint Mary’s sophomore forward Joshua Jefferson.

So, what we do know about these guys, and how they could fit into what Bennett needs for his 2024-2025 roster?

Let’s start with Jefferson, listed at 6’8”, 220, whose counting numbers had him averaging 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from three.

Drilling down, Jefferson is pretty good, borderline very good, around the basket, shooting 65.8 percent (25-of-38) on cuts and 50.0 percent (21-of-42) on post-ups.

That last line item, in particular, gets my attention – Virginia, as a team, was just 24-of-61 (39.3%) on post-ups in 2023-2024.

It would be helpful to have a guy who can score with his back to the basket; it’s been a minute, as the kids say, since Bennett had a guy who could do that with regularity.

I’ll go all the way back to Anthony Gill’s senior season in 2015-2016 on that one. If you can believe it, Gill, listed at 6’8”, 230, was 56-of-115 (48.7%) on post-ups, that season, all by himself.

Jefferson’s shooting numbers from three could be, clearly, better, but he has shown, at least, that he can make perimeter jumpers, which will keep defenders honest when he sets screens, which in Bennett’s mover/blocker will be often.

On the defensive end, Jefferson rated as “excellent” by Synergy Sports, holding opponents to 32.0 percent shooting and 0.695 points per possession.

That last figure, I’ll note here, would have been the best on the UVA roster in 2023-2024, ahead of ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece Beekman (0.714) and defensive wunderkind Ryan Dunn (0.697).

So, let’s go ahead and project Joshua Jefferson to be a good fit.

Next, to Mack, who, to me, is a curious reach-out for Bennett. The Virginia roster already has a stockpile of guys at guard. Assuming Beekman isn’t coming back for his COVID redshirt season, as I am, Bennett still has Dante Harris, Elijah Gertrude and Christian Bliss at the point, Isaac McKneely entrenched as the starter at the two spot, Andrew Rohde as a big (6’6”) combo guard, Taine Murray as a solid veteran who can play either the two or three spots in Bennett’s lineup, and prep perimeter threat Ishan Sharma enrolling at UVA in the summer.

OK, so, a lot of dudes, but other than McKneely (12.3 ppg in 2023-2024), there’s nobody really set in the rotation, and really, everybody else is a question.

Which gets us to Mack, a three-star as a prep recruit who is now listed as a four-star as a transfer, after putting up impressive counting numbers – 17.4 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, 41.0 percent shooting from the floor, 34.3 percent shooting from three, 81.3 percent shooting at the free-throw line, on nice volume (5.1 free-throw attempts per game).

Mack was at his best offensively on dribble handoffs (60.5% EFG, 1.159 PPP), isos (45.2% EFG, 0.960 PPP) and pick-and-roll ball-handler (46.5% EFG, 0.895 PPP).

On defense, Mack was just “average,” per Synergy Sports, allowing opponents to shoot 36.7 percent and score 0.879 points per possession.

Which is to say, he’d be a bit of an offense-for-defense tradeoff for Bennett.

I’d make that tradeoff, and would love to see Bennett break tradition and do so.

And if he were, that could mean we’d see another guy or two hit the portal from the current roster, my first two points of focus there being Harris, who will be a grad senior next season, and Gertrude, an uber-talented rising sophomore whose game just doesn’t seem to fit in Bennett’s system.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].