Home Five-star Jarin Stevenson to announce college decision on Wednesday: How UVA fits in

Five-star Jarin Stevenson to announce college decision on Wednesday: How UVA fits in

Chris Graham
jarin stevenson
Photo: Twitter

I would love to think that Jarin Stevenson, when he announces his college choice on Wednesday, will pick Virginia, one of his three finalists, but, no, it can’t be likely.

I’ll be happy to eat my words, preferably on top of a cake, of course, but the idea that the talented 6’10” power forward, who lives 15 minutes from North Carolina’s campus, doesn’t fancy himself being the latest in a long line of solid Carolina bigs doesn’t compute.

Now, yes, there is the issue with that long line of solid Carolina bigs being solid bigs in college, and not so much in the NBA.

There’s a reason, for instance, that Armando Bacot is back at UNC for a fifth season, and not already a two- or three-year NBA veteran.

That’s not a knock on Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Luke Maye, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, James Michael McAdoo – even Tyler Zeller and Tyler Hansbrough, both of whom went on to long, if not spectacular, NBA careers.

The Carolina system works great for bigs to have success at the college level, using big-butt guys who can back defenders into the post, shoot at a high rate around the rim, convert free throws, but NBA teams have long since decided that they don’t want that kind of play out of their bigs.

Not that Tony Bennett has had more success in terms of getting his bigs into paying gigs in the NBA than Carolina has, though, right?

Bennett’s bigs who have moved on to paying basketball jobs include Jay Huff, a 7’1” three-and-D, and Mamadi Diakite, a mobile 6’9” rim protector, both of who have bounced back and forth between the NBA and G League the past couple of years, and maybe you could count 6’8” forward Anthony Gill, who has at least stayed on the roster of the Washington Wizards for the past four seasons, but Gill has adapted himself into being more of a jump shooter playing the three than back-to-the-basket post guy at the four since leaving Virginia.

Now, that point having been made, Bennett hasn’t yet had access to a big at the talent level of Stevenson, a five-star who has made it clear that his aspirations are one, two years of college at the most, ahead of being an NBA lottery pick.

That may be because Bennett’s system focuses on the offensive end on using its bigs to set screens for guards, with the looks for the bigs coming primarily off pocket passes and lobs from the guards, and then whatever they can scrounge for themselves from their work on the offensive glass.

Here I’d argue that, because the NBA uses its bigs to do a lot of that kind of thing, you’d think that more bigs with NBA aspirations would look at an apprenticeship with Bennett as an opportunity to become what they’ll need to be to be able to get a paying gig at the next level.

The reason most don’t think that way is that no five-star 17-year-old wants who thinks himself a lottery pick – and all five-star 17-year-olds think of themselves as lottery picks – wants to concede that they’re better off learning how to set screens and then get offense off screen action and working the boards than trying to be their best version of Kevin Durant.

The thinking in the aspiring-lottery-pick set seems to be, I need to go somewhere to put up numbers so that I can get my name called as close to the top of the draft as possible.

The case of De’Andre Hunter, a 6’7” small forward who had modest counting numbers in two seasons at Virginia, and went on to be the #4 pick in the 2019 draft, would seem to run counter to that assumption, but if you’re, say, Hubert Davis, you’re telling guys like Jarin Stevenson that Hunter is the exception.

Davis had the last crack at making his impression on Stevenson, who was in Chapel Hill late last month for his official visit, and the coach no doubt did his best to sell Stevenson on how he’ll be featured in Carolina’s offensive scheme, and to potty mouth what Bennett would have him doing at Virginia if he were to go there.

I have no more insight into what Stevenson’s thinking on all of this is than the next sportswriter, but I think that it has to be the case that it’s always going to be hard for Bennett to get big guys with the talent level of a Jarin Stevenson to commit.

That having been said, Stevenson left Virginia among his three finalists for a reason.

Could Stevenson, and the people around him guiding him to make the right call, be thinking that he’s not necessarily the next Kevin Durant, but rather, maybe the next Jaren Jackson, Al Horford or Draymond Greene?

If Stevenson sees himself being one of the latter, it might be best for him to go to Virginia.

And honestly, if he thinks himself the next Kevin Durant, he should go to ‘Bama.

All Carolina is going to do for him is give him good NIL money for four years before he starts to make a living in Europe.

I realize writing that gets me in trouble with the UNC fan base, but whatever, it’s the truth.

I still see Stevenson ending up in Chapel Hill. It just feels inevitable.

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].