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Isaac McKneely, looking for his shot more, will make Virginia more lethal

Chris Graham
isaac mckneely
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Tony Bennett needs Isaac McKneely to be greedy, and the sophomore did his best to be greedy in Saturday’s 84-62 win over Syracuse, hunting for his shot, taking – and draining – some tough ones, on the way to a 22-point outing.

“You know, once you see that first one go down, it’s like, you got a little good feeling in the second one, third one, so I just kept letting them fly, and they were falling,” said McKneely, who was 8-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-8 from three in 26 minutes.

They’ve been falling a lot this season – McKneely is shooting 54.3 percent from three-point range in 2023-2024.

The issue has been getting him to look for his shots more.

“Obviously in his first year, he deferred more. We had older guys, and now, you know, he’s the second most experienced player on our team, even though he’s a sophomore, and he knows we need him,” Bennett told reporters in his postgame presser.

McKneely will tell you he was deferential as a prep at Poca High School, where he was the two-time West Virginia Player of the Year, but didn’t exactly run up the score on the way to winning that hardware – averaging a modest 22 points per game in his junior and senior seasons, passing up as many good shots as he took.

Reece Beekman saw something from iMac in the summer that made him think we’d see more in the way of greediness from the 6’4” shooting guard.

“He’s where we go to when we need a three,” said Beekman, who had 13 points and eight assists in 26 minutes in the win over ‘Cuse. “It shows in practice, and he’s hitting shots at a high level. So, I feel like we, as a team, look for him to score that, you know, we need that from him. I kind of saw that playing now over the summer, you know, he was taking more shots, just being more aggressive. So, I’m just happy to see him shine.”

I see a lot of Malcolm Brogdon in Isaac McKneely’s game, and there are a lot of similarities when you look at their numbers at similar points in their Virginia careers.

Both played a lot as freshmen – Brogdon got 22.4 minutes a game in 2011-2012; McKneely got 21.5 minutes a game last year.

Brogdon deferred as a freshman – averaging 6.9 points on 5.8 shot attempts per game.

As a sophomore, he took a leadership role on a team that won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles and reached the Sweet Sixteen, leading that group with 12.7 points per game on 9.8 shots per game.

isaac mckneely
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

McKneely, as a freshman last year, averaged 6.7 points on 5.5 shot attempts per game.

Through seven games in 2023-2024, he’s averaging 11.6 points on 8.6 shot attempts per game.

He could still be a little greedier.

“I like seeing, you know, and that’s usually a progression you want for a guy that, OK, this is what’s needed of me, look for it, make good decisions. And he wasn’t all threes. I know he was 6-of-8, but he had a couple where he was down the lane on the rim, so that was good,” Bennett said.

Team Coverage: Virginia 84, Syracuse 62

uva cheerleaders
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

 

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].