Home UVA gets its guys from the transfer portal: How does the roster look for 2024-2025?

UVA gets its guys from the transfer portal: How does the roster look for 2024-2025?

tony bennett
Tony Bennett. Photo: UVA Athletics

A spring of discontent for UVA Basketball fans got upended with a flurry of transfers from power schools over the weekend and into this week.

I’m counting San Diego State as a power school, before you @me. If you want to quibble, do so with their past two seasons ending in the national-championship game and Sweet 16 with losses to UConn.

There’s still one scholarship spot remaining, so I might be premature with what I’m getting ready to do here, analyzing the roster for 2024-2025, but I’m doing this today because, I don’t know that I see there being a need for Tony Bennett to use that last scholarship to add another guy from the outside.

Feel free to @me on this, but I thought the backcourt was pretty well set after the addition of Jalen Warley from the portal on Saturday, and I’m still there today.

For all the love that you see out there on the interwebs about the merits of a Trent Perry or Anthony Dell’orso, you’re either adding a four-star prep recruit to compete with other recent four-star prep recruits, or another small-conference shooting guard transfer to compete with another small-conference shooting guard transfer.

So, OK, I’m assuming we’re all set.

How do we look for 2024-2025?

Scouting Report: Backcourt

uva elijah gertrude Bennett is usually able to hand over his lead point guard job to a guy who got significant minutes beside the guy he’s replacing – think: Ty Jerome playing as a freshman alongside London Perrantes, Kihei Clark playing as a freshman alongside Jerome, Reece Beekman and Clark playing together for three years before Beekman took over last year.

Next year will be the first time since Perrantes had to step in as the point as a freshman in 2013-2014 that Bennett will be breaking in an entirely new, untested guy at the point.

A little scary, but the top candidates have obvious talent.

I like Elijah Gertrude, a Top 50 recruit in the Class of 2023, who got some run as a freshman in 2023-2024, not much – 9.4 minutes per game in 16 games – but some.

What we saw out of Gertrude was off-the-charts athleticism, a guy at 6’4” who looks like, once he gets comfortable in the system, will be a beast to try to keep out of the lane, who needs obvious work on his perimeter game – he was (gulp!) 1-of-15 from three-point range, though he was also 7-of-16 on two-point jumpers, so, that’s something to work with.

The other kid in the mix comes from the Ty Jerome prototype – 6’4” redshirt freshman Christian Bliss, who bypassed his senior year in high school to enroll at UVA as a 17-year-old as a redshirt, to get work in practice and in the weight room with the college guys as opposed to spending another year at the prep level.

Bliss is an unknown quantity, so I’m not even going to try to gauge fit with his game.

The other other kid that could get minutes at the point (no rotten tomatoes in my direction, please) is Andrew Rohde, the 6’6” kid from the Summit League whose game didn’t transfer with him last season.

Rohde averaged 17.1 points and 3.6 assists per game at St. Thomas as a freshman in 2022-2023, but despite getting plenty of leash from Bennett in his first year at Virginia – 27 starts, 25.2 minutes per game – he averaged just 4.3 points per game, shot 29.3 percent from the floor, 25.7 percent from three, couldn’t even make free throws (43.8 percent).

I still think the kid who put up nice numbers in the Summit League is in there somewhere, and if Bennett is able to get that kid to come out, watch out.

Warley, coming in from Florida State, is a 6’7” guy who can run the point, and is another Top 50 prep recruit with the added benefit of having three years of experience in the ACC.

The drawbacks: Warley isn’t much of a threat from the perimeter, and that’s being charitable (23.8 percent on jumpers, only attempted two three-point shots in 2023-2024), and defensively, Synergy Sports rated Warley below average in 2023-2024 – opponents averaged 0.958 points per possession and shot 43.0 percent against him last season.

I’m thinking of Warley more at the two spot in Bennett’s lineup, basically, a second point guard on the floor, who, once he gets down the nuances of Bennett’s Pack Line, will be a defensive force with his length.

I’ve gotten this far into my analysis and have yet to even mention 6’4” rising junior Isaac McKneely, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (12.3 points per game), but I hadn’t mentioned him yet because, he’s set as the third guard.

The final guy in the backcourt mix is Taine Murray, a 6’5” rising senior who has largely been the odd man out in his years on Grounds.

Murray, at least, is a guy who, when he does get minutes, is productive (48.2 percent shooting from the field, 45.5 percent shooting from three in 2023-2024), and from all accounts, he’s a good locker-room guy, if that makes sense.

I’m appending here the guy that I left out originally in this report, Ishan Sharma, a 6’4″ three-star from Canada, who we hear from the scouting reports is a quick-release three-point shooter.

It’s hard at this stage to get a feel for how he fits into the battle for a rotation spot.

Scouting Report: The Frontcourt

The lone returning guy in the post is 6’11” rising sophomore Blake Buchanan (3.4 ppg, 3.1 rebs/g, 15.0 minutes/g, 41.4% FG), a four-star recruit from the Class of 2023.

Buchanan had 18 points and seven rebounds in his second college game, the 73-70 win over Florida on Nov. 10, but that would be his only double-digit game, as it turned out, as he lost minutes to Jake Groves and then later to Jordan Minor as the season played out.

Anthony Robinson, a big (6’10”, 238) redshirt freshman, got work in practice and the weight room in his redshirt season, and looks like the kind of guy who will be a space-eater on both ends of the floor, at the least.

Ahead of Monday, Bennett had just one other big on the roster, 6’9”, 225-pound incoming four-star recruit Jacob Cofie, who, according to the scouting reports out there, is a good pick-and-pop shooter out to 17 feet with good size and a strong lower body that should make him a presence on the defensive end.

The transfer haul from Monday and Tuesday is the reason to be excited for Virginia Basketball going into the summer.

First, the signature recruit, Class of 2023 five-star and Top 50 recruit TJ Power, a 6’9” stretch four who somehow got lost in the shuffle in his one-and-done year at Duke.

Bennett, of late, has liked to have a stretch four on the floor – think: Groves, Ben Vander Plas – who can be a threat from three on pick-and-pops.

The scouting report on Power from his prep days touted his athletic ability, which, if that translates to the college game, would set him apart from the likes of Groves and Vander Plas, both bigger guys who got the bulk of their offense from spot-ups.

The other transfer commit from Monday, Elijah Saunders, the San Diego State kid, is, to me, the icing on the cake.

Saunders, at 6’8”, 240, is, basically, Minor (6’8”, 242) with the ability to shoot from three.

As a sophomore at SDSU last season, Saunders averaged 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game, connecting on 32.2 percent of his threes and 33.1 percent of his jumpers overall in 2023-2024.

And this is on decent volume – Saunders was 39-of-121 on his threes and 43-of-130 on all jumpers last season.

He was also 24-of-25 at the free-throw line, suggesting that his ceiling on the perimeter is probably much higher than we’ve already seen from him.

And then there’s how Synergy Sports rates Saunders as excellent on the defensive end, holding opponents to 30.2 percent shooting and 0.750 points per possession in 2023-2024.

On Tuesday, Bennett picked up another big from the portal, former Vanderbilt forward Carter Lang, a 6’9″, 235-pounder who didn’t get much run with the Commodores – 11.6 minutes per game – but was a three-star recruit out of high school in Charlottesville at St. Anne’s-Belfield.

How does it all come together?

At first glance, this will be a big, athletic rotation, reminiscent of Bennett’s 2013-2016 teams, with the smallest guy on the floor at any one time being 6’4”, and with size, heft and scoring in the post for the first time in forever.

The rotation has three guys (McKneely, Power, Saunders) that we know can be threats from three, and a fourth, in Rohde, who has it in him, if he can just figure out how to let his inner three-point shooter out again.

The big question, obviously, is at point, but I think we can tend to overstate how important it is to have one guy to run things at the point, given how Bennett’s offense works, with his version of mover/blocker using the three guards off screens set by the post guys, the offense coming off the continuous movement creating openings for dribble-drives, pocket passes, pick-and-pops and backdoor cuts.

There’s lots of options there, at least.

The other big question is – we’ve got 12 guys for what will eventually be an eight-man rotation.

The odd men out are probably, unfortunately for Taine Murray, Murray in the backcourt, and then Robinson and Cofie in the frontcourt.

I had been ready to pencil in Buchanan as the starter at the five, but I can see Bennett deciding to go with both Power and Saunders in the post to maximize the shooting on the floor.

I like, no, I love this team.

Now we just need to hope the coach who put it together wants to be here for more than another couple of years, right?

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].