Offseason Outlook: Francesco Badocchi remains a mystery

Francesco Badocchi uva basketballTimes are a changin’ for the national champion Virginia Cavaliers. Tony Bennett’s squad is undergoing significant reconstruction following the early NBA Draft entries of Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Mamadi Diakite (who still has until May 29 to decide whether he will remain in or return). Marco Anthony, a seldom-used reserve, also is leaving the program via transfer, and Jack Salt has exhausted his eligibility. Class of 2019 recruits Casey Morsell, Kadin Shedrick and Justin McKoy are on their way in. That leaves Bennett and his staff having to fill at least three scholarships — four if Diakite stays in the draft — in the next few weeks. That process will certainly include at least one player eligible immediately as a graduate transfer or a Class of 2019 recruit. It could also include the addition of an undergraduate transfer, someone who won’t be able to contribute until next season. Virginia has been linked to players in all three categories.

Though the Cavaliers are currently shorthanded, the development over the next few months of the players currently on the projected 2019-2020 roster will be crucial to the team’s chance to rebuild following the most successful season in program history. This series examines what each individual needs to do this summer to make the most out of a semi-transitional year for what has become one of the nation’s best programs.

The fourth player in this series is Francesco Badocchi, whose mastery of the piano has outshined his on-court contributions so far.

The numbers

12 games; 2.4 mpg; 0.4 ppg; 50/0/50; 0.5 rpg

The strengths

After two years at Virginia, Badocchi’s basketball skills at the college level are still TBD. A late addition to the 2017 recruiting class, Badocchi redshirted his first year and played in just 12 games this season, missing a good chunk of the non-conference portion due to an illness. However, his recruiting profile painted him as a versatile athlete, and he has good size (6-foot-7, 205 pounds) for the forward position. He is an exceptional jumper — his high school highlight tape is titled “The Human Pogo Stick” — with long strides, and he showed a smooth lefty perimeter stroke in warmups at the Final Four, something he has worked hard on at Virginia. Given his length and athleticism, Badocchi seems to be a good fit as a wing defender in the pack line defense. He is extremely smart, an obvious plus.

The weaknesses

Because Badocchi has not played very much, it’s hard to take too much away other than what he showed in high school highlights and a few sequences as a Cavalier here or there. Badocchi’s perimeter game is something he has worked on and must continue to work on so he can fit in at the ever-popularizing stretch four position. His ball-handling is another area that might be a little underdeveloped. He didn’t have the ball in his hands a ton in high school, as he could attack the rim with ease when he caught the ball in the lane. Right now, the biggest weakness is, essentially, that he hasn’t played due to time needed to develop and the illness in the early months of the 2018-2019 campaign.

The offseason agenda

Badocchi’s improvement list is pretty simple: He needs to refine his offensive game as a perimeter player. In high school, Badocchi was too big and strong to be kept out of the lane, and he could finish at the rim against helpless opponents easily. He needs to be more confident putting the ball on the floor and attacking as an individual scorer, and his perimeter shooting needs to continue to develop to the point where he can be a threat as a catch-and-shoot player on the outside.

The outlook

By this point in this series, you’ll notice a pattern: Any and every scholarship player on the championship roster could become an important part of the 2019-2020 team, regardless of prior experience. That’s what happens when you lose four of your top seven players in terms of minutes played in an eight-man rotation.

Badocchi’s biggest contribution this season was playing the piano for pre-game contests of “Name That Tune.” Now he’ll be expected to contribute on the court. Badocchi’s goal is to model his game around that of Braxton Key and play a similar role off the bench. Badocchi has the size and jumping ability to become a menace on the boards and a versatile defender, just like Key. While Badocchi may never develop into a great individual scorer, if he makes strides in that area, he can play an important role as a versatile forward.


Story by Zach Pereles

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

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