Offseason Outlook: Kody Stattmann’s progress will be key for backcourt depth

Times 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 second player in this series is a player whose development could be very important for the Cavaliers’ prospects in the upcoming season: Kody Stattmann.

The numbers

18 games; 4.1 mpg; 1.7 ppg on 42.9/26.7/88.9; 0.6 rpg; 0.1 apg; 0.4 tpg

The strengths

Though he didn’t see much action as a true freshman, Stattmann was hailed as a very good perimeter shooter coming out of his native Australia. He made 23 of 43 attempts (53.5 percent) from deep in the FIBA u17 Oceania Championship last summer, which boosted his recruiting profile. He then backed up that performance with 22 of 51 (43.1 percent) shooting from three at Adidas Nations. Stattmann has an effortless stroke and, at 6-foot-7, he has a height advantage against most opposing guards. It was obviously a small sample size, but Stattman also made five of his six two-pointers and eight of his nine free throws as a freshman.

The weaknesses

Rivals analyst Corey Evans, who saw Stattmann in person at Adidas Nations, said of Stattmann in 2017, “he does need to get much stronger, more athletic and handle the ball better.” That still holds true today. Stattmann showed a reluctance to put the ball on the floor. He turned the ball over twice in three minutes against Florida State in January, when the Cavaliers’ reserves allowed a late 16-0 run against the Seminoles in what had been a complete blowout.

There was always going to be an adjustment period for Stattmann coming from Australia. After a year of experiencing high-level NCAA basketball, he knows what he must do this offseason to become a legitimate contributor.

The offseason agenda

Stattmann needs to improve in all the areas Evans mentioned. His first full college offseason will allow him to improve as an athlete in terms of strength, quickness and coordination. Mike Curtis has turned a lot of skinny, lanky underclassmen into legitimate ACC-caliber players, and he has his work cut out for him with Stattmann. The Aussie wing will also look to improve his ball-handling skills and understanding of the pack line defense.

The outlook

Given the departures from the championship team, this is an important offseason for every single returning Cavalier. For Stattmann, it is especially so. The Cavaliers are short on backcourt depth, so if Stattmann can develop his game and his body, he can certainly earn a significant role. Virginia really needs said development, too. In the two years following the outstanding 2016 recruiting class, the Cavaliers added three guards: Anthony (2017) and Clark and Stattmann (2018). Clark has shown his value as an outstanding defender and capable ball-handler but not much of an individual scorer. Anthony transferred. Stattmann has some legitimate offensive promise on which he needs to capitalize.

Most of Bennett’s international imports — and he’s had a lot of them — have needed a redshirt year of development. Salt did. Diakite did. More recently, Francesco Badocchi and Francisco Caffaro did. Stattmann didn’t have that luxury, but he certainly picked up a lot being on the active roster. This summer, he’ll have the opportunity to step up and grab hold of a major role on next year’s team. If he doesn’t Virginia needs to look other places, and quickly. Even though he didn’t play much this season, Stattmann is a crucial piece moving forward.

Story by Zach Pereles

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