What does the Virginia Basketball roster look like for 2022-2023?

jayden gardner armaan franklin reece beekman kihei clark
Virginia stars Jayden Gardner, Armaan Franklin, Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Tony Bennett is expecting Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner to return to Virginia next season. The status of point guard Kihei Clark is still up in the air.

“Kihei has his degree,” Bennett said on his weekly radio show Monday night. “He will have a decision to make. My assumption is that he’s probably in his last year. I just don’t know for sure.”

Members of Clark’s family told AFP staff writer Scott German after the Miami game on Feb. 5 that Clark had already committed to returning for the 2022-2023 season, but that was before Clark participated in the Senior Day activities at JPJ before Saturday’s home finale with Florida State.

Gardner, noticeably, did not, with Bennett saying that the fourth-year transfer from East Carolina and Franklin, a junior who transferred in from Indiana, both needed to take 12 credit hours at UVA in the summer to be eligible to play this season.

“It will take them an extra year to get a degree,” Bennett said. “Armaan is definitely coming back. I’m hoping the majority of this team is coming back. It has improved, but still has a lot of work to do to keep building.”

Gardner and Franklin are the team’s two leading scorers – Gardner averaging 15.5 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game on 51.1 percent shooting, Franklin averaging 11.4 points per game, despite season-long struggles with his perimeter shooting (40.3 percent from the field, 26.4 percent from three).

Get those two guys back, plus sophomore point guard Reece Beekman (7.9 ppg, 4.9 assists/g, 43.8% FG, 30.9% 3FG), along with the two bigs, 6’11” redshirt sophomore Kadin Shedrick (6.8 ppg, 4.3 rebounds/g, 2.1 blocks/g, 62.9% FG) and 7’1” redshirt junior Francisco Caffaro (4.6 ppg, 4.7 rebounds/g, 51.6% FG), and you have the makings of a starting lineup.

Clark (10.3 ppg, 4.2 assists/g, 39.7% FG, 36.8% 3FG) would provide veteran leadership that could bridge the transition for incoming four-star recruit Isaac McKneely, a 6’4” combo guard, allowing Bennett to ease McKneely into the rotation.

The return of Gardner at the four spot could serve in the same way to ease things for four-star big Isaac Traudt, a 6’10” banger who can shoot from the perimeter and face up defenders and take the ball to the rim, much like Gardner.

The 2022 recruiting class also includes two additional four-stars, 6’5” Milwaukee prep Leon Bond and 6’6” Pennsylvania high-schooler Ryan Dunn, who will be expected to compete for rotation minutes.

Even without Clark, that’s nine guys pushing for playing time, and that’s not accounting for four-star 2021 recruit Taine Murray and classmate Igor Milicic Jr., and Class of 2020 four-star Carson McCorkle.

The 3Ms haven’t gotten a lot of playing time – Murray has logged 39 minutes since Jan. 1, just two of those coming in February; McCorkle has played 13 minutes since Jan. 1, five in the month of February; and Milicic has played 14 minutes since Jan. 1, two in February.

There may be some movement there (cough, cough, McCorkle) in the offseason, which would give Bennett two scholarships, with Kody Stattmann graduating and moving on this spring.

If Clark also decides to move on, that would obviously give Bennett an additional scholarship to work with.

Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t use one of the two or three scholarships that he is likely to have open to reward sophomore walk-on Malachi Poindexter, who logged 43 minutes in February, most of them rotation minutes, in the offseason.

The other one or two scholarships could give Bennett and his staff the ability to address whatever needs they identify from either a late addition from the prep ranks or taking a flyer on the transfer portal.

Outside shooting would be the focal point there in terms of needs that need addressing. Franklin, a 42.4 percent shooter from three last year at Indiana, was expected to bolster Virginia’s perimeter game, but he hasn’t been able to get out of the mid-20s from three-point range this season, and the team is shooting just 32.1 percent from long-range on the season, and 31.1 percent in ACC games.

Bennett told his radio audience that he likes what he has seen in terms of improvement from his team from the opener to where it is now, and he’s sounding excited about what could be in the offing for next year.

First things first, though.

There are still slim hopes that Virginia can play its way into the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Bennett acknowledged the task ahead.

“You just want to finish strong,” Bennett said.

Story by Chris Graham


Chris Graham talks Virginia Basketball


AFP

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