After the Virginia Cavaliers’ 3-1 performance in Italy on their one-day trip, there’s a lot to assess about the Wahoos’ performance and what it means for the team heading into the fall. From first-hand gaming reports, game footage, and published stats, we’ve put together our five takeaways from UVA’s trip overseas.
Kadin Shedrick prepares for a breakout year
Undoubtedly the MVP of all four games Virginia has played in Italy, Kadin Shedrick is performing at levels that suggest a third breakout year is ahead for the North Carolina native. In three contests, Shedrick averaged 14.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and one block per game. Most notably, his 19-point, 12-rebound, two-block performance against KK Mega in the game the ‘Hoos lost by 19 was a particular bright spot in an otherwise tough outing for the Wahoos.
What plagued Shedrick last season was a lack of consistency, both in terms of early foul problems and a tendency to be at the forefront of the action or fade away. Coming out of those three matches in Italy, he seems to have taken a few steps in the right direction.
While where he’s best on offense will be in pick-and-rolls and as an inside finisher, the rising junior’s added focus on improving his jump shot this offseason is something to watch. . He had a few mid-range shots in those three games and said that was what he had worked on the most since March. If he were to establish a consistent two-point jumper, Shedrick could reasonably provide extra spacing for Wahoo guards to drive the lane while also giving him the ability to pop ball screens rather than always roll.
Defensively, it looks like Shedrick largely managed to avoid fouls in Italy and was able to play the vital role of rim protector in Tony Bennett’s defence. Certainly the 24-second shot clock meant possessions were shorter and therefore the grind of a defensive possession and the likelihood of a stupid foul decreased.
Nonetheless, Shedrick appears to be the fastest rising UVA player heading into the fall. If he were to emerge as a legitimate, cohesive force at either end of the floor, it would raise the UVA ceiling considerably.
The 2022s are as expected
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the four games played in Italy was the performance of UVA’s new freshman class. And, after these four contests, the report on each of the four freshmen is the same as he entered.
For several different reasons, Isaac McKneely seems like the most likely to fit into the rotation immediately in November. Probably the least turnover-prone and most comfortable player on defense after playing the Packline in high school, McKneely also offers perimeter shots that the ‘Hoos are going to desperately need this season.
In fact, he showcased that skill in the Wahoos’ upset win over KK Mega in the Journey Final, shooting 3-5 from deep, including a long ball late in the game. Former Poca High School Poca Dot (awesome, right?!) finished with 15 points in this game, as his contributions are arguably what pushed UVA over their double OT victory.
Meanwhile, his compatriot Isaac has also shown flashes of real potential as a big goalscorer. Traudt averaged 11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.3 STL per game in Italy, including a 19-point outing in Game 2 of the trip. While the depth in the front court may mean Traudt is less likely to play early in the game, he offers a bit of a hybrid between the smaller, more talented forwards of Jayden Gardner and Ben Vander Plas and the pure crosses of Shedrick and Francisco. Caffaro.
The number of flights he had was particularly interesting. Without full game footage, it’s hard to gauge exactly what he was doing defensively. But if the Nebraska native can manage on that side of the ball, it would make the playing time he earns more consistent.
With three balls out and playing ability, Traudt is sure to have his freshman moments and could very well prove the difference in a few UVA wins.
As for Ryan Dunn and Leon Bond III, each still seems a little polite to be a Tony Bennett contributor. Everyone had their moments, though.
Dunn’s nine points and seven rebounds in Game 1 highlighted his scoring potential. Although his shot seems to need work, as does his defensive mentality. He can be a bit too aggressive trying to take the ball from his opponent.
Admittedly, he has absurd athleticism. Now listed at 6’8” with the skills of a guard, he may have the highest cap of the 2022 group. A dunk he had – which has yet to be posted anywhere – was an absolute poster through a tough contest.
Dunn also needs to work on his grips and his decision-making with the ball in his hands. But the frame is there for him to become another in a long line of skilled wingers under Bennett.
Leon Bond III
As for Bond III, the 6’5” forward absolutely has a role to play later in his Charlottesville career. His flair for rebounds, his skill at slashing to the basket, his smooth mid-range jumper, and then his length and defensive footwork make him a player who can work well in a Swiss army knife role.
In fact, his performances in the first and second away games highlighted his ability to stuff the stats. Against Stella Azzurra, Bond scored 10 points, caught four boards and blocked two shots. Then, against Orange1 Basket, he scored a basket, but still grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals. And, in a game against KK Mega, he hit a nice pull-up on a pin-down screen.
That said, it’s also a little far from ready for prime time. He lacks some of the strength to play the four at 6’5” and he’s still raw offensively. With an injury or an extreme foul issue, he could fill minutes as a defensive dog even on the perimeter. But, with a red shirt the plan of the time he enlisted, Bond’s time should come later.
The front yard is stacked
Now that those ‘Hoos have played four games together, the depth in the front court is even more remarkable. With Jayden Gardner and Shedrick penciled in as starters, Ben Vander Plas and Francisco Caffaro are essentially a second line right behind those two with Traudt and Bond III also as available depth.
This was part of the reason UVA was so able to seat three guys per game. With four experienced guys and then two young guns ready to replace, there was rarely a moment of concern about
This is an interesting situation for various reasons. Gardner was UVA’s most productive offensive weapon last season and, alongside Shedrick, could prove to be a pretty solid starting ground. But, Vander Plas brings a lot to the table as well as a better shooter and playmaker than Gardner while Caffaro can also contribute significantly, especially on the offensive boards and in the low post. Then the aforementioned Traudt is also expected to push for playing time, leaving a number of decisions for Tony Bennett to make.
The guy most likely to lose minutes would probably be Caffaro. Although he only got better during his time in Charlottesville and had an underrated breakout season last year, Shedrick’s likely rise and Bennett’s love of the small-ball line-ups could result in the Argentine playing fewer minutes than in the past. If Shedrick is as expected this year, he should take up the majority of center minutes while the more versatile offensive weapons of Gardner, Vander Plas and Traudt provide options when Bennett and company want to extend the floor from one to five.
UVA has a much more versatile lineup than last season
Because of that added depth in the front court and the way the 2022 class has rebuilt the depth of the team, the ‘Hoos also have a lot more versatility among their rosters heading into the 2022-23 season. In particular, Bennett has had significant success with smaller lineups that can swing defensively and are able to expand the ground with perimeter-sliding bigs, especially in the side attack.
That’s what UVA hopes the arrival of Vander Plas and the continued development of Gardner can provide. A formation with those two at four and five could be something fun to watch offensively and – if Vander Plas is mobile enough not to be exposed while keeping on the perimeter – could add some flexibility to the defense. This pairing would lack rim protection—something Bennett holds in high regard—but would ideally make up for it on the other end. In that sense, Vander Plas in particular is an upgrade to Kody Stattmann – who was the typical small ball in UVA four last year – which should be true.
Traudt could also fit in with one of those guys for a slightly bigger ball group. Keeping on the perimeter is probably a no-no for him, but gives more of a traditional small set of five skills on offense than the other two.
Of course, UVA could also roll out various giant lineups with team options at rock bottom. Last year there were times when the staff played Caffaro and Shedrick together and they haven’t been afraid in the past to play on the front courts of Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff or Trey Murphy, Sam Hauser and Huff. Admittedly, these queues were imposed on staff more out of necessity than otherwise.
But, still, playing two guards with Vander Plas, Gardner and Shedrick, for example, could be a winning combination. In Italy, the Ohio transfer was spending time playing three and as a mover in the sideline attack, which could be where he plays a lot of his minutes given that UVA guards are generally less established than the front ground.
The roster build will absolutely be something to watch for Virginia this season and the added versatility should give the ‘Hoos a better chance against a variety of opponents as they can both match up with other teams depending on the how their opponents line up and even force teams to adapt to them.
Kihei is always clutch
Listen, Kihei Clark’s return for a fifth season is very complicated when it comes to assessing the impact of his decision on the team and the program going forward. Yet what can’t be denied is Clark’s penchant for big moments.
His team-leading 23 points in Virginia’s 94-87 win over KK Mega Basket was proof of that, as was his performance in the five-minute double-overtime period when he scored 10 and put away the ‘Hoos of the Serbian team for a redeeming victory. . Especially considering how he did it while playing alongside UVA’s four freshmen, such a performance only underscores the Woodland Hills native’s experience and success when the lights are the brightest. He’s a leader and he knows how to win games when it counts.
It remains to be determined what role Clark has on this 2022-2023 roster. But he will always be there when UVA needs him most.