Highly-rated UVA freshmen bought in for short and long term
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- By the time Isaac McKneely arrived on Grounds, he had heard all the hype surrounding him and the rest of the incoming class.
"We've seen the stuff on social media about how we're supposed to be a really good class, but we don't really pay attention to that you know we're just going to come in here and work as hard as we can everyday and hopefully work in some minutes," McKneely said, "So I'm excited about this group we should be good for the next 3 years"
The 2022 recruiting class ranks as the second-highest for Tony Bennett during his coaching career, trailing only the 2016 group of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De'Andre Hunter and Jay Huff. The incoming freshmen ranked No. 14 in the country, according to 247 Sports, and includes four 4-star recruits in McKneely, Isaac Traudt, Leon Bond III and Ryan Dunn.
The obvious comparisons have already started between Bennett's highly-touted recruiting classes. McKneely and the rest of his classmates are not getting ahead of themselves, although they have set a high bar for their careers in orange and blue.
"As a class I'm not going to lie we shot high, we're like a natty, we want a natty while the four of us are here," Bond said, "We want a national championship, so I mean you shoot high, you shoot for the stars"
Those are the long term goals for this freshman class, in the short term they face an uphill battle for consistent playing time with all five starters returning for Virginia. But in the age of the transfer portal and players looking for instant results, all four seem content to help the team in the short term and continue building together at John Paul Jones Arena for the long term.
"We knew it'd be difficult our first year to get opportunities obviously with such an experienced group coming back but our picture is kind of in the long run," Isaac Traudt said, "Just trying to stay together."
Tony Bennett got an extended look at his highly-touted group of fresh faces during the trip to Italy, timed purposefully just like the Cavaliers last trip to Spain in 2016. Bennett admits all 12 players on the roster could push for a spot in the rotation, but a number between 7-9 looks most likely.
McKneely seems like the closest to being a lock among the freshmen in the Cavaliers rotation, with Bennett saying the West Virginia combo guard adds a different dynamic to the lineup.
"I thought Isaac McKneely showed some really good stuff as all of them did, but specifically him in Italy and then in the scrimmages," Bennett said, "They play pretty fearless in some ways and I like that, I like that about Isaac."
The word 'redshirt' coming up with some first-years is inevitable with a deep roster filled with veterans. Bennett says those talks with players will begin this week before Virginia's season-opener against North Carolina Central.
Bennett said with each player he likes to lay out the best-case scenario, what he envisions and a worst-case. Both Bond and Dunn say they have not had extended talks about redshirting, but accept there is a possibility they go down a similar path to those before them like De'Andre Hunter.
"I'm excited about this group and what they will become," Bennett said.