Skip to content

Virginia is for Leavers. But why?

Jul 13, 2013, 6:52 PM EST

Tony Bennett AP

I live in Charlottesville, VA, so I hear all the questions and concerns about Tony Bennett’s program on a daily basis. When one of those questions begins to creep into the national college hoops conversation, you know something strange is going on.

Following the news that Taylor Barnette will transfer from UVA, announced very late in the offseason just last week, the question has been widely asked: What’s up with all those transfers, Tony? Bennett has been on the job in Charlottesville for four years, and he’s had eight transfers make the headlines. For a program that seems to be on the cusp of the NCAA tournament every season, that’s an alarming trend.

I hit up a friend who has worked in a few AD’s offices in the state, and he came up with the same answers that Jim Young of ACCSports did in the article I linked above. It’s a combination of four factors, which I’ll quote from my source while maintaining his anonymity:

Short answer: playing time/homesickness/reaches/system. Pick at least one

Homesick: Regan/Johnson/Jesperson
Playing time: Harrell/Baron/Barnette
Reaches (were they really ACC players?): Regan/Baron/Barnette
System: Spurlock

In a way, I’d have to nudge Billy Baron – who played the 2010-11 season with the Cavaliers – into the homesick camp as well. Baron chose UVA over his father Jim’s program at Rhode Island. With his dad on the perennial hot seat, Baron must have wondered why he threw over his pops to average 11 minutes and three points per game, even at an ACC school. Billy rejoined his dad for one season at Rhode Island before Jim was fired, and the two moved on to Canisius together.

If you look at the list of transfer reasons, the first two are kind of understandable and universal, though. Every program deals with transfers that fall into the homesickness/playing time category. The ones that seem specific to Bennett and UVA are the last two.

The system, at this point, is a well-known commodity. Bennett used it to revive Washington State before he came to Virginia. The upshot: If you want to run, don’t play for Bennett. There’s no mystery there, and Bennett’s assistants, who have been with him for years, are not misleading anyone on that score. It’s a testament to Bennett’s charisma that Tristan Spurlock – a Virginia native who transferred to Central Florida – stayed on for one season of Bennett ball after being originally recruited by Dave Leitao. By this point, no player should pretend to be shocked when he’s asked to crash the boards, play interior defense, and walk the ball up the floor more often than not. The system is what makes Virginia a dangerous team against programs that can out-recruit them at every turn. Unless a truly elite player plans to come to Charlottesville, the system has to be paramount.

So, that brings us to the reaches. To contend in the ACC, you have to be in a position where you’re not reaching very often. Bennett’s been building a program from the ground up, so he’s had to extend his grasp from time to time. In fact, despite the potential shown by each player who transferred out, you’ll note that only one of them has latched on with a power-conference program so far. Will Regan shuffled off to Buffalo. Baron followed his dad down the conference ladder to the A-10, then the MAAC. Jeff Jones became a contributor at Rider, and Spurlock is growing into his role at UCF. James Johnson moved closer to home, landing on a quality San Diego State roster, but he’s still warming the bench. We don’t know yet where Jesperson or Barnette will end up. That leaves K.T. Harrell, who will start the next phase of his career at Auburn next season. Not exactly a step up in the current college hoops pecking order. We’ll never know if Bennett could have shaped those guys into ACC-caliber players, but right now, it sure looks like he didn’t lose anything he can’t live without.

As the ACC gets tougher, with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, Bennett will find his program being pushed closer to the NIT or worse every season. It’s unlikely that the days of a Ralph Sampson coming to UVA will ever return, so we’ll expect the Cavaliers to be forced to reach from time to time. That’s fine, as long as those kids aren’t the core of the starting five.

Local fans will fondly remember when this team was paced by the wonderful backcourt duo of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. I believe Tony Bennett can find that kind of chemistry on his own roster, possibly very soon. If a few flyers and projects don’t work out in the interim, perhaps that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Latest Posts
  1. Injury depleted New Mexico loses another player

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    They are so short-handed that even the head coach is participating in practices.

  2. Report: Demetrius Treadwell no longer enrolled at Akron

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:53 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Treadwell was accused of assaulting a member of the women’s team.

  3. Illinois State loses leading scorer for 4-to-6 weeks

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Illinois State athletics Illinois State athletics

    DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell broke his right hand in a win over DePaul.

  4. Wichita State’s offensive struggles highlighted by come-from-behind win vs. Alabama

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:16 AM EST

    Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo) Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

    The Shockers miss Cleanthony Early, but how much will this hurt them in the long-term?

  5. #POSTERIZED: Vandy’s Shelton Mitchell dunks all over defender (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:33 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    This is one of the most surprising posterizeds we’ve seen this year.

  6. Michigan State’s efficient three-point shooting is key for 2014-15 success

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Travis Trice (AP Photo) Travis Trice (AP Photo)

    Michigan State lost a lot of talent and experience from a title contender last season, but they’ve remained a top 25 team thanks to tremendous three-point shooting.

  7. La Salle use half-court buzzer-beater to force overtime (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.30.15 AM

    Who doesn’t love buzzer-beaters, especially when they’re from half court?

  8. No. 11 Wichita State rallies from 11 down to beat Alabama thanks to Van Vleet (VIDEO)

    Dec 16, 2014, 11:49 PM EST

    Wichita St St Louis Basketball AP

    Wichita State found a way to win in a thrilling home game against Alabama.

  9. Creighton suspends junior guard indefinitely

    Dec 16, 2014, 10:10 PM EST

    creighton Getty Images

    Creighton will be without a reserve guard for an undetermined period of time.

  10. Report: David Robinson’s son will be preferred walk-on at Duke in 2015-16 (VIDEO)

    Dec 16, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    AP AP

    Duke will add the son of a former NBA legend to its roster in 2015-16.

  11. Houston starting point guard likely to make season debut this weekend

    Dec 16, 2014, 8:00 PM EST

    Ge'Lawn Guyn, L.J. Rose AP

    Houston should get a major boost to its lineup this weekend with the return of its starting point guard.

  12. Report: Iowa State redshirt sophomore to transfer

    Dec 16, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Freddie Jackson AP

    Iowa State is losing a guard that didn’t fit into the rotation.

  13. Texas guard will transfer

    Dec 16, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Damarcus Croaker AP

    Texas is already without Isaiah Taylor and lost more guard depth on Tuesday.

  14. Pregame Shootaround: Oklahoma is on upset alert on a quiet night in hoops

    Dec 16, 2014, 5:02 PM EST

    Buddy Hield  (AP) AP

    But there are a couple of good, off-the-radar games.

  15. The Ten Most Important Midseason Additions

    Dec 16, 2014, 3:44 PM EST

    Markus Kennedy AP

    Only one of the ten are potential season-changers.

  16. Player of the Year Power Rankings: New faces are popping up in our top ten

    Dec 16, 2014, 1:57 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Four new faces in the top ten and two new players in the top five. The tide’s are a-turning.

  17. Coach K takes his team to task: ‘I’m not satisfied with the way we played’

    Dec 16, 2014, 9:42 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Coach K was not happy with a uninspiring win over Elon.