CHARLOTTESVILLE – One of the best recruiting decisions Virginia has made under four-year men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett was to offer its last remaining scholarship to Akil Mitchell in the fall of 2009.
Mitchell became a third-team All-ACC player by the end of his junior season at UVa this past season, and now the Cavaliers have added a player whose comparisons to Mitchell already have endeared him to UVa fans.
Isaiah Wilkins, a 6-8, 205-pound combination forward from Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian, is the stepson of high-flying University of Georgia and NBA star Dominique Wilkins. Clearly, they’re not blood relatives, but if Isaiah Wilkins has Mitchell’s athleticism, he’s going to help the Cavaliers.
At Virginia, Wilkins will be joining another Greater Atlanta Christian product, former Georgia state player of the year Malcolm Brogdon, who was redshirted this past season while recovering from foot surgery.
Mitchell had a similar background, without all the accolades, at Charlotte Christian. There is a second Charlotte Christian player on UVa’s team. Anthony Gill, a transfer from South Carolina who will become eligible this season.
Cavalier targets for the Class of 2014 include Matthew Fisher-Davis, who is a senior this year at Charlotte Christian.
Clearly Virginia’s roster includes a core of players with Wilkins-like profiles, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that he committed to the Cavaliers after taking an official visit over the weekend of Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
He had not taken any other official visits at the time but had 22 Division I offers, according to Rivals.com. Other ACC schools on his offer list were Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami.
Of that group, it appeared that Miami, along with Memphis and SMU, posed the biggest threat for Wilkins.
With the addition of Wilkins, whose decision followed an earlier commitment from 6-4 guard B.J. Stith, the Cavaliers are left with two openings for the Class of 2014. Stith, younger son of 2,500-point UVa scorer Bryant Stith, is spending his senior year at Oak Hill Academy.
Bryant Stith is in his first year as an assistant under new Old Dominion head coach Jeff Jones. Previously, he was the head coach at Lawrenceville (Va.) Brunswick High, his alma mater, where he coached sons B.J. and East Carolina-bound Brandan on teams that won three-straight state championships.
Virginia can sign up to four players, owing to the postseason departures of underclassmen Paul Jesperson and Taylor Barnette. On the same weekend that Wilkins visited Virginia, the Cavaliers entertained 6-2 combo guard Robert Johnson from Richmond’s Benedictine High and 6-6, 205-pound Canadian Marial Shayok from New Jersey’s Blair Academy, alma mater of UVa sophomore Mike Tobey.
Johnson had visited Indiana the previous week and there was considerable fear that he might commit to the Hoosiers. When he remained uncommitted on his return, Virginia’s hopes were boosted, but then he didn’t commit to the Cavaliers either. Next, he’s set to visit North Carolina, hardly a successful proposition for UVa over the years.
Shayok had plans to visit Marquette and Cincinnati.
Looking For A Big Man
Disappointing for Virginia was the news that Piedmont, Ala., 7-footer Isaac Haas, scheduled to visit later in September, had committed to Wake Forest while on a visit to Winston-Salem over Labor Day weekend. The Cavaliers are hoping to add a post player in this class and will bring in 6-9, 220-pound Martin Geben this weekend.
Geben, a native of Lithuania who visited Notre Dame over the Labor Day weekend, plays at St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown, Md. Among his recruiters for the Irish are former Virginia player and assistant coach Anthony Solomon.
The same weekend that Geben was at Notre Dame, Fisher-Davis was at Vanderbilt and planned to visit Georgia, Wake Forest and Virginia on succeeding weekends, with a decision targeted for mid-October.
It wouldn’t be a crushing blow if Virginia were unable to fill all four spots. There is only one junior on the 2013-2014 roster, post player Darion Atkins. If the Cavaliers signed four players and no other underclassmen left before the end of the 2014-2015 season, UVa would have only one grant available for the Class of 2015.
However, given the transfer rate under Bennett to this point, that would be the exception and not the rule.