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Is Virginia on former North Carolina 5-star big Walker Kessler’s radar?

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

With three Virginia players having announced their intentions to enter the transfer portal, where does Tony Bennett go from here?

UVA attempted to attract the attention of Davidson guard Kellan Grady, but he announced Tuesday that he had committed to play for Kentucky next season. Grady was considered one of the top transfers in the country and chose the Wildcats over a host of suitors including Virginia, Arizona, Houston, Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, Colorado, Maryland, LSU, USC and NC State.

There are numerous rumors out there that former North Carolina five-star forward Walker Kessler is being pursued by Virginia. There’s another rumor linking Kessler and former Auburn guard Justin Powell coming to Virginia as a package deal. The two are close friends.

Kessler, who averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game as a freshman for Roy Williams’ Tar Heels, participated in the 2018 NBA Top 100 Camp at UVA as a player from Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga. He later made an official visit to Virginia and liked what he saw.

Kessler, who is 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, wasn’t sure how the Cavaliers might have used him before his visit. He wondered if he might be another “Jack Salt type big,” who would be used to rebound and set screens.

Kessler isn’t that type of player, although Carolina wanted him to be a physical big in the paint. Kessler would rather play a stretch 4 or 5, who can play away from the basket and shoot 3-pointers, allegedly his biggest gripe with UNC.

Bennett explained to Kessler that he could play roles similar to De’Andre Hunter, Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite.

Kessler also liked Virginia’s defensive mentality and would have had no problem buying into that style of play.

However, the big man chose North Carolina.

Powell’s name has rarely been linked to UVA or a package deal, but the rumor hasn’t died at this point. However, Powell’s father said Tuesday that his son his talking to a number of schools, and that there has been a “dialogue” with Kentucky. With Grady’s commitment to UK, there has been no report on how that might impact Powell’s connection to the Wildcats.

There has been no news about Penn State transfer guard Myreon Jones, who Virginia reached out to early after he entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.

Jones is a 6-3 junior guard who shot a team-high 39.5 percent from the 3-point arc for Penn State last season. He averaged 15.3 points and 2.0 assists per game.

No word on Cincinnati freshman Tari Eason either. The 6-8 forward from Seattle was one of six Bearcats that entered the portal. He initially attracted attention from Virginia, Arizona, Pitt, Washington, Washington State and Virginia Tech.

There has been no news on whether Virginia has reached out to Boston College sophomore forward C.J. Felder, who entered the portal. Felder had a solid season for the Eagles before deciding to move on. He is a South Carolina native.

The same holds true for East Carolina junior forward Jayden Gardner. He is one of four Pirates to enter the portal, along with 7-footer Charles Coleman and guard Noah Farrakhan. NC State has already offered Gardner a scholarship. Gardner is from nearby Wake Forest, N.C., which is just outside Raleigh.

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