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Recruiting updates on Gardner, Franklin and new name Siena’s Pickett

By Jerry Ratcliffe

uva basketballOne of Virginia’s high-value recruiting targets out of the transfer portal, former East Carolina forward Jayden Gardner, is close to making a decision on his future program.

Gardner, a physical 6-8 standout for the Pirates, announced a couple of days ago that UVA was on his list of five finalists, which also included NC State, Miami, Arkansas and LSU. On Friday, Gardner said he will announce his decision on Monday.

The former ECU star averaged 18 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field his final season with the Pirates. In a win over Houston during the regular season, Gardner posted 21 points and 15 rebounds.

He would fit Virginia’s need for a proven physical player in the frontcourt and would fill a scoring void left by senior frontcourt players Sam Hauser and Jay Huff.

With NC State having gained a commitment from 6-8, 220 forward Greg Gantt Jr., most Wolfpack insiders believe that fills the gap at that position for State, which could help Virginia’s chances of landing Gardner.

Meanwhile, Virginia is in the mix for former Siena guard Jalen Pickett, who has two years of eligibility remaining. The 21-year-old Pickett averaged 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a junior this past season.

UVA, Illinois, Penn State, Maryland, Miami and Washington are also recruiting Pickett out of the transfer portal. One report linked national champion Baylor as a late entry for Pickett’s services.

“It’s been hectic,” Pickett told the Albany newspaper. “Just been on the phone non-stop, trying to figure out where I want to go, what I want to do. Talking with different schools. I have high expectations. I have to go in and work at it, wherever I go.”

He is a 6-4 guard and the 2019 Metro Atlantic Conference Player of the Year.

The Cavaliers are still celebrating the commitment of Armann Franklin, a 6-4 sophomore shooting guard from Indiana. Franklin announced his decision on Thursday, choosing UVA over Illinois and Indiana.

Franklin entered the transfer portal after a coaching change in the Hoosiers program, and although the new staff made it a priority to convince him to return, Franklin chose to move on. Initially six Indiana players entered the portal, and four returned.

It was a big “get” for Tony Bennett. College basketball advanced analytics man, Evan Miyakawa (EvanMiya.com) rated Franklin as the No. 1 shooting guard available in the transfer portal as of Thursday, ranking the former Hoosier over Ian Martinez of Utah and Desi Sills of Arkansas.

Franklin is a perfect fit for Virginia. Not only is he a 42 percent shooter from the 3-point arc, but can defend multiple positions. Remind you of anybody? Perhaps Malcolm Brogdon, De’Andre Hunter, Mamadi Diakite?

A major factor in his decision, other than advancing his educational opportunities, was to develop his game for next level opportunities, and noticed what Bennett & staff have done lately in placing players into the NBA.

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