Scattershooting: UVA-Houston could make history; hoops recruiting update; other golden nuggets

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Scattershooting around UVA and the ACC, while thinking of the possibility of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on Dec. 17 …

Possible? Yes. Probable? Who knows. If No. 1 Houston can get past No. 8 Alabama (3 p.m. Saturday in Houston), and if No. 3 Virginia is voted into the AP’s No. 2 slot in the new poll come Monday (present No. 2 Texas lost this past week to Illlinois), then the Dec. 17 battle at John Paul Jones Arena would be historic.

Virginia has never been involved in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle in Charlottesville. In fact, as far as our research can find, UVA has only been involved in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle once in its grand basketball history, and that was on Jan. 9, 1982, when No. 2 Virginia with Ralph Sampson, lost at No. 1 North Carolina in old Carmichael Auditorium.

The closest thing to that in Charlottesville came a month later when No. 2 UNC visited No. 3 Virginia at University Hall. UVA won that game, 74-58.

This reporter had the privilege of covering both of those monumental contests.

How big would it be if Houston remains No. 1 and UVA can grab hold of the No. 2 spot and keep it until Dec. 17, even though the Cavaliers won’t play another game until Houston comes to town.

The 9-0 Cougars host Alabama (7-1) on Saturday, a big stretch for the Tide, which faces Houston, Memphis and No. 18 Gonzaga over a span of seven days. Alabama will try to win with the 3-point shot, averaging 31 triple attempts per game (fifth-most in the country), making 10.9 a game.

It’s a big game in Houston, causing sophomore guard Tramon Mark to say: “I’m expecting it to be rocking in there (Houston’s 7,000-plus-seat arena). “I’m expecting the whole gym to be shaking.”

Meanwhile, at Virginia…

The Cavaliers are in exams, but the break in action will give them time to heal up a bit.

Point guard Reece Beekman has been limited for the past two-and-a-half games, turning an ankle at Michigan, playing with limited movement against Florida State, then adding a hamstring issue in Tuesday’s win against JMU.

It was early in the game after Beekman drove to the basket and went down. Dr. David Diduch of UVA Orthopedics judged that Beekman needed to be held out for the rest of the game.

After that contest, Tony Bennett revealed how unselfish this particular UVA team has been.

“We don’t have greedy guys,” Bennett said. “Sometimes I want them to be assertive and take that rhythm three (he had prompted Ben Vander Plas and Isaac McKneely to do so in the game), but they will share the ball.

“This is an ‘us’ or ‘we’ team if I’ve ever had one,” Bennett said. “Some teams, you’ve got your big two or three … of course there’s talented guys, but this is a ‘we’ team. They need each other the way they have to defend, in the way they have to play on both ends in order to be as good as they possibly can. I think they’re understanding that more and more.”

UVA offers 6-11 center

Bennett has made an offer to Raleigh Burgess, a 6-foot-11, 230-pound center from Sycamore High School in Cincinnati.

Burgess, a 4-star, is from the recruiting class of 2024 and holds more than 20 offers from UVA, Purdue, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Texas, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Indiana, Clemson, Ole Miss and others.

He is ranked the No. 133 overall player in the nation by 247Sports composite, the No. 18 center in the country and the No. 2 prospect in the state of Ohio.

Meanwhile, 2024 four-star Isaiah Abraham said he’s hearing a lot from Virginia, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette and UConn. Abraham is the On3 consensus No. 57 prospect in the country for his class. He’s from Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax. He has been to UVA on unofficial visits but hopes to make one official after the season.

Also, Top 50 (Class of 2025) Jackson Keith, a 6-5 wing from Southern Durham HS in Durham, N.C., said he has unofficially visited UVA and plans to come back soon.

Jackson told On3: “The [Virginia] culture is great. They never would lie to me; all the coaches there are really genuine. Tony Bennett is just a great guy, too. They haven’t offered yet, but they like I’m a long wing, can make some shots and guard the other team’s best player. Their defense is what makes them Virginia.”

Anae, Beck in the news

Former UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck are changing jobs.

Anae, 63, and Beck, 42, who both came to UVA with Bronco Mendenhall, have spent the past season at Syracuse in the same roles for Dino Baber that they held under Mendenhall. That has changed.

Anae has taken the offensive coordinator position at NC State, while Syracuse has elevated Beck into Anae’s job. Anae will replace Tim Beck, who left Raleigh to become head coach at Coastal Carolina.

Syracuse lost both its offensive and defensive coordinators within a 12-hour span this week. Defensive coordinator Tony White left for the same job at Nebraska under new coach Matt Rhule.

Beck was the main recruiter for star quarterback prospect LaNorris Sellers, who flipped his commitment from UVA to Syracuse. Beck has a niche for developing QBS, from BYU’s Taysom Hill to UVA’s Kurt Benkert, Bryce Perkins and Brennan Armstrong, and Syracuse starter Garrett Shrader this past season. 

Free throws …

  • Jayden Gardner is the ACC’s active career-leading scorer with 2,106 points, while Ben Vander Plas is fourth with 1,636. Gardner is also the No. 2 ACC active career-leading rebounder with 987. Kihei Clark is the leading active career assists man with 586.
  • Former UVA center Olusegun Oluwatimi, who was first-team All-American after the 2021 season prior to transferring to Michigan, was named the 2022 Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy winner. Oluwatimi did not allow a sack this season.
  • Former UVA defensive coach Kelly Poppinga has rejoined the BYU coaching staff after a season at Boise State. Asked if he keeps in touch with Bronco Mendenhall, Poppinga said: “I’ve had more conversations with Coach Mendenhall in the last four months than in the last 12. He was really excited when he heard and was excited for my family.”
  • As the only program in the country with both its men’s and women’s basketball programs unbeaten, a reader asked when the two had such a great combined start. UVA’s men are 8-0, the women 11-0 going into their breaks. The previous two best combined starts were in 1981-82, when the men were 9-0, women 8-0; and in 1982-83 when both teams started 8-0.
  • New Cincinnati football coach Scott Satterfield is rumored to be courting both former UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong (sounds weird doesn’t it?) and former Georgia Tech QB Jeff Sims.
  • Speaking of Cincinnati football, former UVA nose tackle Jowon Briggs, who started as a freshman for the Cavaliers before transferring, was just named a first-team All-American Athletic Conference defensive lineman.
  • Another UVA football player has entered the transfer portal, junior wide receiver Nathaniel Beale III, a 3-star from Houston. He played in three games but had no receptions. UVA now has eight players in the portal.
  • News Friday was that Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has declared for the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, UNC’s best receiver, Josh Downs, has also declared for the draft and will skip the Holiday Bowl. What’s Mack Brown going to do for offense next season with OC Phil Longo leaving along with possibly QB Drake Maye and now Downs?
  • Former Wahoos Malcolm Brogdon and Sam Hauser are No. 1 and No. 3 in the NBA right now in 3-point shooting percentage, and they both play for the Celtics.
  • There were 84 ACC alumni on opening day NBA rosters, the most from any conference. Duke had the most from the ACC with 25, while Carolina had 11, Virginia nine and Florida State eight.
  • Bennett ranks ninth nationally in active career win percentage (five-year minimum) at .723. 
  • Bennett is only three wins away from passing Terry Holland as the all-time winningest coach at UVA. Holland was 326-150 in 16 seasons. Overall, Bennett needs seven wins to reach 400 career wins. He is 393-150 at Washington State and UVA.