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Virginia basketball gains commitment from 6-9 top European forward

By Jerry Ratcliffe

uva basketballOne of the top European basketball recruits is heading to Charlottesville.

Igor Milicic Jr. announced Saturday that he has committed to Virginia. At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, Milicic will help fill a void in the Cavaliers frontcourt for the 2021-22 season as a small forward, perhaps replacing Trey Murphy, who has declared for the NBA Draft, but hasn’t signed an agent.

Milicic will be eligible immediately and joins a class that previously featured only one player, 6-5 shooting guard Taine Murray from Auckland, New Zealand. Murray, an 18-year-old has projected as a 4-star recruit. Murray signed with a New Zealand professional team, the Breakers, for the 2020-21 season and played as an amateur.

“There are many things that are special about UVA,” the 18-year-old Milicic told ESPN. “In terms of basketball culture, great fans, and really good academics, which is also a big thing for me. Coach Bennett and his coaching staff are one of the best in the country. I feel like I will have the best conditions to become a better player and person.”

Milicic, whose father played on the Croatian National Team and coached in the European leagues starting in 2013, has followed in his dad’s footsteps. In February, Milicic debuted as a member of the Polish senior national team in the FIBA Eurobasket qualifying window, playing on an amateur contract. He also played in the German first division, the BBL, with Ratiopharm Ulm, playing at both the small forward and power forward positions.

He averaged 13.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in addition to posted 36 3-pointers in 21 games.

“This was a very difficult and important decision in my career,” Milicic said. “My dream is to play basketball at the highest levels in the U.S. or Europe. I am aware that only hard work will get me there. I am determined to accomplish that goal.

“I really think that I can fit the team well,” Milicic said. “My role will be to play and practice hard and Coach Bennett will find a role for me to help the team be successful. I’m tall for my position with a long wingspan and that should be a great fit for [Bennett’s] defensive philosophy.”

Milicic said he loves Virginia’s off-ball screens offensively, which fits his versatility.

“I feel good getting jump shots or driving opportunities off flare screens, pin-downs or staggers,” Milicic said. “The plan is to get better each day and hopefully over time, I’ll become a key piece of the program. I am going to work all summer to be 100 percent prepared from day one.”

Virginia lost its front court after a season that saw the Cavaliers claim the ACC regular season championship. Sam Hauser and Jay Huff graduated, and Murphy, who left the door open to possibly returning, has been listed in some NBA mock drafts as a second-round choice.

The Cavaliers did sign junior power forward Jayden Gardner out of East Carolina. Gardner averaged more than 18 points for his entire career at ECU and is considered a physical rebounder as well.

Virginia did not offer a scholarship to Alabama de-commit Langston Wilson, an athletic 6-9 forward from Philadelphia.

 

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