With the 2021-2022 Virginia men’s basketball season in the books, Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers have turned their attention to an important and unusual offseason. With dozens of talented players reopening their recruitment in the free agency-style transfer portal, there are endless opportunities for coaches to immediately change the outlook of their programs heading into next season.
Tony Bennett is set to welcome a 2022 recruiting class ranked in the top 10 nationally (according to 247Sports) that will certainly help the Cavaliers move forward from a season that saw UVA miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The future is bright with the arrivals of Isaac McKneely, Isaac Traudt, Leon Bond, and Ryan Dunn, but Tony Bennett and company will be active in the transfer portal in order to find experienced players who will be able to contribute right away next season.
UVA has had enormous success in years past getting significant contributions from transfers, including Braxton Key, Trey Murphy, Sam Hauser and – this season – Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin. As Virginia looks to shape its roster for the 2022-2023 season, let’s take a look at some of the UVA targets has reportedly reached out to in the transfer portal:
Sean McNeil, West Virginia
Sean McNeil: 6’3″, 205-pound senior guard from Union, Kentucky
McNeil is one of the most experienced names in the transfer portal. He played in 28 games his freshman season at West Virginia, started 23 and played in 29 his sophomore year, and started all 32 games in his junior season in 2021-2022. An All-Big 12 honorable mention in each of the last two seasons, McNeil averaged 12.2 points per game on 41.4% shooting and 36.8% three-point shooting. In addition to hearing from Virginia, McNeil has been contracted from over 20 schools, including fellow ACC programs Louisville, Clemson, and Pittsburgh as well as other notable programs like Florida, Indiana, Ohio State, Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech.
Brandon Murray, LSU
Brandon Murray: 6’5″, 214-pound freshman forward from Baltimore, Maryland
Murray was a highly-routed four-star prospect who played at the IMG Academy and was named Maryland’s Mr. Basketball in high school. He turned in a very impressive freshman season in Baton Rouge, starting 32 of 33 games and averaging 10.0 points per game on 42.6% shooting from the floor. Murray was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection this season and entered the transfer portal following the firing of LSU head coach Will Wade. Several top programs fought over Murray when he was coming out of high school and that is the case again as he has reopened his recruitment. Murray has been contacted from several programs since entering the portal last week, including Virginia, Auburn, Tennessee, Illinois, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Kansas State and Maryland.
Dontaie Allen, Kentucky
Dontaie Allen: 6’6″, 205-pound redshirt sophomore guard from Falmouth, Kentucky
It was a match made in heaven for John Calipari and the Wildcats as Allen came in as a very talented four-star prospect who chose to stay at home in Kentucky. Things have not quite broken out as expected. Allen redshirted his first season as he rehabilitated a knee injury suffered in high school. The following year, Allen appeared in 22 games, averaging 14 minutes and 5.4 points per game and shooting 39.7% from three. Allen’s playing time declined in his redshirt sophomore season, as he averaged just 6.7 minutes played in 18 appearances. Recognizing his potential to be a valuable contributor as a multi-level scorer, several programs have reached out to Allen, including Virginia, Xavier, Texas A&M, Louisville, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech.
READ MORE: Virginia Guard Carson McCorkle Enters Transfer Portal
Jarius Cook, North Dakota State
Jarius Cook: 6’3″, 180-pound sophomore guard from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
A two-year starter for the Bison, Cook averaged 8.5 points per game on 43.0% shooting from the floor. He is a career 34.9% three-point shooter, but Cook shot nearly 40% (39.7%) from beyond the arc on 116 attempts this season. Three-point shooting continues to be a need for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers, so it makes sense that UVA has already reached out to Cook in addition to a number of other schools, including Rhode Island, Georgia Southern, and UNC-Greensboro.
Payton Sparks, Ball State
Payton Sparks: 6’9″, 240-pound freshman center from Winchester, Indiana
Sparks is unsurprisingly one of the top names in the transfer portal. As a freshman, Sparks started 31 games and averaged 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and shot 53.3% from the floor. He recorded 12 double-doubles and scored 20 or more points in four games this season. Sparks ran away with the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year award and was also an All-MAC Third Team selection. The Indiana Hoosiers are naturally very interested in the Indiana native, as are a number of major programs including Virginia, Oklahoma, Illinois, West Virginia, Iowa State, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Loyola Chicago. Sparks has also stated that he is still open to returning to Ball State next season.
Jaylan Gainey, Brown
Jaylan Gainey: 6’9, 220-pound senior forward from Greensboro, North Carolina
Another top name in the portal, Gainey shot 70.3% from the field and recorded 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Bears this season. Gainey is a capable rim protector and registered 63 blocked shots in 2021-2022 as he won his second Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award. He was also named to the All-Ivy Second Team. Gainey has heard from a laundry list of major conference programs, including Duke, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida State, Oklahoma, Marquette, NC State, Creighton, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Penn State, Butler , Georgia Tech, Loyola Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown. Gainey visited Florida State this past weekend.
Will Richard, Belmont
Will Richard: 6’5″, 195-pound freshman guard from Fairburn, Georgia
Richard started in 23 of 25 games his freshman season at Belmont. He averaged 11.4 points per game and rebounded well for his position at 5.4 rebounds per game. Richard shot 45.8% from the floor and is looking to parlay his impressive freshman season into a scholarship at a major conference program. Richard has been contacted by Virginia, Penn State, Wake Forest, Texas, LSU, and Arkansas, among other schools.
Jaelin Llewellyn, Princeton
Jaelin Llewellyn: 6’2″, 185-pound senior guard from Mississauga, Ontario
Llewellyn was originally recruited by Virginia back in 2018, but ultimately chose to go to Princeton. Four years later, Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers are trying their luck with Llewellyn again, this time looking to snag a commitment from the guard as a graduate transfer. Llewellyn has scored over 1,000 points in his career as a Tiger and was a Second Team All-Ivy selection in 2020 and made First Team All-Ivy this season after averaging 15.7 points per game. He shot 44.6% from the floor and 38.3% from three on 166 attempts this season. Llewellyn also recorded 2.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in just over 32 minutes played per contest. Llewellyn is undoubtedly in the top five on the wish lists of coaches at several top college basketball programs. More than 20 schools have reached out to Llewellyn, including Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Wake Forest, USC, Purdue, Oklahoma, Miami, Texas A&M, Providence, and Wisconsin. Llewellyn reportedly visited Alabama this past weekend.
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