It’s an exciting time across the college basketball landscape. The initial wave of action within the transfer portal has cooled, some. However, plenty of big names remain out there as de facto free agents. Meanwhile, the 2022 NBA Draft combine is underway in Chicago, which features several ACC players that have at least left the door open for a return to college.
At this stage, it’s worth circling back to analyze some of the marquee transfers that will join the ACC for the 2022-23 season. What do these players bring to the table? How will they help replace lost production from this past season?
In Part 1 of this series, we took the deep dive on Nijel Pack (Miami), Jao Ituka (Wake Forest) and Darin Green Jr. (Florida State). Now, it’s time for Grant Basile (Virginia Tech), Marcus Hammond (Notre Dame) and Ben Vander Plas (Virginia).
Grant Basile – Virginia Tech
The last two seasons for Virginia Tech have been some of the program’s best since joining the ACC. Over this stretch, the Hokies have 38 wins (20-13 ACC), two NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC title. Now, however, the roster is set to experience a bit of a shakeup.
Two-way wing Nahiem Alleyne will transfer to UConn. Point guard Storm Murphy exhausted his eligibility. The biggest shift will come up front, though. All-ACC big man Keve Aluma will remain in the 2022 NBA Draft, following a good showing at the 2022 PIT. Do-everything forward Justyn Mutts, one of the best help defenders in the country, continues to test the draft waters. Meanwhile, promising sophomore hybrid forward/center David N’Guessan remains in the transfer portal.
The upshot: Mike Young and the Hokies needed to add some offense to the frontline. This is why former Wright State power forward/center Grant Basile, who also considered Notre Dame, is such a major get for Virginia Tech.
Over the last two seasons, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Basile was one of the top scorers in the Horizon League. He averaged 15.0 points (61.7 FG%) and 7.0 rebounds per game in the 2020-21 season. This past season, though, Basile upped those numbers: 18.4 points (58.1 2P%), 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks per game (5.0 percent block rate).
Basile offers an inside-out presence to Virginia Tech’s offense, similar to the evolved, post-Wofford version of Aluma. Over the course of four seasons (95 games) with Wright State, Basile connected on 58.6 percent of his 2-point attempts. This includes 64.1 percent shooting clip at the rim this season (14 dunks).
When opponents throw single coverage at Basile in the post, he’ll attack with patience, strength and nice shooting touch. Basile looked good finishing in the paint this season vs. a variety of high-major frontcourt players, including Christian Koloko (No. 35) of Arizona, one of the top defensive prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft.
According to Synergy Sports, Basile, a high-usage post hub (28.7 percent usage rate), scored 0.99 points per post-up possession this season (53.8 FG%). Basile led the Horizon league in total post-up points (193) and post-up efficiency (among players with 50+ possessions), per Synergy.
On this possession vs. Arizona, Basile is unable to bury the 7-foot, 260-pound Oumar Ballo (No. 11) under the basket; however, he creates enough space in one of his favorite areas of the floor, and has the touch to finish from a tough distance.
Arizona won this NCAA Tournament game by 17 points, but it was tight at times, thanks in part to Basile. The veteran PF/C pumped in 23 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out four assists.
Basile finished with a team-high 23 points, including 7-of-12 shooting from inside the arc.
Of course, if a double team arrives, Basile can do plenty of damage with his passing abilities, too. On this possession, Basile backs down Dowuona; when Hellems — one pass away — shows help with a dig, Basile wastes no time with a quick kick-out pass for a 3.
During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons combined, Basile posted an assist rate of 12.6 percent — good for 3.5 assists per 100 possessions.
Even if the double team doesn’t come, Basile has passing flashes that punish poor weak-side defense, like this effort from Cam Hayes. As Basile isolates in the mid-post vs. Ross, his teammates move without the ball. Hayes completely loses touch of his man (No. 4), which results in a skip pass from Basile. One extra swing of the ball and Wright State generates another 3, resulting in a hockey assist for Basile.
The interior offense and court vision of Basile work well with a stretch frontcourt player that’s worked to expand his shooting range. Basile was just 2-of-20 (10 3P%) from beyond the arc his first two seasons. However, as a junior and senior, Basile was a combined 59-of-180 on 3-point attempts (32.8 3P%).
Basile sizzled from deep in the 2020-21 season — on lower volume: 20-of-42 3-point attempts (47.6 3P%). This translated to 18.9 percent of Basile’s total field goal attempts. While also shooting 65 percent on his 2-point attempts that year, though, Basile finished Top 20 nationally in both effective shooting (66.2 eFG%) and true shooting (66.9 TS%), according to KenPom.
One year later, Basile upped his 3-point attempt rate: 27.8 percent of his field goal attempts originated from beyond the arc. Basile made just 28.5 percent of those jacks, but the volume was encouraging (137 3PA), as was the shot versatility.
Basile isn’t doesn’t have to be a statue when shooting the basketball. He’ll let it fly over movement, including this quick-trigger 3, which comes off a little split action and over the top of Koloko, who possesses a 9-foot-5 standing reach.
This type of activity is the stuff that must really excite Young and his staff: Basile initiates the offense vs. NC State. He brings the ball up and launches dribble-handoff (DHO) action with Tim Finke (No. 24). This is some point-forward/center stuff. As Dereon Seabron fights over the de facto ball screen, Dowuona defends to the level. With the corner empty, there’s no natural help defender to stunt at Basile, who flows right into an open pick-and-pop triple.
Virginia Tech’s half-court offense features plenty of misdirection, but the Hokies also love to use their skilled big men as handoff hubs who space the floor, screen and made reads depending on how defenses guard actions. Aluma and Mutts were both excellent in this regard.
That’s the vision for Basile in Blacksburg, too.
It’s easy to visualize him running this type of two-man action with Sean Pedulla, Darius Maddox (50.6 3P%) or Hunter Cattoor (41.7 3P%), one of the top movement shooters in the country.
The Hokies, especially with Cattoor’s movement gravity, like to run this set a lot: Gut pindown into a DHO (Chicago action).
This is beautiful offense — what we’ve come to expect from Young’s program. Cattoor starts with a guard-to-guard ghost screen (essentially a slip screen) for Murphy, which flows into an empty-side handoff exchange with Aluma. Cormac Ryan is forced to fight over a good screen from Aluma, which puts pressure on Paul Atkinson Jr. to corral Cattoor. With good floor spacing, there’s no good help vs. Virginia Tech; Aluma catches and has plenty of time to line up a 3-ball vs. a helpless closeout.
At this stage, 80 percent of Virginia Tech’s starting lineup seems set: Pedulla, Cattoor, Maddox and Basile. Obviously, incoming freshman guard Rodney Rice, 6-foot-4 combo from DeMatha Catholic and a Top 60 prospect in the 2022 class, will contend for playing time and a starting spot, too.
Cattoor, an excellent two-way player, is a lock to start and be on the floor for leverage minutes; however, there’s more flexibility around the perimeter. Young will have at least one strong perimeter player to bring off the bench, along with various lineup combinations to deploy.
If Mutts returns, he ties everything together, perfectly. Mutts would play basically the same role he’s excelled in each of the last two seasons, while raising the floor for VT’s defense. Once again, the floor spacing and big-to-big passing, which was exceptional between Mutts and Aluma, would look good.
N’Guessan has yet to make a choice in the portal, but he’s still considering a return to Virginia Tech. If Mutts decides to stay in the draft, then N’Guessan would make for a promising running mate with Basile, too. In fact, N’Guessan’s length and athleticism would pair rather well with Basile.
If neither options returns, though, there are still some good options for Virginia Tech. Basile could slide to the 4 spot, while 6-foot-10 Lynn Kidd (58 total minutes across two seasons at Clemson and Virginia Tech), 6-foot-9 Mylyjael Poteat (a rebounding machine and transfer from Rice) or 7-foot freshman Patrick Wessler (a Top 150 prospect in 2022) run the center position.
Young will also have the option of playing Basile at the 5, which seems like his optimal position, while utilizing a couple different hybrid forwards to round things out: Memphis transfer John Camden and Darren Buchanan, a DC-area prospect and a Top 50 small forward in the 2022 class.
Marcus Hammond – Notre Dame
With Notre Dame set to lose its two top guard creators from this past season — the tantalizingly talented Blake Wesley and stead veteran Prentiss Hubb — Mike Brey needed to add some backcourt offense this offseason. Yes, 5-star combo guard and Top 20 prospect JJ Starling will make a huge difference. So, too, will Niagara transfer Marcus Hammond, who picked Notre Dame over Georgetown.
Hammond, a native of Queens, spent the last four years in Western New York, getting buckets.
During his four seasons with Niagara, Hammond scored 1,422 points (12.6 per game), while shooting 38.9 percent from beyond the arc (213-of-547 3PA). As a senior, the 6-foot-2 Hammond averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 rebound and 2.9 assists per game.
You know what the say about lefties: Hammond’s game is super smooth. However, Hammond can shift and attack downhill with sudden combination moves. This is just nasty: crossover dribble into a behind-the-back crossover around the ball screen and the touch to drain a pull-up 2.
Hammond really does have a bunch of different tricks to separate from defenders, which he can use to create for others, too. During the 2021-22 season, Hammond played on the ball a lot (28.8 percent usage rate), obviously. He did so, however, in more of a combo guard role.
This is why Hammond feels like such a clean fit for Notre Dame’s half-court offense, especially when the Irish run their continuity ball screen (CBS) action.
The CBS offense is structured around side-to-side/continuous pick-and-roll or pop action — with an empty corner. To optimize this attack, though, multiple ball handlers must threaten as quick-strike playmakers, while shooters space the floor.
This became Notre Dame’s base offense for the 2021-22 season. As soon as Wesley established himself as a force, Brey had to tamp down some of the more heliocentric spread pick-and-roll looks for Hubb.
Now, Wesley and Hubb are gone: Notre Dame’s two primary creators. However, there’s still a plethora of offensive talent at the guard spots. Starling headlines the list, but plenty of talent returns, too.
Cormac Ryan (40.3 3P%, 11.4 percent assist rate) can play with and without the ball.
The same can be said for Trey Wertz (39.3 3P%, 4.3 assists per 40 minutes), another 6-foot-5 guard who can shoot and make pick-and-roll reads.
Notre Dame will miss the rim-running presence of Paul Atkinson Jr. at center. That’s a key component to CBS.
If 6-foot-10 Nate Laszewski (45.0 3P%) elects to return for his super-senior season, though, then he’ll once again partner with classmate Dane Goodwin (45.6 3P%), one of the top movement shooters in the country.
The kick-out reads from Notre Dame’s ball screen action produced the No. 4 spot-up offense in Division I basketball: 1.10 points per possession (57.5 eFG%).
Hammond is more than just a ball-mover when he’s in a secondary role, though. The southpaw will look to shoot and score off movement and down screens. This aspect should work well when Mike Brey deploys some of his sets that utilize more off-ball actions, like Blocker Mover.
Ben Vander Plas – Virginia
Not too long ago, Vander Plas and Virginia faced one another in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Ohio upset Virginia that day; Vander Plas went for 17 points and four assists. Now, he’s bound for Charlottesville.
The addition of Vander Plas is an injection of versatility to Tony Bennett’s frontcourt rotation. Virginia returns the key components from this past season’s frontcourt: midrange assassin Jayden Gardner, talented rim-protector Kadin Shedrick and an improved Francisco Caffaro. Isaac Traudt, a 6-foot-10 stretch big, enters the mix, too. Vander Plas has the ability to unlock a variety of different combinations.
During his four seasons with Ohio, Vander Plas emerged as a stretch-4 that can play with the basketball; he’s not just a catch-and-shoot target. Vander Plas can shoot, operate in the post and finish from multiple levels of the floor.
According to Synergy Sports, Vander Plas shot 57.7 percent on post-up attempts this season, scoring 1.0 points per possession. Vander Plas has a confident handle; when he senses and feels the double team, he’s looking to skip the ball weak side.
This is a perfect Vander Plas possession vs. LSU: post iso against Brandon Murray. When Darius Days comes to soft double on the spin, Sears cuts through and Vander Plas spots the open weak-side target. With dribble dribes, Ohio continues to attack LSU’s scrambled defense; while that happens, Vander Plas relocates up top for a good look from deep.
Vander Plas was one of 13 Division I players this season with 15.0 percent defensive rebound rate, 15.0 percent assist rate, 55 2P% and 100+ 3PA. Some of the other players to hit these benchmarks: Alondes Williams, Vince Williams, Adonis Arms and David Roddy.
With that all-around game, Vander Plas scored 1,574 career points (12.9 per game), drained 209 3-pointers (32.5 3P%) and dished out 335 assists (3.5 per 40 minutes).
Over the last two seasons, Vander Plas, playing off Jason Preston and Mark Sears, got up a lot of 3-point attempts: 55 percent of his field goals were from beyond the arc. He shot 34.3 percent on those looks, including plenty of attempts that came off movement.
In the 2021-22 season, BVP scored 1.11 points per spot-up possession (58.3 eFG%), according to Synergy.
Matched up with Tari Eason, one of the top defensive prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft, Vander Plas relocates, shot fakes and hits a one-dribble pull-up for 3.
When Vander Plas forces a hard closeout on a pick-and-pop or a spot-up catch, he has the vision and passing feel to make defenses pay.
On this possession: Ohio flows from a Horns set into pick-and-pop with Sears and Vander Plas. When Toledo puts two on the ball, BVP is open on the pop; as the defense scrambles to contest, Vander Plas shot fakes and finds the mistake in the coverage.
This is big for a frontcourt that last season included very little stretch, with Jay Huff, Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy III all gone. Gardner has nice shooting touch, but his range doesn’t extend beyond 17-18 feet. When Bennett wanted to add some shooting at the 4/5 spots, he was forced to downsize and/or play unproven freshman: Taine Murray and Igor Milicic.
Virginia finished the season -23 in 143 minutes with Murray on the floor, per Pivot Analysis. Murray lineups juiced the offense (1.1 points per possession); he caught fire during Virginia’s near upset of Iowa. However, the defense the defense sputtered (1.22 points per possession) all too often.
According to Pivot Analysis, Virginia was -13 in 15 minutes with Murray and Gardner on the floor, and Shedrick and Caffaro off.
Even when UVA played with more frontcourt shooting, the limitations of the backcourt — for instance, Armaan Franklin’s season-long power outage from deep — still cramped the team’s half-court spacing and flow, while weakening the defense.
Virginia could really unlock its offense by trying some small-ball looking — with BVP and Gardner at the 4/5. Bennett will likely want to keep a true 5 on the floor as much as possible, though. Regardless of alignment, BVP’s passing is something to tap into.
One of things Virginia went to out of Blocker-Mover this season was an isolated elbow touch for Gardner, followed by a weak-side pindown. At Miami: Gardner hits Kihei Clark off the pindown, Clark finds Beekman on the baseline cut and the ball cycles back to Garnder for 2.
On this after-timeout (ATO) possession vs. Pittsburgh, there’s very little off-ball motion/screening; it’s more of a direct elbow touch for Gardner. However, once Gardner catches and looks left, Caffaro sets the pindown for Franklin, who gets to his comfort zone: curling into the midrange.
When there’s a stretch big on the floor, one of the best looks for Virginia to create out of Blocker Mover is the empty-side pindown-and-pop. Hauser curls Murphy’s pindown vs. Miami, takes one dribble, sucks in two defenders and kicks to an open Murphy, one of the most efficient play
From the 2018-19 season: here’s that same action. This time, though, Kyle Guy curls off the pindown from De’Andre Hunter, which brings Cam Johnson and Luke Maye into the paint. As a result, Hunter is wide open for the kick-out 3-ball.
Given how crowded the 4/5 spots project for Virginia, it’s logical to consider Bennett playing some lineups with Vander Plas (as the de facto 3), Gardner and a true center on the floor, too. That’d be a big 3-4-5, one that looks similar to Kody Stattmann playing with Gardner and Shedrick/Caffaro.
Of course, the 2020-21 UVA squad played a lot of minutes with Hauser, Murphy and Huff on the floor together.
There’s enough collective passing and shooting between Vander Plas and Gardner to make it palatable on offense. At this point, Vander Plas is a better passer than Stattmann and more mobile. If Virginia runs Blocker Mover with this alignment, it’s some combination of Vander Plas, Reece Beekman, Franklin and Clark working as the movers, while
There are some speed concerns with that configuration on defense; however, with Beekman and Shedrick bookending things, it’s functional enough.