Malcolm Brogdon, Devon Hall and De’Andre Hunter are a few of the players who gone from redshirt to stand out under Tony Bennett at Virginia. Could Francesco Baddocchi, aka Frankie, be next on that list.
His high school coach sincerely believes so. Baddocchi, a native of Milan, Italy, who attended high school in the Kansas City area, was an under-the-radar recruit before signing with Virginia last year. An injury and trips back to Europe kept him off the summer circuit before his junior and senior years, but he helped Bishop Miege High School to back-to-back Class 4A state titles in Kansas.
Virginia assistant Brad Soderberg attended a Miege game Baddocchi’s senior season to watch another player, but left thinking the 6-foot-7 Italian forward was worthy of a scholarship offer.
Miege coach Rick Zych agreed. Among the players he’s coached at the high school level where Travis Releford, a second-team All-Big 12 pick who was a key player on Kansas’ 2012 Final Four team and his brother Trevor who was a four-year starter at Alabama. There’s also junior power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who could be a McDonald’s All-American next year.
“Frankie’s as good as any of them,” Zych said.
So where does Baddocchi, Virginia’s international man of mystery, fit into the Cavaliers’ plans for next season? Nobody outside of the program has seen much of him on the court since his high school days, but a clearer picture is developing.
He’s drawn comparisons to both Isaiah Wilkins, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year whose eligibility at UVA is expired, and Travis Releford. Releford, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound swingman developed into one of the country’s best defenders after a redshirt season at Kansas.
“He’s still working on that outside shot and getting better,” Zych said. “But he’s explosive and really tough in the lane. He’ll block a lot of shots.”
Assuming Hunter, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year as a redshirt freshman, slides into the starting lineup with Wilkins graduation, it opens the door for Baddocchi to play a similar role to what Hunter did this season: a spark off the bench who can play on the wing or as a stretch four.
If a healthy Hunter provides more offensive pop in the starting lineup, then Baddocchi’s a potential defensive weapon who could do many of the same things Wilkins did for the Cavs, small enough to guard perimeter players, but a quick leaper to challenge shots inside.
Tony Bennett’s final radio show of the year might have offered a hint of how high the coaching staff is on the coaching staff is on Baddocchi. Talking about the possibility of adding a graduate transfer, Bennett said he’s focused on getting a guard.
With Jay Huff a question mark on defense, that would suggest Bennett is comfortable with Baddocchi getting important minutes next season.