As Tony Bennett looks to add to his ACC championship collection in the coming years, he has made a trio of in-state big men — class of 2019 center Armando Bacot along with 2020’s Isaiah Todd and Mark Williams — some of his top targets on the recruiting trail.
Technically, that trio is now a duo with Richmond’s Isaiah Todd moving to Raleigh to continue his high school career at Trinity Academy. Todd may not be just down the road any more; however, that doesn’t mean the top-five prospect in his class has fallen off Virginia’s radar.
The question now is whether the Cavaliers have lost any advantage they once may have possessed.
It’s hard to say. Proximity, and the opportunity to be a hero in your home state, can often be a selling point.
On the other hand, the Research Triangle is still a reasonably close and easy drive to Charlottesville — closer than many spots within the Virginia borders in fact. And Bennett and his staff has successfully recruited the Carolinas before, landing players such as Jay Huff from Durham, and Akil Mitchell and Anthony Gill from Charlotte.
Given the fact Todd and his family decided to move to Raleigh, it’s not a leap to assume proximity to Virginia wasn’t a high priority to begin with; plus, signing almost anywhere in the ACC would provide several opportunities for his family to see him play.
No, the biggest advantage Virginia had with Todd an hour away in Richmond was becoming aware of him early. Virginia was among the first programs to offer a scholarship, doing so much earlier than Bennett typically likes to.
Coaches from UVA and James Madison were among the first to develop a relationship with Todd as a freshman and sophomore in high school. Todd quickly proved himself out of JMU’s league, but Virginia has remained in the mix — even as Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and others have come calling.
Do the Tar Heels and Blue Devils now have a hometown advantage? Perhaps. But Clemson tried to leverage a similar situation while recruiting Zion Williamson, and in that case he chose Duke, showing that like many top recruits, location was only one small factor.
Signing Todd would be huge for Virginia, but the Cavs certainly aren’t putting every egg in that basket. They’ve been involved with Williams, a post player from Norfolk, just as long and have several offers out to others as well.
Day’Ron Sharpe and Hunter Dickinson are two more big men in the 2020 class with Virginia offers, not to mention Bacot, Jaelyn Withers, D.J. Burns, Will Baker and a host of others in the rising senior class.
But Isaiah Todd certainly remains a recruit to watch for Virginia fans. Even if he’s now a little easier for Tobacco Road types to see.
De’Andre Hunter plans to return to UVA for his sophomore season