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What Reece Beekman's Return Means for Virginia Next Season

By Matt Newton,


The entire outlook for the 2023-2024 Virginia men's basketball season changed drastically on Wednesday evening, as just a few hours before the deadline, Reece Beekman decided that he would be withdrawing his name from the 2023 NBA Draft and returning to UVA for his senior season.

Although not much has been revealed about what went into Beekman's decision to return to college, it seems it very much came down to the wire as Beekman used strong showings at the NBA Draft Combine and in private workouts with specific NBA teams to gain some serious momentum and elevate his draft stock. ESPN released a mock draft earlier in the day on Wednesday that had projected Beekman to be selected with the 43rd overall pick in the second round of the draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, one of the teams Beekman worked out with during the pre-draft process.

Ultimately, though, Beekman determined that the right decision for him was to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to Virginia for his senior season, and he ended up being one of the highest-ranked draft prospects to make the decision to go back to school.

"I've decided to go back to UVA to work towards being a first-round draft pick next year and finish my degree," Beekman told ESPN's Jonathan Givony .

Though there were likely many factors that contributed to Beekman's choice, his words in that quote speak volumes on his belief in the developmental value of spending another year under Tony Bennett and in the Virginia men's basketball program as well as his recognition of the high value of completing his degree and graduating from UVA.

It'll be another year and then some before we'll be able to truly assess how this decision worked out for Beekman, but what is certain is that this is a massive win for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers. Virginia made significant roster moves and brought in a few quality additions from the transfer portal in the month of April, but Reece Beekman deciding to return is by far the most pivotal moment of the offseason for UVA.

Not only is Beekman Virginia's best all-around player and the top defender in the ACC, which raises the team's ceiling next season simply by having him on the floor, but given his experience and leadership, Beekman is also the key to unlocking the potential of the rest of the roster.

There was a lot to like about the offseason acquisitions the Cavaliers secured to bolster their roster. The additions of transfers Jordan Minor, Andrew Rohde, and Jake Groves - along with midseason transfer Dante Harris - filled serious areas of need on UVA's roster, and the signing of Anthony Robinson to join Blake Buchanan and Elijah Gertrude rounded out a 2023 recruiting class that gives Virginia plenty to look forward to in the future. Along with returners Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn, Taine Murray, and Leon Bond III, Tony Bennett and company would be able to field a capable squad next season. But, without Reece Beekman, that group would have a much lower ceiling as a patchwork effort to replace the depth and experience UVA lost with six of the team's top seven scorers departing.

With Reece Beekman returning, suddenly UVA's roster looks a lot more complete as all of the players previously listed now serve as complements around Beekman, who will run the Cavalier offense as the sole primary ball-handler for the first time in his career. There is a golden scenario for Virginia in which Beekman flourishes in that newfound freedom and enjoys an explosive breakout season on the offensive end of the floor. But even just having Beekman back and surrounded by a bunch of quality players who each have their own potential to take big steps forward next season gives an amazing set of possibilities for UVA in 2023-2024.

Taking a look at that personnel, this is our projected starting lineup and bench rotation for Virginia for next season:

G Reece Beekman
G Isaac McKneely
G Andrew Rohde
F Ryan Dunn
F Jordan Minor

G Dante Harris
F Jake Groves
G/F Leon Bond III
G/F Taine Murray
G Elijah Gertrude
F Blake Buchanan
F Anthony Robinson

The most direct consequence of Beekman's return is that Georgetown guard transfer Dante Harris will likely come off the bench. Had Beekman not returned, Harris would have taken over as the team's starting point guard. Harris will still play a significant role off the bench as a capable facilitator and playmaker with extensive experience playing major conference basketball and then he will be in line to step into the starting lineup in 2024-2025.

Beekman will of course return to his role in the starting five, although this time as the sole starting point guard. Joining him in the back court will be sharpshooting sophomore guard Isaac McKneely, who is poised for another big year after getting a lot of valuable experience as a true freshman.

There are a few candidates for that third guard/wing spot in the starting five, with Andrew Rohde, Leon Bond III, and Taine Murray expected to battle for that position. Murray has the most experience in UVA's program, which gives him a leg up on the defensive end. Bond III has a very high ceiling and could potentially earn a significant role depending on how ready he is to play coming off of his redshirt season. We're giving the nod to St. Thomas transfer Andrew Rohde, as he provides a big scoring punch after averaging 17.1 points per game in his freshman season and also gives the Cavaliers another ball-handling playmaker on the floor and a big guard capable of guarding multiple positions on defense.

Like Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn played a big role for Virginia as a true freshman and is perhaps the most exciting candidate to have a breakout year next season, especially if his jump shot comes along. Dunn is a shoo-in to occupy one of the two front court positions. Rounding out the starting five will likely be Merrimack transfer Jordan Minor. The 6'8", 240-pound forward moves very well for his size, an invaluable trait in the Pack Line Defense as it will allow him to effectively hedge on ball screens and recover quickly.

That leaves Virginia with a bench unit of Dante Harris, Taine Murray, Leon Bond III, Jake Groves, Elijah Gertrude, Blake Buchanan, and Anthony Robinson.

See Virginia's full scholarship picture for the next four seasons in the chart below.

Note: the 2020-2021 season continues to be a "freebie" season that does not count against a player's eligibility. The graphic below shows Virginia's scholarship picture with the assumption that every player utilizes the extent of his eligibility. For UVA's roster, that applies to Reece Beekman, Dante Harris, Jordan Minor, and Jake Groves.

From a numbers standpoint, Beekman's return means that Virginia has filled 12 of its 13 scholarship spots for the 2023-2024 season. It's possible that the Cavaliers could add another transfer or a late high school commit from the class of 2023, but Tony Bennett has frequently kept a scholarship spot open in the past and has a track record of rewarding walk-ons with a scholarship. That could be the case for senior walk-on forward Tristan How if the Cavaliers do not end up using their full allotment of 13 scholarships.

From a big picture perspective, the return of Reece Beekman immediately elevates Virginia back into contention at the top of the ACC and in the national college basketball landscape in 2023-2024.

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