wednesday afternoon,Tony Bennett and Virginia landed a commitment from four-star shooting guard Elijah Gertrude.
Gertrude joins fellow four-star Blake Buchanan in the Cavaliers 2023 recruiting class and while there are only two members so far, the class is an example of Bennett and his outstanding staff of Jason Williford, Orlando Vandross and Kyle Getter operating at their highest level on the recruiting front.
A 6-foot-4 senior at Jersey City (NJ) Hudson Catholic, Gertrude is ranked No. 36 by 247Sports. At 6-foot-9 post from Coeur D Alene (Idaho) Lake City, Buchanan is ranked No. 67 overall.
Now, there may be some who are reading this and asking themselves why this is an example of operating at the highest level in recruiting? It is a fair question. It isn’t like Virginia is the only school to land a couple of highly ranked players from the class of 2023. In fact the addition of Gertrude gives UVA the No. 17 ranked class according to the 247Sports Composite team ranking. That’s a pretty good class, but not necessarily Earth shattering.
Peel back the layers, though, and you’ll have a greater understanding of what makes this class the perfect example of Bennett and his staff doing what they do best.
Bennett and his staff went in to see Buchanan multiple times during his junior season. Think about that, they sniffed out a player from Idaho and were the only high major program to go in. There weren’t Pac 12 programs beating down Buchanan’s door, Gonzaga didn’t get involved until late and Buchanan didn’t crack the national rankings until well after Bennett and his staff made him a priority. Sure, Bennett has ties and connections in the Northwest from his days at Washington State. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it shouldn’t have been Virginia that found Buchanan first. Others — even those in his backyard — knew about Buchanan, but it was Bennett and his staff that did the work and they’re going to be rewarded for it.
Buchanan may not make a huge impact as a freshman (he won’t be bad either) but long term he’s a tremendous fit. He moves well, has a great frame to build on, has some touch and most importantly he’s headed to play in Charlottesville because he’s fully bought into the program’s culture and values. It is one thing to find a kid like that locally, but to sniff one out from literally the other side of the country is a true recruiting win.
Ok, let’s take a look at the newest addition. While Gertrude now ranks among the top 40 nationally, he didn’t even have a profile on any national website at the beginning of the 2022 calendar year. Even in a hotbed like the NYC/Northern Jersey area he was somehow flying under the radar. The spring hit and Gertrude started to draw admirers because of his athleticism, length and ability to make jumpers from deep. Know who was already involved before Gertrude started popping up in the national rankings? You guessed it, Virginia.
Not only were they involved, they had Gertrude on the hook early. Even before he received an offer, his excitement over being recruited by Bennett and his staff was off the charts. This was a kid who had clearly done his homework on the program and once they offered, it was just a matter of getting everybody on board with Gertrude leaving the nest for college.
Like Buchanan, it remains to be seen just how ready Gertrude will be to make a huge contribution as a freshman. Especially given his ranking. Make no mistake, though, he is a player who has immense upside. In addition to his physical gifts and shooting stroke, he can put the ball on the floor, has an above average IQ and is still relatively new to high-level basketball.
Bennett and his staff have built one of the nation’s top programs and won a National Championship due to smarts, culture, player development and an incredible ability to identify talent that fits all of their ideals. The 2023 class of Buchanan and Gertrude is a perfect example of this as Tony Bennett continues to do Tony Bennett things.