Thought it was football season, didn't you? We interrupt all that football stuff to check out Tony Bennett's first 2011 commitment, who jumped onboard yesterday....
Name: Paul Jesperson
Hometown: Merrill, WI
ESPN: 90; #41 SF
Rivals: three stars; #140 nationally
Scout: four stars; #17 SF
Offers: Arizona State, Arkansas, Boston College, Butler, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, whole slew of mid-majors
Tony Bennett goes back to even older stomping grounds than he did for Joe Harris out of Washington; UVA's first 2011 hoops commitment comes from Wisconsin. He also comes almost a month later than last year's opening salvo, Will Regan. The slower pace is to be expected, since obviously we're not getting six commits again.
As for Jesperson, his recruiting followed basically the path you'd expect for a talented guy stuck in the backwoods of a state not known for churning out hoopsters. Before his junior season he had a smattering of upper-Midwest mid-major offers (the Wisconsin schools, SDSU, that kind of thing) and was thinking hard about Colorado State. Yaaayy. Interest picked up after his junior year - Minnesota offered in the spring and was one of Jesperson's finalists - and then the camp and AAU circuit and suddenly it's Iowa, Arkansas, Vandy, Notre Dame.....and of course, Virginia. Similar to Regan, Jesperson hasn't garnered any really big-league offers but has a long list of solid high majors after him. His UVA offer came in June after Bennett got an up-close-and-personal look at camp. Great news, as he'd been wanting one since at least May. It came down to UVA, Minnesota, and Notre Dame, and how about that sports fans, Bennett just beat Tubby Smith (you remember him, the guy we spent a decade hankering for as our head coach) for a recruit.
Jesperson's skill set makes him a little bit of a tweener. The three position is where the services have him but really he's too damn skinny to be a pure three, probably always will be, and at UVA he should be considered something more like a two-and-a-half. Three-pointers are a specialty of his, and at 6'7" he'll be more than big enough to outreach most two-guards without being too slow to guard them. He'll snag his share of rebounds, but you won't see him venturing inside much and he doesn't wow you with ballhandling and playmaking skills. Minnesota was pointing at Blake Hoffarber when they were recruiting Jesperson.
The scouting service evaluations are pretty varied for someone who's been hitting the camps and the AAU tournaments. ESPN's kind of lukewarm and their 90 rating means "more or less ACC caliber," while Scout's pretty enthused - they don't hand out four stars lightly. ESPN's evaluation came before the AAU tournament where Minnesota offered, before UVA's camp where Bennett offered, and before the Milwaukee AAU tournament where Notre Dame offered - in other words, before he really got out and showed off against the high-level competition. So with ESPN at the low end of the expectations chart, that makes for good news.
Come 2011, where Jesperson (or pretty much any recruit we get under 6'10") fits in is anyone's guess until we see how the six freshmen turn out. Weird year that way. But there isn't exactly a logjam of his type on the roster - maybe Akil Mitchell, but he's the biggest unknown quantity of them all. Jesperson reminds me of Adrian Joseph: a long, sort of skinny guardish-forward type (or forwardish-guard type) that can be counted on for outside buckets but is kind of an end-state for the offense: you get him the ball when he's open and you want him to shoot it, not because you want him to find someone else. Scoring, yes. Rebounding yes, but not the kind of rebounds you bang for, more the kind of rebounds you outreach your matchup for. Assists, probably not so much. Jesperson can probably look for meaningful minutes right away as long as he adds about 15 useful pounds, and what we'll look for out of him isn't so much to be the star of the program, but the kind of player like Joseph or Mamadi Diane that forces you to respect him so the star (whoever that might be) can do his thing.