Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the recruit: Mike Tobey

Name: Mike Tobey
Position: Center
Home state: Monroe, NY
School: Hotchkiss School (CT)
Height: 6'11"
Weight: 210

ESPN: 88; #29 center
Rivals: three stars
Scout: no ranking

Other offers: Maryland, Pittsburgh, Xavier, Miami, Northwestern, Siena

It makes me happy that Mike Tobey committed after the turn of the New Year. Basketball recruiting is fluid and ever-changing and let's just say there's a good reason I don't maintain a basketball recruiting board. It drives me crazy, that's why. I like well-defined seasons for these things, and I can make it make sense by keeping it in my head that players who commit in a particular spring or summer will be available not that fall, but the next. Tobey committed in 2011 for the class of 2012, just as Malcolm Brogdon and them committed in 2010 for the class of 2011, so I can get my head around that. Even though it's a good seven, eight months earlier than usual.

Anyway, personal peeves aside, I take the early-ish commitment from Tobey as a sign that Tony Bennett is getting comfortable on the recruiting trail, and that's a good thing. Another good thing: Tobey is the first honest-to-god center pickup for Bennett. They've been very rare around these parts and most of them don't work out so good. John Brandenburg transferred to Colgate and Assane Sene and Tunji Soroye have proven useful only on one end of the court.

So what about Tobey, then? Unsurprisingly, every scouting report ever calls him "raw." It's the default word for young players who are taller than the treetops. (Everybody learns to shoot, drive, pass, and defend and play below the rim in junior high, but once you get to 6'11" you have to relearn the game in a way and nobody's that tall in ninth grade.) In the mold of previous Bennett recruits like Will Regan, Tobey has a good shooting touch for a big man and isn't limited to scoring from three feet out. Brains, good hands, and good footwork also show up in the scouting reports, so it's no mystery at all where I'm going with this. Tony Bennett wants a team full of smart, versatile players with good basketball IQ. Finally getting one that's almost seven feet tall is a coup.

The other thing that dominates the googlewebs on Tobey is reclassification: down a class, up a class, whatever. The story is this: Tobey transferred from Don Bosco in New Jersey to Hotchkiss in Connecticut. He's young. Really young. He turned sixteen in October and he'll still be seventeen when he starts school at UVA. Because of his age, he intended to repeat his sophomore year and graduate in 2013. He changed his mind and stuck with the class of 2012; probably because he was getting offers from ACC coaches who wanted him sooner rather than later.

Because of his age, he's got baby fat still. You'd think at 6'11" and 210 pounds he could hide behind a telephone pole. He can't. He's not actually skinny, which means he's got a lot of muscle to add before he's ACC ready. That's his number one weakness, but I'm not dumb enough to believe Tony Bennett recruited a player this hard who would sit around and not use the next 20 months to work on that. Tobey's got low ratings from the gurus, or none at all, but those will change a lot between now and 2012, and as he adds bulk he'll add stars, too. The talent is already there; he's not yet registering on a lot of 2012 radars, but as a 2013 player he was considered a consensus choice for the second-best player in Connecticut and by at least one source as one of the top 25 players in the country. Offers from the likes of Maryland, Pitt, and Xavier back that up; if Tobey had waited until 2013 to graduate who knows who'd have offered him? (And why do you think I think it was Tony Bennett - among others - who helped convince him to stick with 2012?)

Tobey is a player whom it'll be interesting to watch through the summer, and I wish I had the benefit of doing so before writing this, but it matters little. The dude's seven damn feet - it's not like it takes much imagination to guess how he'll be used on the court. Tobey has a fantastic chance to bring a dimension to UVA hoops that's been missing so long, I've never even seen it. No, Ryan Pettinella doesn't count.

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