Virginia quietly putting together solid 2012 recruiting class
By JAY JENKINS
Published: July 05, 2011
In a way it has resembled a sneak attack.
For a greater part of the recruiting year, Virginia Tech has controlled the buzz factor inside the Commonwealth.
It was justified with three four-star players set to take their talents to Blacksburg, including linebacker Deon Clarke from L.C. Bird in Chesterfield. The Hokies created more buzz on Tuesday, landing a commitment from highly touted South County (Lorton) linebacker Devin Vandyke.
Methodically, Virginia coach Mike London and his staff have done a similar job, plucking 13 verbal commitments, one less than the Hokies, including a pair of four-star talents that share the same last name.
Linebacker Kwontie Moore and defensive end Mike Moore headline a crop that grew quickly in June.
“There is a lot of reason to be excited by what the coaching staff is doing at Virginia,” Kwontie Moore said. “I am excited to get there and learn from the coaches and be a part of what they are building.”
There are also seven three-star recruits that have helped address the needs for the future, including what London considers the top offensive lineman in the state in Andrew Miles-Redmond.
While Rivals.com has not released team rankings yet, London feels confident in his plan and the players that have agreed to join the Class of 2012, one that is not expected to exceed past 20 unless the right players join the fray.
“It is funny because I hear a bunch of rumbling like, ‘Hey, another place is doing well.’ You know what, I look at what we have going on and I think we are doing pretty well ourselves,” London said. “We have some in the top 100, we have the top offensive lineman in the state.
“We have some different things and we are in on a lot of the best players left in the state. We keep the message the same and remain consistent that have a chance to come and get a great education at the greatest university that recognized nationally and globally.”
Last year, London landed the 17th-best recruiting class in the country.
That was expected with the buzz that London’s hiring created in the Tidewater region and throughout the state.
Many considered the staff changes at Virginia Tech after the 2011 season as a direct response to the Cavaliers’ in-state success.
London lost graduate assistant Ron Mattes for a paying gig at Elon, but the staff remained in tact and former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans was given a graduate assistant post and created another buzz in Hampton during a practice session in the spring.
London could not say enough positives about the coaches that have been on the road for countless hours since the season ended.
“I tell the kids that you have a chance to play for a staff and on a young team that is looking for players to come and play right now,” the second-year coach said. “You have the best of both worlds. That’s the mantra. That’s what we are marching to.
“We’re not recruiting to what people don’t have or what they haven’t done. We are recruiting to what we are doing now. That’s exciting. I will take my personality in terms of the coaches that we have here and stack it up against anybody, and we will go from there.”
Thus far, Virginia has landed seven players from the Commonwealth. That was exactly the same number that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer had landed from inside the state prior to Vandyke’s commitment on Tuesday.
“There is a lot of talent in this state and we understand that,” London said. “It is an exciting time.”
Teel Time: As July basketball recruiting begins, U.Va., Hokies
court DeMatha stars
By David Teel
5:09 AM EDT, July 5, 2011
James Robinson and Jerami Grant are basketball teammates at DeMatha High and for Team Takeover. Could their partnership continue in 2012 at the University of Virginia?
That is among the myriad questions surrounding U.Va. and Virginia Tech as the annual July recruiting period commences Wednesday.
Robinson is a 6-foot-3 point guard, Grant a 6-7 forward and the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant, a Hampton University assistant coach. The Cavaliers are pursuing both, with the Hokies courting Grant.
With commitments from 6-5 Justin Anderson, 6-8 Evan Nolte and 6-10 Mike Tobey, Virginia is assembling a top-shelf 2012 class. Point guard is the missing piece.
Virginia, Georgetown and Notre Dame lead for Robinson, according to Rivals.com, and DeMatha’s 71-57 January loss to Norcom in Portsmouth demonstrated why he’s generated such interest. With 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, Robinson, then a junior, was as impressive as the game’s two marquee seniors: Virginia Tech signee Dorian Finney-Smith of Norcom and Georgetown-bound Mikael Hopkins of DeMatha.
Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Clemson are among the 10 schools to offer Grant, according to Rivals, and recruiters will have no trouble finding him and Robinson this month. They’ll be competing for Washington, D.C.-based Team Takeover at the Peach Jam in South Carolina and Super Showcase in Florida.
Nike has turned the Peach Jam into the final stage of what it calls the Elite Youth Basketball League, the first session of which was Boo Williams’ annual April tournament in Hampton. Team Takeover is 15-0 this spring and summer in EYBL competition.
Among those victories was an 80-72 April conquest of host Boo Williams. Grant (18 points) and Robinson (13) were Team Takeover’s leading scorers, and Grant added nine rebounds.
Virginia and Virginia Tech have had recent recruiting success at DeMatha. Former Cavaliers coach Dave Leitao landed Mamadi Diane from the renowned school in Hyattsville, Md. Hokies coach Seth Greenberg signed Jeff Allen, who played three seasons at DeMatha before playing his senior year at Oak Hill Academy and a post-grad year at Hargrave Military.
Tech has one pledge for 2012 in forward Montrezl Harrell of Tarboro, N.C. Among the Hokies’ other targets for that class are forwards Andrew White of the Miller School in Crozet (also considering Georgia Tech, Richmond, Louisville and George Mason) and Michael Carrera and Kevin Larsen, both of Montrose Christian, the Rockville, Md., squad that also includes Virginia commit Anderson.
Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter told The Washington Post’s Josh Barr that Carrera also has offers from Richmond and Gonzaga, Larsen from Gonzaga. Both players hail from overseas, Carrera from Venezuela, Larsen from Denmark.
Tech's pursuit of Carrera and Larsen likely reflects the influence of new assistant coach Rob Ehsan, who from his previous job at Maryland brings extensive connections internationally and to Montrose. Ehsan led Maryland's recruitment of Anderson, who pledged to the Terps in March before changing his mind in the wake of coach Gary Williams' unexpected retirement.
July’s evaluation periods run from the 6th-15th and 22-31st, with events scheduled across the country. Many prospects will commit before summer’s end, but the week-long national signing period does not begin until Nov. 9.
A mid-afternoon Tuesday email on Robinson and Grant from DeMatha coach Mike Jones, a former Old Dominion player:
"Either could commit before school (starts), but I expect both to take their visits and make a decision in October/November.
"James' list is pretty small at this point and UVa is high (very high) on that list. Va Tech is very much in the mix for Grant."
Danny Hultzen Wins John Olerud Two-Way Player Award
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia's Danny Hultzen (Jr., Bethesda, Md.) was named the winner of the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award on Sunday evening. The award was presented at the College Baseball Foundation's Night of Champions at the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas.
The John Olerud Award was announced in conjunction with several other prestigious college baseball awards - Brooks Wallace Award (Clemson's Brad Miller), NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award (Texas' Cory Knebel), Dick Howser Trophy (Texas' Taylor Jungmann) and National Pitcher of the Year (UCLA's Trevor Bauer).
The honor added another award to Hultzen's long list for the 2011 season. He already was a unanimous first-team All-American, earning the honor from the ABCA, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger and NCBWA. Hultzen was named the ACC Pitcher of the Year for the second year in a row, becoming the first pitcher in league history to earn that distinction twice. He also was picked First-Team All-ACC for the third year in a row. Hultzen succeeded in the classroom as well and was a Capital One First-Team Academic All-American.
The first three-time All-American in Virginia history, Hultzen was 12-3 this year with a 1.37 ERA, which was fifth lowest in Division I. He also struck out 165 batters, which ranked second among all Division I pitchers and the most in a single season in UVa history. He became Virginia's all-time career leader in wins (32) and strikeouts (395) this season and also is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Hultzen was the second pick in the MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners this year. In 118 innings this season, Hultzen allowed 26 runs (18 earned), 76 hits and 23 walks. Batters hit just .184 against him.
At the plate Hultzen hit .309 in 43 games (39 starts). He hit 11 doubles, one triple and one home run and drove in 35 runs while racking up a .396 on base percentage. He also stole six bases in seven attempts.
U.Va. catcher Hicks signs pro contract
By MICHAEL PHILLIPS
Published: July 06, 2011
Two starters from the University of Virginia's baseball team signed professional contracts during the holiday weekend, and both are from the Richmond area.
Catcher John Hicks of Goochland will forego his senior season after signing with the Seattle Mariners. Pitcher Tyler Wilson of Midlothian will join the Baltimore Orioles. He graduated in the spring.
Of the eight Cavaliers who were selected in this year's major-league draft, all four seniors have signed. Hicks became the first of four juniors to do so.
Hicks agreed to terms with the Mariners on Sunday and will join the Class A Clinton (Wash.) Lumberkings this week.
His signing was part of Seattle's strategy to bulk up on catchers through the draft. The Mariners have only one in Clinton right now and are weak throughout the organization at the position. The team has gone through 15 players at the position in the past six years, and Hicks likely will become the Mariners' top catching prospect in the next Baseball America rankings.
He also could be reunited before the summer is over with U.Va. star pitcher Danny Hultzen, whom Hicks caught this season.
Hultzen was taken No. 2 overall in the draft by the Mariners. He has until Aug. 15 to sign. If he does, he could be sent to join Hicks in Clinton.
Wilson will stay on the East Coast in the Orioles' minor-league system. After pitching out of the bullpen to start his college career, he became U.Va.'s Saturday starter this year and capped his season with the Senior CLASS award for off-field achievement.
The other players who have signed this summer include pitcher Cody Winiarski, who was on the mound for the Cavaliers' final inning against South Carolina. He is playing in the White Sox' system with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers.
Former catcher Kenny Swab, who played in the outfield this season after Hicks won the catching position, has signed with Kansas City. The Royals plan to move him back behind the plate.
Outfielder John Barr has signed with the Cleveland Indians, where he is playing with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and is a teammate of James Madison slugger Jake Lowery (Cosby).
Aside from Hultzen, the other unsigned juniors are pitcher Will Roberts (Maggie Walker GS) and slugger Steven Proscia. Roberts was drafted by Cleveland. Proscia was selected by Seattle — one of three Wahoos the Mariners picked up.
Scheetz commits to Tech; Carrico to U.Va.
By ERIC KOLENICH
Published: July 05, 2011
A brace wrapped around Kit Scheetz’s left knee, the result of a torn ACL that forced the southpaw to miss his entire sophomore season.
Then came surgery, crutches and another brace. The injury took months to rehabilitate, and he wasn’t sure he could make the James River baseball team the next season.
But in the span of one year, he went from struggling to walk to dominating hitters. As a junior, he went 9-1 with a 1.67 ERA and was named first-team All-Metro. Last week, Scheetz committed to Virginia Tech.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Scheetz said. “It’s almost surreal.”
He is one of two James River pitchers to commit to college in the past week. Righty Tyler Carrico made a verbal commitment to U.Va. over the weekend. Carrico and Scheetz also are teammates on the Virginia Cardinals, a travel team based out of Midlothian.
In 2012, the Rapids will have three seniors who will pitch in the ACC after high school, including Nathan Kirby, who committed to the Cavaliers before his junior season.
Scheetz isn’t your prototypical Division I pitcher. His fastball tops out around 83-84 mph, which is slower than average. A big, sweeping curveball serves as his out pitch.
“And his location is so good,” James River coach Pete Schumacher said.
Radford and William and Mary also offered him.
Like Scheetz, Carrico’s ascension was quick. Carrico pitched sparingly for the Rapids in 2011. But he picked up the win in the Central Region championship game, his first outing since spring break.
His recruitment accelerated after the high school season ended as he got more opportunities to pitch with the Cardinals. He has a fastball that hits 89.
“It’s definitely a pretty humbling experience and very exciting at the same time,” said Carrico, who picked up offers from Virginia Tech and William and Mary.
Zach Joesph, a 2011 graduate of Benedictine, will pitch at Old Dominion next year as an invited walk-on. Joseph was named second-team All-Metro as a senior and first-team All-Metro as a junior when he led the Cadets to the VIS state championship.
David Geary, the Cadets’ shortstop, has committed to VMI. A rising senior, Geary is also Benedictine’s starting quarterback.
Dinwiddie pitcher and first baseman Daniel Bridgeman has committed to Radford. Bridgeman is a rising senior who was named second-team All-Metro and second-team all-state as a junior.
U.Va. gets commitment from Powhatan OF Allen
By TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF
Published: July 05, 2011
Powhatan outfielder Tyler Allen has committed to the University of Virginia.
Allen, who just finished his sophomore season, was named All-Metro after batting .614 and scoring 42 runs in 57 at-bats. He also was named the Southside District player of the year.
"I knew if U.Va. offered, he'd commit," said Powhatan coach Gregg Conner, who added that Allen has wanted to go to U.Va. for some time.
U.Va. offered a scholarship Saturday night. By Sunday morning, Allen called Conner to let him know he had made his decision.
Allen drew attention from VCU, Maryland and Virginia Tech.
Park Finishes Second at Virginia State Amateur
BRISTOL, VA - Incoming Virginia freshman golfer Ji Soo Park placed second at the 98th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship that concluded Saturday at The Virginian Golf Club in Bristol.
Mid-amateur Scott Shingler, 39, of Haymarket scored a 3 and 2 victory over 18-year-old Park of Centreville to win the final day's scheduled 36-hole final.
Park tied for fifth in the 36-hole stroke play qualifying with rounds of 70 and 68. He defeated Joseph Evans of Hampton and Eric Stapars of Reston 4 and 3 in the first and second rounds to advance to the quarerfinals.
Park endured 38 holes in reaching the final. He scored a pair of 19-hole victories and bested two collegians during Friday's play. He defeated Charlottesville's Weston Eklund, a 21-year-old redshirt senior at Radford during the morning, before getting past Bryce Chalkley, 18, of Glen Allen, a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech, in the semifinals.
Park reached the second round of match play at the VSGA Amateur in 2009, signaling his previous best performance at the championship and admittedly gained some know-how from this year's experience. He immigrated to the United States from South Korea seven years ago and was brought to the game by his father, Jong Chan Park, who also serves as his swing instructor.
"I feel great that I made it to the final - it's more than what I expected," Park said. "Hopefully, next year I can hold the big trophy like Scott did today. I'll feel more prepared the next few years.
"My dad has worked on everything with me, so I want to thank him for everything he's done for me."
Note: Information provided by the Virginia State Golf Association
Forced into retirement, former UVa soccer star finds new ways to
By Roger Gonzalez | Daily Progress correspondent
Published: July 04, 2011
Like with any professional athlete, suffering injuries that threaten a career can be a very trying situation to overcome.
Some athletes disconnect from their game and fade into sports obscurity. The same can’t be said for former Virginia soccer star Alecko Eskandarian.
A pure striker with a knack for scoring goals, Eskandarian started at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey, winning the 1999-00 Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year Award, New Jersey State Player of the Year and being named a NSCAA/Adidas All-American.
As a Cavalier, he won the Hermann Trophy as the nation’s top college player after scoring 25 goals, resulting in him being selected No. 1 overall by D.C. United of Major League Soccer.
“It meant everything,” Eskandarian said of his time in Charlottesville. “For me, growing up in New Jersey, watching Bruce Arena’s legendary teams ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play at UVa. I’m really proud of being able to earn a starting spot. Just to be part of the UVa program and the UVa family meant a lot.”
As for his time in the nation’s capital, it was just as special. Thanks in large part to Eskandarian, D.C. United won the MLS Cup in 2004. In the final, Eskandarian scored two goals in the span of four minutes in United’s 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards. He was named MLS Cup MVP.
“It turned out to be a special season,” he said.
After that special season came some trying times for the former Cavalier. D.C. United traded Eskandarian to Toronto FC late in 2006. He was traded several more times over the next few years. In all, Eskandarian played with five different MLS teams in five seasons. Then his playing career came to a sudden halt in 2009. While playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy, a ball hit him in the face, causing a bad concussion and a broken nose. Then everything changed. After the injury, Eskandarian was not medically cleared to play again, forcing him into retirement in 2010.
“I don’t know that I have handled it,” he said. “It was forced. It’s really tough to handle. It’s something that never really goes away.
“When the thing that you love most in the world is taken away from you, it’s tough.”
But, that wasn’t the end of his soccer career. Last season, Eskandarian spent a brief stint back in Charlottesville as an assistant to Virginia coach George Gelnovatch while studying.
“[Being an assistant] just kind of helped out, learned a lot,” Eskandarian said. “I tried to be a bit of mentor to the kids.”
Adding to the experience he gained as a college assistant, Eskandarian managed to finish his degree in anthropology at Virginia.
“I think a lot of kids probably lose sight of the importance of having an education,” he said. “I was lucky enough that my parents hammered it into my head.
“Part of the promise I made to my mom when I left school and went pro was I would find a way to graduate.”
Like all that he has dealt with, it was never easy.
During his second year in D.C., Eskandarian drove to Charlottesville twice a week for classes. In his fourth season, he took classes at American University.
While playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy, he took classes at El Camino College.
“As a professional athlete, you have a lot of down time,” Eskandarian said. “I’m really glad I made the decision to take some classes on the side.”
Now, he is the Youth Technical Director for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, one of the league’s newest clubs. He is glad to be in Philadelphia, just a short drive from home.
“It’s great,” Eskandarian said. “Obviously I’m really close to my family. They are only two hours away now. It’s great for me to be close. At the end of the day, the opportunity with the Union is what got me here.
“We have a lot going on right now with our youth academy.”
Eskandarian helps organize the U-16 and U-18 programs, while working with younger kids in the area and educating coaches in the area how to properly coach the sport.
Piotr Nowak, who coached him in D.C., is now the coach in Philadelphia.
“I have a great relationship with Piotr,” Eskandarian said. “As a player, he was my favorite coach. He was able to get the best out of me. He told me to interview for the position. It happened to be a perfect fit.”
Now, he is enjoying his new role, something he didn't see coming.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Eskandarian said. “It’s something different than what I've be used to my whole life. It’s been great. It’s been a learning experience. The staff I get to work with day in and day out is tremendous. Every day is different from the next. I'm grateful for that.”