By Jeff White (email@example.com)
ATLANTA — At 6-5 and a chiseled 205 pounds, he’s already big enough and strong enough to compete at the highest level of college basketball.
Malcolm Brogdon may already be talented enough, too. He’s still in high school, though, and so will be in the stands Wednesday night, and not on the court, when UVa (4-8, 13-13) takes on ACC rival Georgia Tech (3-9, 11-15) at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Brogdon, a senior guard at Greater Atlanta Christian School, the defending Class AA state champion in Georgia, signed a letter of intent with Virginia in November. So did Paul Jesperson, a 6-7 small forward from Wisconsin, and Darion Atkins, a 6-8 power forward from Landon School in Bethesda, Md.
Jesperson attended UVa’s game at Minnesota in late November. Don’t be surprised to see Atkins at the March 5 regular-season finale against Maryland in College Park. In Atlanta, Brogdon has been eagerly awaiting the Cavaliers’ visit to his hometown.
“It’s really special to me,” he said.
The Wahoos practiced at Georgia Tech’s arena Tuesday night, and Brogdon and his mother were on hand to watch the workout and visit with his future teammates and coaches.
Tony Bennett was delighted to see them. Once a season starts, Bennett said, it can be difficult for coaches to spent much time with incoming recruits.
“So whenever you get an extra chance to see the guys you signed, and then their families, it’s good,” Bennett said Wednesday morning. “And for them to be able to see not just the coaching staff, but their future teammates, is good and just reaffirms and excites them about the future, and motivates them to finish their senior year strong and have a good offseason.
“Really, when you think about it, in four months they’ll be on Grounds and going to summer school and working with” Mike Curtis, the team’s strength-and-conditioning coach.
Brogdon has had a sensational season for GAC (23-5), and he’s coming off one of his best games. In the Region 6-AA final, Brogdon, the tournament MVP, hit four treys and scored 34 points in a 68-54 win over South Atlanta (26-2).
“If I’m not mistaken, he had eight offensive rebounds, and he scored on the majority of them,” South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick told reporters afterward. “He was a difference maker. A strong player with a good body and a strong motor.”
Brogdon, who committed to UVa last summer, also had scholarship offers from such schools as Georgia, Clemson, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Butler.
“He’s in the mold of [all the recruits] we brought in,” Bennett said, “in terms of really wanting in any way to contribute and make our program improve.”
UVa’s seniors include shooting guard Mustapha Farrakhan, and Brogdon will be expected to crack the rotation at that position next season. He may also provide depth at point guard.
“With your incoming freshmen, you just don’t know how they’ll respond to all the things thrown at them,” Bennett said. “Some guys it takes a little longer. Some guys are mature and can handle it and adjust quicker.
“Every guy is different that way, but Malcolm is physically mature. He’ll certainly develop with Coach Curtis in different ways. Some guys it’s more of a weight issue. Some guys it’s more [a matter] of flexibility and getting quicker and more explosive.”
In Brogdon’s case, Bennett said, he won’t need to add much weight or strength and should adjust easily to the physicality of the college game. And on a UVa team that will be well-stocked with jump shooters, Brogdon’s ability to finish around the basket figures to be a valuable asset.
“One of his strengths as a player is certainly his ability to get to the lane with his strength,” Bennett said. “He’s not a jet that just blows by people, but he has a powerful first step that allows him to get angles on people, and then with his body he’s able to get in there and usually make a good decision or finish.”
Brogdon said he watches every UVa game he can on TV. “The way I really follow it other than that,” he said, “is by talking to Coach Bennett and talking to the other coaches about what’s been going on and how they’re feeling about things and what they’re thinking at this point.”
For now, his focus is the Class AA tournament. For GAC to win another state title “would be a confidence-booster for college,” Brogdon said. “That’s the highest level of achievement at the high school level.”
GAC played in two major national events during the regular season: the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. The Spartans, led by Brogdon, distinguished themselves in each tourney.
“Every night I feel like I have to go out and prove myself,” he said. “I feel like in terms of the team, there’s always going to be skepticism, because we’re a small 2-A private school. People always look down on us and say we can’t play with the big schools. But we’ve proved we definitely can.”
He also played soccer when he was younger, but hoops is now a year-round sport for Brogdon. When GAC’s season ends, Brogdon will focus on preparing for his first year at UVa.
“Definitely I will keep attacking my ballhandling, my explosiveness, and just getting my jump shot in rhythm,” he said, “so I can be shooting really well by the time the college season comes.”