Welcome Aboard, Francesco Badocchi

One more scholarship came off the board late last night when 6'8'’ 205 pound Kansan forward Francesco Badocchi committed to Tony Bennett and Virginia, choosing us over Illinois and a host of mid-majors (though Kansas, Florida Gulf Coast, and Wichita State had started sniffing around).

Badocchi is not the kind of blue chip out of the box program changer that the disembodied collective fan voice has been yearning for since we started winning 30 games. He’s more of the classic Tony Bennett recruit: a guy with the tools to become something special but without some of the polish necessary to step in and contribute from day one. The word is that the staff was up front with Badocchi about this; barring all hell breaking loose in the program, he will redshirt the 2017–18 season.

Watching film or reading up on Badocchi makes it easy to understand why the staff was high on him. At 6'8’’ (or 6'7'’ or 6'6'’ or whatever the truth is — I’m 6'5'’ and I measured 6'8'’ at a hoops combine once), he explodes from a standstill to contest shots or attack the rim and finishes plays hard. He’s not just springs, either — he appears to possess the timing that differentiate the very good rim defenders from the lucky ones that get burned as much as they get the block. There’s a great scouting report on him that I advise you to check out if you want to be more excited about the signing.

There are some question marks. Badocchi’s high school competition didn’t possess the height, strength, or leaping ability to hang with him, so he rarely had to show more than a dribble or two and a dunk on the offensive side of the floor or face up defensively with a legit big man that could do more than a couple of basic moves. He hasn’t needed a jumper or handles, to manage foul trouble against a bigger player, or master any of the little nuances that come with experience against better competition.

In spite of the above, I’m pretty excited about this pickup. If your ideal hedge guy in the Pack Line is Akil Mitchell (and mine is until Mamadi Diakite fully arrives), you want to keep chasing that Akil Mitchell type, and that’s what this feels like — with athletic upside that seems to surpass Akil’s. Our track record developing bigs (Akil, Darion, Jerome Meyinsse all got better under the current staff) gives reason for optimism and a roster — with only Isaiah graduating in 2018 and Salt, Diakite, and Jay Huff still around after — that (at least currently) has the depth to allow him time to develop at a comfortable pace — a key when you factor in the year or two it sometimes takes international or lower level high school prospects to adjust to the pace (shut up) and physicality of college basketball. Also, while Badocchi has star potential, guys who could also be role players and not ruin team chemistry while doing so are important parts of a complete roster, and those players don’t usually come in with five star pedigrees.

The keys here are patience and willingness to accept that we’re still going to bring projects through every so often. If we embrace those, we might really enjoy the end result of this experiment in a couple of years when Badocchi is forcing point guards out to the circle and dunking on fools off of no-look passes from Ty Jerome. Welcome, Francesco.

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