Poca junior guard Isaac McKneely, who has received nearly 20 Division I scholarship offers, including several of college basketball’s blue bloods, gave a commitment to Virginia Saturday afternoon.
McKneely made his announcement with a short video posted on Twitter and Instagram.
“I’ve been recruited by many great schools,’’ McKneely said on his video, “and I’m so thankful for the opportunity, but in the end I can only choose one and with that, I’m excited to announce that I’m officially committing to the University of Virginia. Go Hoos.’’
In November, McKneely narrowed his recruiting list to eight schools, which also included Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Purdue and West Virginia. He’s had 19 Division I offers in all.
“Obviously, there’s the culture there,’’ McKneely said. “Virginia has the culture and one of the best coaches in the country. Coach [Tony] Bennett preaches humility, and that’s the way I’ve kind of been raised, to be kind and be humble. He’s a religious guy and a great coach and a great person. I really wanted to play for him. He did the best job of recruiting me as well, put in a lot of time and effort, and that’s real big.
“Then there’s the style of play, and we [at Poca] do a lot of what they do, so I’ll go in already knowing the system and that’s a big plus for me.’’
Some have questioned why McKneely felt like making his choice before he’s played a single game as a junior, and he had a ready answer.
“Some people do say that,’’ McKneely said. “Why so early? But when you know, you know and I felt it in my heart. I think [God] was telling me to go to Virginia, so if I really feel that way, what’s now compared to a year from now?’’
Poca coach Allen Osborne said McKneely was “comfortable’’ with his choice.
“He had a lot of great choices,’’ Osborne said, “and I know he gave a lot of thought to it and felt very comfortable with the decision. He and Coach Bennett and Coach [Kyle] Getter at Virginia have developed a really good relationship.
“He went to two games last year and went down to their campus two, three weeks ago and felt comfortable with it. It’s a really good fit for him. He’s a really good student and Virginia is a great academic school. Their style of play really fits him.’’
Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville is about a four-hour drive from Poca, and the Cavaliers play a lot of regional teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“The big thing is it’s close to home and his family can visit him,’’ Osborne said. “Then you’ve got Virginia Tech and Pitt and Louisville and a lot of places close where they can go to away games. I think that was a factor. He’s very happy and at peace with it, and that’s all that matters.’’
Virginia (11-2) is currently ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press national poll.
Tony Bennett is in his 12th season of coaching the Cavaliers, who captured the 2019 national championship with a school-record 35 wins. Bennett’s career record is 288-98 entering Saturday night’s game at Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers’ current roster listed on the program’s website has 17 players, 11 of whom are guards, including four juniors, four freshmen, two sophomores and one senior at that position.
“Coach Bennett said if I’m willing to come in and work, then I’m willing to come in and contribute,’’ McKneely said. “He was honest with me. He can’t promise me a starting spot and 36 minutes a game, but if I’m willing to work hard, I can contribute. I don’t expect to come in and be the man. I’ll be a little fish in a big sea my freshman year anyway. I’d rather expect less and have more happen than expect a lot and have not a lot happen.’’
McKneely was selected co-captain of the Gazette-Mail’s 2020 All-Kanawha Valley first team as a sophomore when he averaged 22 points, four rebounds and three assists. He canned 71 field goals from 3-point range, shooting 44% from behind the arc and shot 51% from the floor overall and 80% at the foul line. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a sharp 2.5-1.
In two varsity seasons, McKneely has already scored 972 career points. He also led the team as a freshman with a 17.1 scoring average. Moreover, the Dots have won 40 of 50 games with him in the starting lineup the past two seasons and are again expected to be a state tournament contender this season in a revamped Class AA now that West Virginia has four classes in basketball.