Virginia's John Brandenburg To Transfer

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Virginia's John Brandenburg To Transfer
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Whenever there is a coaching change, transfers almost surely follow.

They rarely come, though, four months after the hiring was made.

Virginia's new basketball coach Tony Bennett knew the importance of getting incoming recruits Jontel Evans and Tristan Spurlock to honor their commitments. 

His success on the recruiting trail and his ability to assemble a strong staff helped get the 40-year-old with only three years of head coaching experience trust from his new Charlottesville community.

Virginia basketball is an unknown quality heading into next season, with many talented players that showed flashes of brilliance and flashes of complete ineptitude towards a terrible season last year.

Then there was John Brandenburg, who didn't show anything at all.

When Brandenburg announced his decision to come to Virginia, many fans were overjoyed.  Here was a 6'11'', 241 lb. big man who could provide depth to the beleaguered Cavalier front court.

Brandenburg has proven to be a defensive stalwart as team captain in high school, leading his conference in blocks and second in both points and rebounds.

It also helped that Virginia was fresh off the recruiting coup against Stanford, a program that has plucked a few of former coach Dave Leitao's targets in the past.

However, all that hope quickly turned into obscurity for the big man.

Even with the departure of forward Lars Mikalauskas and even with fifth-year senior Tunji Soroye constantly shifting in and out of the rotation with injuries, Brandenburg could not find the court last season as a freshman.

With his fellow freshman Assane Sene playing over 17 minutes per game and getting 16 starts, Brandenburg played 26 minutes the entire season.  He had five shots the entire season.

For whatever reason Brandenburg was not redshirted to give him more time to develop.  Rather he was relegated to a non-existent role with an entire year of eligibility essentially wasted.

On a team of question marks, he was the biggest unknown of all.

Could he compete at the collegiate level?

It looks like that answer to that question will not come in a Virginia uniform.

Brandenburg will be transferring from the Cavaliers, the second Cavalier to transfer in as many years.

His loss is a particularly confounding one. 

On one hand, since he had never played last season it is hard to expect there to be much of an effect on the team.

However, this means that Virginia fans will never know just what he had to offer.  Sure he was not the best in Leitao's system but could he have thrived in the slow-down offense that Bennett employs?

After all, Brandenburg's biggest strengths appeared to be his defense and his shooting range.  Both of which will always be favored in the Bennett system.

Brandenburg could have been a breakout star or he could have been picking up splinters from sitting on the bench.  That's the unavoidable truth of basketball, sometimes the timing is just not right.

There is a major consequence to this announcement though.

The pressure will be on rising sophomore Assane Sene to stay out of foul trouble this season. 

The loss of Brandenburg gives Virginia a very short front court rotation.  In fact, Sene will be the only true center left on the roster.

While Sene showed great defensive potential, he also showed a strong propensity to foul.

Often.

Sene led the team in blocks but he was also fourth on the team in fouls. 

Worse yet, if you divide the number of fouls he had by the minutes played Sene averaged over three fouls per half played.

It is hard to be a defensive force on the bench...just ask Brandenburg.

Therefore, Sene must learn patience his sophomore year.  He must use his intimidating wingspan to challenge opponents and he must continue to develop on the offensive end to give Virginia some semblance of balance.

Most importantly, Virginia basketball must work on its communication.

Last season's failures mainly resulted from simple things like missed assignments and poor basketball decisions.  Sene's foul total was often the result of cleaning up other people's mistakes.  It was also the result of a young man still learning the game.

Working hard is admirable but playing hard while making bad plays is not exactly endearing to anyone. 

Coach Bennett would be well to implement zone defenses early and often next season but that requires a team that can work effectively together.

If Virginia can work through the issues that have plagued them the past two seasons, then they have the talent to make a splash next season.

They might finally be able to answer the questions that have riddled the program for quite some time.

Unfortunately, Brandenburg won't be there to help solve it.

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