If Marial Shayok turns into the productive college player that many people believe he will, Virginia fans can thank new Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams.
It was Williams’ unexpected departure from Marquette that prompted Shayok -- who had signed to play for the Golden Eagles -- to reassess his options.
Virginia, which had finished as a runner-up for Shayok’s services last fall, was waiting with open arms.
Late Tuesday night, Shayok told the world, via Twitter, that he had decided to become a Wahoo.
Happy to announce I've committed to the University of Virginia!— Marial Shayok (@supermarial03) April 23, 2014
It wasn’t the first time that Virginia coach Tony Bennett appeared to lose out on a recruit only to wind up landing him at a later date, with the most notable example being when Justin Anderson, in the wake of Maryland coach Gary Williams’ retirement, changed his mind.
Shayok, who had no interest in following Williams to Tech, will be a member of Virginia’s incoming recruiting class that also includes guard B.J. Stith, forward Isaiah Wilkins and center Jack Salt.
All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons likes what Bennett has put together.
“I think all in all, it’s a very gifted class,” Gibbons said, “with some solid guys who will be around four years and the kind of players who can play Tony Bennett-style basketball.”
Shayok, a Canadian who played his high school ball at Blair Academy in New Jersey -- the same school that produced current Virginia big man Mike Tobey -- has played all five positions but is being projected primarily as a wing, according to sources.
Of course, Akil Mitchell was originally recruited as a wing, and UVa fans know how that turned out.
“He has some combo forward in him,” said Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels, when asked about Shayok. “I think he’ll probably play some inside and some out. There’s some versatility there that I’m sure Tony Bennett really liked.”
Shayok is listed as a 6-foot-7, 200-pounder, though one source said he was probably closer to 6-5. The source said that a good comparison to Shayok (in terms of skill set) would be former Virginia player Mamadi Diane.
Daniels said Shayok’s calling card is how hard he plays.
“What stands out about him is just his energy,” Daniels said. “He can rebound very well and can handle [the ball] well for his size.
“Every time I see him play, he’s always in attack mode. That’s what I like most about him. He’s aggressive, he’s strong, he finishes well inside and has good range. He’s just a physical wing that attacks the basket.”
Daniels believes Shayok and Stith (the son of the Virginia legend who also projects as a wing) are different players.
“B.J.’s more of a true perimeter guy who can make shots,” Daniels said, “where Shayok is an attacking, aggressive, physical wing.”
It’s hard to believe, but next year’s Virginia team appears to be even deeper than this past season’s squad. No doubt, there will be several battles for playing time.
Shayok, who is said to be a good passer and a very good athlete, will be competing with Evan Nolte, Devon Hall and Stith for the open perimeter spot in the rotation created by the graduation of Joe Harris.
In the frontcourt, Darion Atkins, Nolte, Wilkins and Salt will vie for the minutes that went to Mitchell.
And there could be even more competition on the way.
Combo guard Devonte Graham, who has already made visits to Kansas and N.C. State, has a visit to UVa scheduled this weekend. In addition, 16-year-old Ukrainian sharpshooter Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is still in the mix, a source said.
But, barring any roster attrition, Virginia can only take one of the two since, following the addition of Shayok, it has only one scholarship remaining.
Shayok also received offers from Boston College, Indiana and Minnesota, among others.