The countdown is on for the start of the 2022-2023 college basketball season. Just a few short weeks remain until a new season of college hoops tips off. With that in mind, it’s time to preview the roster for the 2022-2023 Virginia men’s basketball team. CavaliersNow will be going through the UVA player-by-player roster over the next few weeks in preparation for the season, which begins on Monday, November 7th against NC Central at John Paul Jones Arena.
Today we analyze Ohio grad transfer Ben Vander Plas.
Click on the links below to read our player previews for the rest of the UVA men’s basketball roster:
The transfer portal has become more and more important for the UVA men’s basketball program under Tony Bennett over the past several seasons. Even dating back to before the transfer portal existed, Bennett has picked up key transfers who ended up having significant roles on some of Virginia’s best teams – Anthony Gill, Nigel Johnson, Braxton Key, Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, Trey Murphy, and then Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner last season. This spring, Bennett made another big splash in the transfer portal with the addition of Ohio grad transfer Ben Vander Plas, who looks to be the latest in a long line of transfers who have become valuable contributors at UVA.
Vander Plas spent five years at Ohio – four seasons and an injury redshirt year. He was the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2019, a Third-Team All-MAC selection in 2020 and 2021, and most recently made the All-MAC First Team in 2022 after averaging career-highs in points (14.3 ppg), rebounds ( 6.8 rpg), and steals (1.8 spg). He shot 45.7% from the floor and 33.8% from three on 5.7 attempts per game. While his three-point shooting clip doesn’t exactly jump off the page, his ability to shoot from well beyond the arc combined with his size at 6’8″ makes him an enticing option as a stretch four.
Virginia fans might already be familiar with Ben Vander Plas, but it certainly won’t be the fondest of memories. In 2021, Vander Plas scored 17 points to lead No. 13 seed Ohio to an upset over No. 4 seed Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That was one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2021 NCAA Tournament given Vander Plas’ family connection to Tony Bennett. His full name is Bennett Vander Plas – Bennett, named after Dick Bennett, father of Tony Bennett. Ben’s father, Dean Vander Plas, was teammates with Tony Bennett at Wisconsin-Green Bay, where they played under Dick Bennett and took the Phoenix to their first NCAA Tournament in 1991. While Tony Bennett and Ben Vander Plas were not personally close when they crossed paths in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, that has certainly changed over the past few months since Vander Plas arrived in Charlottesville.
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, Vander Plas fills an important need for the Cavaliers on their roster as a power forward who has the size to guard opposing bigs and the shooting ability to space the floor. To understand the value that Vander Plas brings, we must briefly talk about Jayden Gardner.
The East Carolina transfer was UVA’s best scorer last year and there’s a good chance that’ll be the case again this season, but he has two glaring weaknesses as a power forward. In today’s college basketball game, the power forward or “four” is more frequently a capable three-point shooter – a tall player who can step out to the perimeter and knock down threes, taking an opposing big out of the paint to open up driving lanes for the rest of the offense – hence the term “stretch four.” Gardner lacks both the size – 6″6″ – and the perimeter shooting ability – career 24.0% three-point shooter – to be the ideal power forward, and he doesn’t quite have the speed or agility to be a small forward. He has reportedly been working on his three-pointer, but he has made only 12 threes on 50 total attempts over the last four seasons combined, so it isn’t reasonable to expect him to change into a viable three-point threat overnight.
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Ben Vander Plas offers a solution in both of those areas. He has the size at 6’8″ to better contend with opposing bigs in the paint and has the range to stretch the floor even beyond the three-point line. Vander Plas showed as much in the Blue-White Scrimmage, draining three of his His full statline was 13 points on 5/9 shooting from the field and 3/4 three-point shooting to go along with three assists.
Watch his full highlights from the Blue-White Scrimmage below:
Of course, what stood out the most was Vander Plas’ ability to knock down three-pointers with a smooth stroke, but he did a lot of good things in his first live action at JPJ. Vander Plas had a nice reverse layup in the paint and also leaked out for an easy transition bucket after Reece Beekman stole the ball and led him with a pass down the floor.
Much like Isaac Traudt, Ben Vander Plas setting a screen and then flaring out to the three-point line was one of the most effective offensive plays for the Cavaliers during the scrimmage. All of his three-pointers were off of plays in which he set a screen and then popped to the perimeter for an open catch-and-shoot triple. That play was simply not an option for Virginia last season. Vander Plas was able to gain separation on these plays no matter who his primary defender was, whether that was Kadin Shedrick or Armaan Franklin. Vander Plas and Traudt knocked down a combined seven three-pointers in the scrimmage.
On the defensive end, Vander Plas is evidently still adjusting the Line Defense Pack, as there were a few plays where he was caught out of position or didn’t rotate to help when he was supposed to. But, given is extensive experience – this will be his sixth year of college basketball – Vander Plas should be able to get up to speed fairly soon and his starting point is much higher than the other newcomers on the roster. His size at 6’8″ allows him to defend against opposing forwards and even centers. Vander Plas guarded Kadin Shedrick down low on a few possessions. He has the strength to stand his ground in the paint and is athletic enough to guard out on the perimeter as well if need be.
Virginia’s roster depth gives Tony Bennett and the UVA coaching staff a good “problem” to solve in the sense that they have a lot of pieces to work with to puzzle together the most effective lineups. With the Cavaliers returning their entire starting five from last year, it seems likely that Vander Plas will come off the bench at least to start the season. But, his experience and versatility on both ends of the floor will likely result in Vander Plas getting extensive minutes and potentially occupying a spot in UVA’s closing lineup depending on the situation. Either way, expect Ben Vander Plas to play a vital role for the Cavaliers in 2022-2023.
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