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September 10, 2012

Stith following in father's footsteps

MORE: Bossi's mailbag | 2014 rankings

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Bryant Stith is two decades removed from a stellar career on the hardwood at Virginia, and while the program's all-time leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder has long since had his number retired, his assist total may have grown by one.

His son, B.J. Stith, chose to follow in his father's footsteps and committed to Virginia just over a year ago; he was recently ranked as the No. 39 overall player in the Rivals150 for the Class of 2014.

Rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi said that the Cavaliers are getting a superb talent.

"I don't know anyone around who is higher on him than I am," he said. "He is still young but he has the tools to really develop into an upper tier shooting guard."

The younger Stith has been measured at 6-foot-5 and just over 180 pounds. His father played at Virginia and for more than a decade in the NBA at 6-foot-5 and just over 200 pounds. Bossi believes that B.J. can fill out and could remind many of his father.

"I think B.J. is broad enough in the shoulders to put on that weight," he said. "But what he really needs to do is become that alpha dog like his dad was. Bryant had the touch of a shooting guard but rebounded like a power forward and he had a mentality to crush people."

The elder Stith told Rivals.com that his son has not come close to maximizing his abilities.

"He hasn't even scratched the surface of his full potential yet and I think people are so excited because of the kind of player and person he is," Bryant said. "I always tell him that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement and he really has taken that to heart."

Since retiring from the NBA - where he averaged double-digit points in a career that spanned mroe than a decade - Bryant Stith moved into coaching and returned his high school alma mater, Lawrenceville (Va.) Brunswick High.

Stith has now coached Brunswick to six straight state title games, winning the last two with his sons on the court.

While B.J. has received the bulk of the attention, it was his older brother, Brandan Stith, that carried a heavier load on the court. Brandan, who averaged 10 more points and more than five more rebounds than his younger brother last season, committed to East Carolina in August.

Bossi said that Brandan can succeed at East Carolina.

"He picked the right level for him to contribute and be a significant part of the team," he said. "Most mid-majors don't expect kids to come in and make an impact right away and that will be good for him to grow into the game and continue to improve his game."

B.J. will likely not have that same luxury as his ranking, coupled with his pedigree, will increase the level of expectations surrounding him.

Brad Franklin covers Virginia athletics for CavsCorner.com and said that no matter the pressure applied he has seen B.J. handle every situation with a professional approach.

"Growing up Bryant Stith's son in Lawrenceville was every bit as tough for a basketball-playing kid as being Bryant Stith's son will be like at UVA," he said. "B.J. has always wanted to follow in those footsteps, though. He's not just welcomed and embraced it but he's sought it out."

At the time of his commitment, B.J. said that his dad was always his role model and playing at Virginia seemed like a natural way to follow in his footsteps.

"I grew up wanting that pretty bad," he said. "It's always been my dream (to follow my dad) for as long as I can remember."

The hope in Charlottesville is that B.J. can come close to duplicating his father's efforts on the court.

Since Bryant Stith graduated following the 1991-92 season, Virginia has only had one player -- Norman Nolan in 1997-98 -- average 20 points per game in a season. Averaging 20 points per game was something the elder Stith did twice during his career with the Hoos; he averaged 20.7 points per contest as a senior and 20.8 as a sophomore. Stith came close as a junior as well, averaging 19.8 points per game.

Optimism is high at Virginia thanks to the team's returning roster and the quality of incoming talent.

The Cavaliers' 2012 signing class added a pair of four-star players that should add size to the team, center Mike Tobey and small forward Justin Anderson.

The Hoos' 2013 class, which has yet to sign, benefited from the reclassification of Virginia Beach (Va.) Cape Henry point guard Devon Hall, who committed to the program after Stith. Hall, the No. 74-ranked player in the country, will also enter the Virginia program with considerable hype.

The combination of Hall and Stith then helped the Cavs land another point guard, London Perrantes from Encino (Calif.) Crespi, by making him feel at home despite the cross country move.

Franklin still believes the future can be tied to Stith.

"Because of Stith's versatility, he can really fill any need at the guard spot that UVa has starting in 2014," he said. "Tony Bennett had recruited really well elsewhere but Stith was the big-time guard that fans had been clamoring for."

Stith's father told Rivals.com that he thinks his son can live up to those expectations.

"I think in two years, he's going to be one of the better players in the country," he said. "He has a great work ethic and if he continues to work and improve at the pace that he has over the last two years, the sky is the limit for him."

Bossi echoed those expectations.

"I am very conservative when it comes to making projections for players, especially a kid that hasn't played his junior year in high school, but I believe B.J. can be an impact freshman in the ACC," he said.

"Virginia isn't like Duke or North Carolina where people expect things right away but with who he is and who is dad was he will have those expectations and he has taken the mentality to not run from them. Whether he is starting or playing 15 minutes per game off the bench he will make his mark from the start."

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