Despite playing in a reserve role, Mike Tobey has been a key contributor on one of the most successful eras in Virginia basketball history, providing the Cavaliers with the size and interior presence that the otherwise small Virginia front court would be lacking.
Standing a legitimate 7-feet tall, with a short 7'0.5 wingspan but 9'1.5 standing reach that helps make up for it, Tobey has the physical tools to be a factor inside. Tobey has added some much-needed strength to his frame over the years, making him better suited to physically compete in the paint than he was when he arrived at Virginia.
Tobey's biggest contributions are on the glass, particularly offensively. Tobey has always been strong on the offensive glass, and last year was no exception, as his 14.8% offensive rebounding rate was among the best in the nation, and his 5.0 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted the second best figure in our top-100 database. Tobey does a job fighting for position, with good box-out technique and excellent pursuit. Tobey also does a good job keeping the ball high after gaining possession, and converts these opportunities at a high rate, despite not having the quickest or most explosive second jump.
Where Tobey has grown is as a defensive rebounder, turning what used to be a weakness into a legitimate strength. As we noted in our write-up of Tobey last fall, his defensive rebounding numbers as a sophomore 4.5 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, and at a 12.4% defensive rebounding rate were likely held back because of the presence of senior Akil Mitchell. With Virginia losing Mitchell to graduation, Tobey stepped in and filled that role admirably, nearly doubling his defensive rebounding output from 4.5 per 40 minutes pace adjusted to 8.0. The change in output skyrocketed Tobey from the second worst ranking among centers in our top-100 database to the second best.
The change isn't necessarily a surprise, as Tobey always had strong technique as a defensive rebounder. He positions himself well and has excellent box-out technique. That, combined with his high standing reach, improved strength, and consistent effort has turned Tobey into a strong defensive rebounder.
On the offensive side of the court Tobey's major contributions, besides on the offensive glass, is in the post. Tobey has a high skill level in the post, with good footwork, solid touch with either hand, and a nice turnaround jump shot.
There are a couple of things holding him back in this regard which puts into question how much of this will translate to the next level. While Tobey has clearly made improving his body a priority over the years, he could still stand to improve his lower body strength, and that, combined with a high center of gravity, can cause him to still get pushed around at times. Second, Tobey tends to be more of a finesse player in the post, including as a finisher around the rim, a problem which is compounded by below-average explosive ability.
Tobey did make progress in this regard as a junior, with his field goal percentage around the rim a much more respectable 56.4% than the 49.5% he shot as a sophomore, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Still, continuing to fill out his body would help Tobey in the future. Finally. Tobey struggles to recognize and react to double teams in the post, and has never had more than 13 assists in a season for Virginia. This is likely to be less of a concern in the NBA, where he'll face less double teams, but improving his recognition in these situations would be a welcomed addition to his game.
Tobey shows some potential as a jump shooter, even if the overall sample size is small. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Tobey's overall effectiveness as a jump shooter was poor, connecting on only 33.3% of his jump shots, with all of his makes coming from two point range. Still, the sample size is so low that the percentages aren't all that relevant, and his 74.6% free throw shooting, and 73.2% for his college career, is probably a better indication of his potential in this regard, and he shows decent touch out to 17' in game situations.
On the defensive side of the court, Tobey makes good use of his size in the post. Tobey will fight for position down low, and uses his size, reach, positioning, and verticality to challenge shots in the paint despite not having the explosiveness you would typically associate with a shot blocker. As previously mentioned, Tobey's improved his strength, which allows him to better hold his position in the paint, although he can still struggle at times with more polished post scorers.
The biggest question for Tobey will come on the perimeter, as he doesn't change speed or direction all that well. Virginia was able to keep Tobey out of many pick and roll situations, but opponents at the next level will be able to exploit his lack of adequate foot speed better, and it will be an obvious concern for decision makers at the next level.
Tobey doesn't project as a major offensive contributor at the next level, but 7-footers with his size and skill level will always get a look, especially ones who can contribute on the glass like Tobey can. Further improvement, whether that be continued improvement of his frame, a more reliable and projectable jump shot, or as a scorer in the post, would cement his status as a prospect for the 2016 draft.
Tobey is the youngest senior in our rankings, only turning 21 a few days ago, making him younger than a handful of players in our sophomore rankings. Considering his age, size and his late-blooming status, it's reasonable to expect that Tobey will continue to improve significantly over the coming years, which will likely give his stock an added boost.