Virginia Will Have Something Rare In College Basketball – Experience

CHARLOTTE — After a season in which Virginia’s men’s basketball team fell short of established coach Tony Bennett’s established 14-year-old coach, the Cavaliers sought to regroup over the summer during a one-week trip to Italy that included four exhibition games.

They’ve returned to Charlottesville with not only a 3-1 record but even more inspiration to reclaim their place as one of the country’s preeminent programs. A season ago, Virginia settled for an NIT appearance which is due in part to a roster lacking in experience and depth of quality.

On the other hand, this season’s squad is made up of five returning players and a batch of reinforcements that includes transferee Ben Vander Place and a junior class which Bennett notes has developed greatly thanks to the long time they have spent together at international level.

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β€œIt was an amazing experience,” Virginia guard Kei Clark said Wednesday during the ACC media day. “I think as a team, just to be able to get those 10 days before the flight, formal training, going for a full two hours is really important, just to be ahead of a lot of teams that don’t get to train like that.”

Schools are allowed to travel abroad for show games every four years, although Corona Virus The pandemic interfered with this table.

Prior to last summer, the Cavaliers’ last overseas trip was to Spain in 2016. That was an invaluable opportunity to bond between members of the team that won the school’s only national championship in 2019.

Clarke was a freshman in 2018-2019 and remembers how close Kyle Guy, T. Jerome and da Andre Hunter, the core that propelled the Cavaliers to the national title, were due to the trip to Spain, where Bennett was able to provide additional instructions regarding the package line defense.

This kind of contact resulted in one of the most memorable sequences in program history during the NCAA Championship Zone Final when Clark chased a loose ball and passed to Mamadi Diakite, who forced his bell-hopper into overtime against Purdue.

Then Virginia got an 80-75 . win To apply to Final Four in Minneapolis.

“Kihei and I have been together forever, and that’s a good thing, a great thing,” Bennett said. “Last year our depth wasn’t great, maybe we didn’t hit the ball at the level we needed to, so we tried to improve in those areas, but the experience is golden, I think, in college basketball, and we have that – that.”

An opportunity to pursue another national championship contributed to Clark’s decision to return for a fifth year. So, too, he had lengthy conversations with Bennett and his teammates, including Jayden Gardner, the Cavaliers’ top scorer last season.

Gardner moved to Virginia from East Carolina ahead of the 2021-22 start, and while the Cavaliers immediately benefited from his mid-range jump, soft touches around the edge and rebounding at both ends, his comfort level with the pack line took noticeably longer to thrive. .

Since then, Gardner’s command of Bennett’s distinctive defensive alignment has reached a level of experience, with new teammates, particularly those in the forward area, seeking Gardner’s insights into guarding head-on, rotating alongside assist and positioning in the plotted area.

“I think this year, just slowing down the defense for me and getting used to it and knowing where to be and also cheering the guys through their first year because I’ve had it,” Gardner said. “I think that was a huge step for my development on the defensive side, being ahead of the game, ahead of the curve, so I’m excited for this team.”

Other Virginia starters in addition to Gardner and Clark are upper class as well. Ranger Armand Franklin, who moved last year from Indiana, is one of the seniors. Midfielder Caden Shedrick is a junior in a red shirt. And the primary guard, Reese Beckman, is a novice.

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Vander Plas, the highest projected reserve in the frontal region, arrives from Ohio University as a graduate student, and Argentine Center Francisco Cavaro, a student of the age of Little Red Riding Hood, started in last season’s times.

The only new player expected to have significant playing time is Isaac McNeely, the 6-foot-4 goalkeeper, twice named West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year. McKneely is also familiar with the pack line, having played defense with similar principles in high school.

“Personally, this is probably the oldest team I’ve ever had,” Bennett said. β€œI think why Virginia and even where I was before whether as an assistant or head coach, Washington State and other stations, we have mature teams, teams that have guys in their senior years that have grown through playing experience. Again, that has always been the formula.”

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