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Coach Tony Bennett finally has all the pieces his team was missing a year ago.
Ryan M. Kelly | The Daily Progress
Malcolm Brogdon goes up for a layup during the UVa men's basketball media day Wednesday.
Ryan M. Kelly | The Daily Progress
Coach Tony Bennett explains drills during the Virginia men's basketball team media day on Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — There was not a cast to be seen Wednesday for men’s basketball media day at the University of Virginia. No crutches either.
The Cavaliers had enough of that last year.
It seems like an eternity since coach Tony Bennett was discussing the possibility of wingman Joe Harris playing point guard for a 2012-2013 UVa team whose top two choices, Jontel Evans and Malcolm Brogdon, had undergone surgery.
Brogd on missed the entire season but said Wednesday that he has been 100 percent since April.
“I haven’t had any restrictions,” Brogdon said. “I’ve been able to do everything that everyone else has done.”
Now, he’s one of four point-guard candidates, along with sophomore Teven Jones and freshmen London Perrantes and Devon Hall.
Perrantes was riding an exercise bike Wednesday, but 15 other players took part in drills.
“We actually had a scare a few days ago with London,” fifth-year UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “There was a collision [with Justin Anderson] and we were worried about London’s shoulder. He did not practice for a few days, but all the tests say he will be OK.”
Five walk-ons worked out Wednesday, including senior Thomas Rogers, who was awarded a scholarship before the start of preseason practice.
The others were holdover Caid Kirven, as well as upperclassmen Malik Frazier and Rob Vozenilek. Frazier was a team manager in 2012-13, and Vozenilek is the brother of Alec Vozenilek, kicking specialist for the UVa football team.
They are joined by freshman Jeff Jones Jr., a graduate of nearby St. Anne’s-Belfield whose father and namesake played at Virginia from 1978-82 and was the Cavaliers’ head coach in the ‘90s.
Jeff Jones Sr. is entering his first season as the head coach at Old Dominion.
The Cavaliers, coming off a 23-12 season, won’t be playing ODU but will entertain five other Virginia teams for nonconference play — James Madison in the opener Nov. 8, Virginia Commonwealth, Liberty, Hampton and Norfolk State.
The relative weakness of UVa’s nonconference schedule was one of the reasons given when the Cavaliers were passed over for an NCAA bid last March.
“We are away from home more, but you do not know until the season how good teams are,” Bennett said. “We have tried to be purposeful in who we choose to play and where we play them.”
While the Cavaliers may be relatively injury-free at this point, much of their summer was devoted to rehabilitation.
A stress reaction caused first-team All-ACC choice Joe Harris to bow out of tryouts for the World University Games, and the Cavaliers’ leading rebounder, Akil Mitchell, suffered a broken hand that limited his workouts for six weeks.
Darion Atkins, in and out of the lineup last year when it appeared that a stress reaction might turn into a stress fracture, said he took a long break after the season and “wasn’t necessarily 100 percent” until the middle of the summer.
Until walk-on Doug Browman received a grant at midseason, Evans was the only scholarship senior on the 2012-13 team. However, two players transferred: Paul Jesperson to Northern Iowa and Taylor Barnette to Belmont.
“You do not know when certain things [will] happen,” Bennett said. “It is a trend. I wish it would not happen but we have got to plan on adjusting if people leave.”
The Cavaliers are welcoming a transfer of their own, 6-8, 230-pound Anthony Gill, who started 26 games as a freshman at South Carolina before sitting out last season following his transfer to UVa.
“There is some rust, certainly,” Bennett said, “but he is one of the more aggressive or physical forwards we have. He brings that ruggedness that [makes him] a threat when he has the ball, whether he is facing or has his back to the basket.”
Virginia has received one of the top four seeds to the ACC Tournament in each of the past two seasons but expectations have seldom been higher in recent years.
That’s why Bennett was eager to have Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle address the team during a recent stop in Charlottesville. Carlisle played on UVa’s Final Four team in 1984.
“Carlisle said that managing expectations is about the process,” Bennett said. “We talk a lot about that — to not get caught up in what people say, especially now. It’s about getting better each day.”
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