In Tony Bennett’s first teleconference since leading Virginia to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament championship, there was a glitch in the phone line, but reporters were more stressed out than the coach.
Almost two months after the Cavaliers’ title run ended in Minneapolis, Bennett didn’t seem to have too many concerns as summer approached.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I’ve definitely been able to get away and decompress, but I’ve certainly been busy with speaking engagements and recruiting and even talking to — whether it be agents or NBA teams — about our guys that are going into the draft.
“To experience what I did with my father [at the Final Four] was absolutely amazing. That was a highlight. It’s a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. I’m grateful for the busyness of it because it means something really good happened.”
Since the end of the season, three underclassmen — De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome — made themselves available for the NBA Draft. A fourth, Mamadi Diakite, deliberated until the final minutes of last month’s deadline before revealing that he would return for his final season of eligibility.
UVa also added a player, Sam Hauser, a former recruiting target who played three years at Marquette and will be eligible for UVa as a fifth-year senior in 2020-21.
Second-year guard Marco Anthony revealed after the season that he would be transferring after the season, giving the Cavaliers one open spot as four scholarship newcomers join the program.
“All options are always open, and I mean that sincerely,” said Bennett, who presumably could add one more scholarship player. “Most things have closed down [but] it’s such a different time now with grad transfers. It seems like things change week to week, and all of a sudden, it’s ‘hey, there’s a guy available.’
“Obviously, we’re focusing on the class of 2020-21 and beyond for our future recruiting.”
Diakite was generally seen as a major piece of the 2019-20 puzzle until his game blossomed in the NCAA Tournament, most notably when his last-second jump shot forced overtime in UVa’s South Regional final win over Purdue, a Cavaliers road opponent this coming season as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“We texted some and talked a little,” said Bennett, whose advice to Diakite going into workouts with pro scouts was: “’if you can knock it out of the park … and you can get drafted in a desirable spot, you’ve got to consider that. If not, then grow from this experience.’
“He worked out for a couple of the teams and played in a couple of the G-League combines. I think he got an invaluable experience. I wanted him to get the feedback and make a solid decision. That’s all you can ever ask for.”