The Virginia men's basketball season is all revved up and ready to tip off their 2010-11 season this Friday against William and Mary. The Cavaliers put up an 82-50 exhibition against Roanoke College this past weekend, in their only open exhibition match of the season (they had earlier had a closed scrimmage against Marquette). The 'Hoos are an extremely young team, with 6 returning lettermen and 6 new scholarship freshmen.
"I don't know if you will have all five out there," head coach Tony Bennett said in the post-game interview, "but just by numbers, you will see three or four [freshmen] out there at the same time. That will be determined by how guys produce and how they practice. Certainly experience is valuable, but we will try to put the guys out there that are the most ready and can help us be successful."
Virginia took quite the hit last year, after star Sylven Landesberg declared for the NBA draft early, Jerome Meyinsse graduated, and Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurloack transferred to other programs. Returning point guard Sammy Zeglinski had hip surgery, and will miss up to the first eight weeks of the season. Still, Coach Bennett remains upbeat about the incoming class, who has been ranked 19th or 20th in most major recruiting lists.
Who are the freshmen?
The blue-chip, four-star recruit is KT Harrell, who averaged 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.6 blocks during his senior year. Rivals.com ranks him as the sixth best shooting guard prospect in the country. An ESPNU 100 recruit, the 6-4, 200 lbs freshmen is known both for his natural defense and his perimeter game. You can count on him to have an instant role on the team. This past weekend, he led the team in minutes at 28.
Scout four-star recruit James Johnson, at 6-10, 210 lbs, is ranked 8th in the country in his position and is another ESPNU 100. During his senior year, he averaged 18.0 points and 12.0 rebounds. He can play at both center and power forward, but Bennett has him listed as a forward. Should junior Assane Sene not be able to produce at center though – a concern that's on most fans' minds – Johnson should be able to step in immediately.
Three-star shooting guard Joe Harris hails from Washington state, where he was voted Mr. Basketball, and where he was chosen as the 2010 Gatorade Washington Player of the Year after averaging 26.6 points his senior year. He's a catch-and-shoot kind of player, and can shoot the rock from anywhere on the court, extending out to the 3-point line.
Three-star freshman Will Regan (19.1 ppg, 13.0 rpg) is known for his tremendous footwork. He's as big of a threat pulling down defensive boards as he is penetrating the post and slipping the ball into the basket. He could stand to add a little bit of muscle weight to help with his athleticism, but look for him to straight up outsmart the other side.
The third three-star frosh is Billy Baron, son of Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron. Admittedly, Baron wasn't a heavy recruit, and in fact was originally slated to play at Rhode Island before Bennett scouted and poached him. The 6-2, 185 lbs point guard apparently plays with a level of effort comparable to Andy Burns (which is to say, a lot). ESPN says of him, "When he shoots from the perimeter, it is easy to count the basket before it reaches the rim, it just looks good from the moment it leaves his hand." With Zeglinski out for the start of the season, fans should be PUMPED to see what Baron has to offer.
The final freshman is small forward Akil Mitchell, 6-7 who averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks last year. "He's kind of a wildcard with some perimeter skills and some inside skills," Bennett says of him. "His best basketball is ahead of him." He's described as an unselfish solid all-around player.
Virginia has as its returners Mike Scott, Mustapha Farrakhan and Will Sherrill, each of whom will be a tricaptain for the upcoming season. Add to this Bub Evans, who might only be 5-11, but he led the ACC in steals to turnovers (34 to 27).
"I think we will have balance, whether that be three or four guys in double figures," Bennett said following the Roanoke game. "I think they will share the ball well this year and are not afraid to make the extra pass. I think our balance will be key this year."
Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. this Friday against William and Mary at JPJA.