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Tony Bennett on Virginia's Freshmen Playing Big Roles

It's no secret that Virginia has a freshmen-dominated team, with five freshmen in the regular rotation, including two starters as of last night's win over LSU. Part of the reason for this is trial by fire, with Virginia losing key veteran players - notably Sammy Zeglinski, Will Sherrill, and Mike Scott - in a number of games so far this season. Another part is that they are just that good, as they were ranked a top 20 recruiting class by ESPN. Head Coach Tony Bennett says that he's proud of his freshmen and what they've accomplished this year.

"We've got a lot of freshmen and inexperienced guys that are playing big roles, and that's healthy for the future of the program and provides for some great challenges, but we continue to just try to get better like everybody as of this time of year."

When asked whether the freshmen will be ready for ACC play and the step-up in competition, Bennett felt good, but said he can't predict the future.

"You don't know until you're thrown into it and we've played some solid teams in nonconference. They've got some experience and it certainly will be a challenge especially with some of our injuries. The big picture: I know this is invaluable experience that the young players are receiving, and there's nothing quite like conference play and going through some of the situations you'll have to, and you'll learn through it."

Bennett said hopes that the out-of conference experience, and in particular playing in the nation's premier preseason tournament, the Maui Invitational, will give the freshmen as close to the ACC experience as possible. In Maui, Virginia played three games in three days against top programs, including No. 7 Washington. Bennett hopes that this experience, coupled with the injuries that have forced the freshmen into lead roles, which he says is something not a lot of young players get, will get them moving in the right direction and get them prepared for conference play.

"At times I've seen some composure and poise and step-up in situations that don't require that. I love their attitude and their unselfishness and the character and the heart that they're possessing. They're humble guys, and they're willing to learn. They know they have a ways to go."

"I like that about our whole team, but they have an eagerness and a willingness to try to do what's right and at times they've shown some poise and some things beyond their years."