Tony Bennett rarely gets too high or too low (as seen in the picture above), but the reigning ACC Coach of the Year can’t help but be a little giddy about having two true centers on the roster for the first time in his UVa career. Bennett, who played professionally in New Zealand for North Harbor of the Kiwi National Basketball League decided to reach out to his connections in that part of the world to beef up Virginia’s frontcourt. On September 13th, 2013, the Virginia head coach reeled in his biggest (literally) recruit of the cycle, when 6-11 Jack Salt made the long distance call to commit to the Cavaliers.
Salt was born in London, England, but spent the bulk of his life in New Zealand. Despite being just 18 years old, Salt has more experience squaring off against high-level competition than the majority of college basketball players. Salt maintained his amateur status, but played professionally in both New Zealand and Australia in the last two years. In 2013, Salt played for the Super City Rangers of the New Zealand National Basketball League, averaging 8.6 points, and 5.6 rebound with the club. The following season, Salt bounced back and forth between the two countries, spending time with the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League, and Waikato Pistons of the New Zealand National Basketball League.
Oh yeah High School basketball? He did a little bit of that too. Salt helped Westlake High School capture back-to-back New Zealand National High School Championships in 2012 and 2013. The big man earned All Tournament honors both seasons, and averaged nearly 19 points per contest in his final year in the program. Salt, who is also a standout volleyball player, graduated early, and spent more time working out to get ready for the college basketball grind.
While Salt is the mystery man of this year’s class, one thing is for sure, the freshman is not going to back down from anybody. The 6-11, 235 pound center brings a new type of physicality that is rarely seen from a freshman. Looking at some of the practice film on Virginiasports.com, Salt is not afraid to bang in the low post, and square off against the veteran post players.
Like fellow freshman Isaiah Wilkins, Salt will enter a crowded frontcourt already in the fold at UVa. Mike Tobey is in his third year at the starting center spot, and senior Darion Atkins will also spend time at both the four and the five positions. In addition, former South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill will bring the swagger and physicality to the low post for the second straight season. There is an adjustment period for every freshman in college basketball, especially for those who are not yet used to the American style of play. Salt could definitely contribute this season, but is also a redshirt candidate.
Any questions regarding Salt’s status for this upcoming season will likely be answered on Friday night in Virginia’s opener at in-state foe James Madison.