With the 2015-16 season just around the corner, Coach Tony Bennett took to the podium on Wednesday to talk with the media. The overarching theme: This year's Virginia Cavaliers are deep, experienced, and will look to a number of players to contribute throughout the season.
Bennett praises his team's depth: Practices have been competitive because there's depth. There's 9, 10, 11 that could play.— Virginia Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) October 21, 2015
One of the new additions has been Coach Brad Soderberg, whose outside perspective Bennett said has been helpful. Whether it's addressing weaknesses on film that weren't immediately apparent or introducing new drills, Bennett spoke highly of what the new-to-UVa coach has brought to the Hoos.
On Soderberg: He sees things that maybe I haven't been on top of as much – certain areas that we need to tighten. He's been very valuable.— Virginia Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) October 21, 2015
Bennett also addressed new rules changes, specifically how the shortened shot clock is going to affect Virginia's game. Several times he faced questions that were premised on Virginia having more talent this year and being better suited to run the floor. Bennett reemphasized what he says has been the philosophy all along: If an opportunity is there off of a rebound or a turnover, go ahead and take it, but don't rush into a bad spot.
STL looked this morning at how the team will cope without Justin Anderson's three-point shooting. Bennett addressed the same issue, and said the team may have more "scorers" than pure "shooters." That could lead to more transition opportunities as there are more guys who will have the green light to go get a bucket.
Bennett: We need to take good, opportunistic shots. If we think we can live and die by the three, I don't think we're made for that.— Virginia Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) October 21, 2015
Bennett also was quick (and repeated) in singing Malcolm Brogdon's praises. When Brogdon was considering going pro at the end of last year, Bennett told him, "If you stay, you can have it all: your master's degree, the Lawn, and playing in the ACC." From what Bennett has seen, Brogdon has been embracing that approach both on and off the court. Brogdon's leadership has been more vocal with the team this year, but also by example. His workouts with teammates outside of practice have been a major part of the team's offseason preparations.
Coach Bennett addressed the role and development of almost every player on the roster. For London Perrantes, the team will be looking for him to seek out his own shot and be more aggressive on the offensive end. Perrantes could also see some time playing off-ball in order to use his three-point shooting, with Darius Thompson stepping in to play some point along with Brogdon. Mike Tobey has worked "at a different gear, a different level" this offseason. His fellow frontcourt mate, Jack Salt, was described as the best screener on the team: a guy who makes the other players in practice "keep their heads on a swivel."
On Jack Salt: Very good screener. That's important. He head hunts (legally). He goes out and gets people open w/a good, clean, legal screen.— Virginia Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) October 21, 2015
Two of Virginia's newest faces may not be seen on Saturday when the Hoos hold an open scrimmage at JPJ. Freshman Mamadi Diakite is sidelined while the NCAA finalizes his certification to play, and transfer Austin Nichols got banged up in practice and may need the extra time to recover.
The other big piece of news to come out of media day is that the program will be returning to Europe on a summer trip in 2016. NCAA rules allow one foreign offseason trip every four years, and the Hoos last went abroad in 2012. Like that year, Bennett said, there will be a large influx of new players before the 2016 season and the timing makes sense. The 2016 trip will be focused in Spain, with stops in Barcelona and Madrid.