At 8:30 tonight Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, Caid Kirven, and Evan Nolte will take the floor at JPJ for the last time. As a group they've been the backbone of one of the most successful stretches in Virginia basketball history. Together they've gone to two NCAA tournaments (Malcolm has a third appearance), one Sweet Sixteen, won back-to-back ACC regular season titles and brought home UVa's first ACC Tournament title since 1976. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell may be remembered for making Virginia basketball nationally relevant again, but these five have sustained that excellence and ensured the Hoos were more than just a one year wonder. So before they dismantle one final opponent in front of the UVa faithful, we're taking a look back at each of their journeys in Charlottesville.
The fifth year senior and unquestioned leader of the Hoos, Brogdon will go down as one of the best players to ever wear a Virginia uniform. His 1,670 points rank 13th in school history, and he can easily crack the top ten in the coming weeks. Despite that productivity, his offensive prowess is dwarfed by his defensive tenacity. Brogdon routinely guards the opposing team's best player and game after game, he shuts them down. An argument can be made that he's the best two-way player the Cavaliers have had since Ralph Sampson.
Off the court Brogdon is the archetype of what NCAA administrators envisioned when they coined the phrase student-athlete. A tenant of the Range, Brogdon has been a leader in Charlottesville throughout his time at UVa and has expressed interest in working for the Clinton Foundation or Gates Foundation after his playing days are done. The Hoos will miss him on the court next year, but Charlottesville as a whole may miss him more.
Most Memorable Moment: Game winning three pointer against Pittsburgh in the Oakland Zoo
Gill only got to spend three years as a Cavalier, he spent his freshman season at South Carolina, but he's made the most of every moment. A prankster off the court, Gill's toughness and motor turned him into an offensive powerhouse down low. Most impressively, Gill's overall game, and his hair, has grown during each season in Charlottesville. In his sophomore year he was a productive rebounder and dunker, by his junior year he had added an array of drop steps and post moves, and now as a senior he's made significant strides on defense and become a reliable free throw shooter. Gill takes a beating game after game (though the refs only see it about 25% of the time), but his consistency never waivers and he's scored in double figures in 26 of UVa's 29 games this season.
Most Memorable Moment: There are about 100 dunks to choose from, but we're going with his fast break dunk against Notre Dame that ignited a 25-0 Cavalanche.
Oh Tobey. Over the past few seasons Tobey has been the target of unwarranted scorn from aspects of the Virginia fanbase for inconsistent play and what these armchair psychologists deem a lack of toughness. While he hasn't achieved Gillian levels of consistency, when Tobey is on the team reaches another level. At his best, Tobey is a 7 footer who can finish on the block with either hand and is capable of stepping out and knocking down midrange jumpers with consistency. When he's locked in Virginia can beat any opponent and there's no better sight for UVa fans than watching Tobey make a big play and follow it up with a yell and slightly uncoordinated fist pump. Please never change.
Most Memorable Moment: Drilling a three in the NCAA tournament against Memphis before any of us knew he had that kind of range.
I gave Nolte an A in my midseason report card, voted him to my Third Team All-ACC ballot, and am a founding member of #TeamNolte, so my feelings here aren't exactly a mystery. While some of that may have been hyperbole, to me Nolte personifies the beginning of the Tony Bennett era at Virginia. Even when he didn't have his A game, Nolte found ways to contribute and help the team win. He's a relentless defender who understands the Packline as well as anyone, has shown a willingness to battle down low for rebounds and never hesitates to dive on the floor for a loose ball. His shooting has improved over the past couple weeks, but if he never makes another shot this season he'll continue to find ways to make sure the Hoos have a successful March.
Most Memorable Moment: Evan Nolte can dunk. Memphis did not know this. They do now.
Even though he doesn't get much love on a regular basis, walk-on forward Caid Kirven will also put on the UVa uniform for the final time in JPJ tonight as well. The Woodberry Forest product has seen time in 39 games during his career in Charlottesville, including ten so far this season. He's only got two points on the season, but we know he's much more of a banger underneath the hoop and has two rebounds on the year. Even though playing time tonight isn't guaranteed for Kirven, let's hope the Cavaliers blow out the Cardinals and Coach Bennett gives Caid a chance to hit a JPJ-roof blowing three like Thomas Rogers did in 2014.
In closing remember to get to JPJ early tonight to thank all of the seniors have their contributions to the program and the University, and there's no shame in shedding a few tears.