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Takeaways from Virginia Basketball’s Pepsi Blue-White Scrimmage

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Virginia faced Virginia and Virginia won.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia men’s basketball team held their annual Pepsi Blue-White Scrimmage yesterday afternoon, giving Wahoo fans their first look at the 2017-18 squad in action. The UVA faithful showed up in droves to see newcomers/redshirts like Nigel Johnson, DeAndre Hunter, and Jay Huff take the court at JPJ and cheer on old favorites like Isaiah Wilkins and Kyle Guy. Fans were encouraged to donate - if able - in support of hurricane relief benefitting those that have been ravaged by storms that came through Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida, and Texas.

The scrimmage featured four, 10 minute quarters. Each quarter was treated as a mini-game, and Coach Bennett had the ability to move players around or adjust the clock to create a specific scenario (this only happened once as he bumped three seconds left in the first quarter to 30 so the offense could have a complete shot clock in an end of quarter scenario). The fourth quarter ended early when, in a scary moment, Justice Bartley hit the floor hard after losing in a rebound battle with Mamadi Diakite. Bartley appeared to be unconscious for several minutes before being helped off the court. He is doing fine now, thankfully.

Here are some thoughts and quick hits from yesterday’s scrimmage (check out the highlights below, or here):

Kyle Guy is good. Very, very good.

Wahoo fans should be pleased with what they saw from second year Kyle Guy yesterday. Guy finished last season averaging 7.5 points per game and shooting 49.5% from three. He also led the team in scoring in nine games, twice hitting the 20 point mark. A big question mark for this year’s team is where the Hoos will get scoring now that London Perrantes is gone. Well, it looks as if Guy is ready to roll in his second year.

We all knew Guy could shoot...what was extra impressive was his ability to score in a multitude of ways. He hit threes while covered, he hit them in transition, he added a nifty floater to his game, and he created his own shot by getting into the lane and evading his defender. Oh, and he dunked. Unofficially, he finished with a game-high 25 points...and a busted lip.

Defensively, I was impressed with his performance. He still isn’t the biggest dude on the court at 6-2, 175, but he stayed in front of his man and picked up at least one steal.

We may have a lineup?

The White squad started the scrimmage with Jack Salt, Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall, Kyle Guy, and Nigel Johnson. Ty Jerome did not participate due to a foot injury, but one can safely assume the Hoos will start their game against UNC-Greensboro on November 10 with that lineup - with Jerome in for Johnson or Guy? That part is still unclear. Don’t get too worried about Jerome (yet), Wahoo fans...he’s expected to be fully back within two weeks.

The young guns (Hunter, Huff, Mamadi Diakite, Marco Anthony, and Trayvon Gross) took it to the veterans in the first 10 minute quarter, but the older guys found their rhythm going forward. Hall looked particularly sharp, hitting a couple threes and handling the ball well. Salt had a nice move down low that led to a basket, something that will be much needed throughout the season.

Hunter will be an interesting piece. He can be used in either the three or four position, and he may be used more as a four this season. He had a few rough moments during the scrimmage - primarily on offense - but the potential is off the charts.

Speaking of Johnson...

Ok, yeah this guy will do just fine. Johnson started a little slowly, but found his stride and really put on a show. Playing last season at Rutgers, Johnson is Bennett’s first graduate transfer. He will be expected to replace some of the quickness lost with Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson departing the program, and that was certainly on display yesterday afternoon. Johnson hit a few three pointers, and showed off his speed and finishing abilities on fast breaks. Defensively, he needs some work in the Pack Line, but that is to be expected at this point of the season. He finished with 21 points (unofficially).

Interior Game?

My biggest remaining question for Virginia is still whether they will have a presence inside. Wilkins and Salt each had nice moves in the paint to score buckets, but this team has so many good jump shooters there’s a risk they fall back into their old ways of falling in love with the long ball.

Johnson, Guy, and Hall all took the ball into the paint for layups (or contested layups), but Hall still tends to avoid contact - as in he won’t draw fouls that way even if it’s warranted.

I want to see more of Huff and Diakite down low as well, asking for the ball in the post. Both hit three pointers, which was awesome, but this team needs scoring in the paint, badly.

De-fense! De-fense!

As per usual, the defense looked solid. Not a lot of blow by plays allowed, and they contested shots very well. It was tough to see any post defense (including post traps) because as mentioned above, there wasn’t a lot of dishing the ball into the post. Diakite had a monster block, and he and Huff made life very difficult for Salt and Wilkins.

Speaking of Wilkins, he showed yet again how invaluable he is to this team. He does it all. Blocks, tipped passes, diving on the floor, tough rebounds...he’s a do-it-all kind of guy.

Check out the highlights if you haven’t seen them yet. You can also watch the game in its entirety on WatchESPN.

Hoos kick off the season at home on November 10 against UNC-Greensboro.