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As his confidence grows, De’Andre Hunter’s game comes to life for Virginia

Redshirt first year has huge performance off the bench as Virginia’s offense continues to click.

NCAA Basketball: NC-Greensboro at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in his tenure at Virginia, Tony Bennett had no double-digit scorers returning to his team. Last season, London Perrantes was the lone Wahoo that averaged double-digits over the course of the season with 12.7 points per game. With his graduation and the transfer of Marial Shayok, their next leading scorer with 8.9 points per game, Bennett and the Hoos had to answer a simple question: Where would they get points in the 2017-18 season?

As it turns out, the Hoos have several options. Kyle Guy, averaging a team-high 18 points this season, has played well in every game so far and set a new career high with 29 at VCU on Friday. Devon Hall, despite getting just six points against Monmouth, is averaging 11.5 points per game. Against Austin Peay, redshirt first year Jay Huff had an offensive explosion as he buried threes, slammed home put-back dunks, and squared jumpers for 16 points.

Today, it was DeAndre Hunter’s turn as Virginia overcame a slow start to pound Monmouth 73-53. Hunter, a 6-7 do everything guard, came into Charlottesville as a highly rated four star recruit out of Philadelphia. In his first three games in a Virginia uniform, Hunter seemed timid with the ball and only attempted six shots. He went a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and scored 13 points against Austin Peay, but had no points and only attempted three shots in a combined 17 minutes played against UNC-Greensboro and VCU.

Against the Hawks, Hunter looked like a different player. When he entered the game, Virginia was trailing Monmouth 10-8, a lead which would quickly expand to 15-8 less than a minute later. Then, Hunter happened. Over the next three minutes, Hunter hit four consecutive jumpers, putting the Hoos ahead for good. Hunter scored 10 points in what became a 14-0 run for Virginia, and it just looked easy. It was one of those games where a player sneakily drops a lot of points and all the sudden you look up and think “Wow, he has 23?”

So what was the difference for Hunter today?

“I would say it’s my confidence,” Hunter told the media following the game. “The last few games I haven’t really been playing my game as well as I could. The coaches told me to stay confident and stay ready, and that’s what I tried to do.”

Coach Bennett was pleased with the performance he got from his first year, something he’s known has been there all along. “I told you guys from the get-go, you are going to see flashes from DeAndre and Jay [Huff],” Bennett said. “They are going to show you their upside and exciting things. There are going to be times where there will be some ups and downs, but you certainly saw a nice flash. It is about how can we be consistent and keep up the pace of the game.”

Hunter didn’t just score, he couldn’t miss. He started 5-for-5 from the floor and finished 8-for-10, and also chipped in eight rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Oh, and he went 6-for-7 from the free throw line, missing only his first attempt.

“Man, I didn’t know he was that good.” Monmouth coach King Rice said after the game with a short laugh. “He’s just good. What did he take advantage of? He just kept getting to his spots and scoring.”

Virginia’s offense isn’t ready to be heralded and celebrated from the mountain tops yet, but there is certainly some things to like. Versatility from Hunter - who played the three and the four today - is huge. At times he posted up and got into the paint. At others, he functioned as a wing who can pull up from anywhere on the court, or drive to the hoop.

“They tell me I have talent, but I just need to stay as consistent as possible.” Hunter said of the message from his coaches. “I’ve been trying to stay true to my routine and confident in my game.”

If that confidence keeps building, watch out. Hunter is the real deal.

Check out highlights from Virginia Sports TV: