As has been the case for years, Virginia Cavaliers fans turned out in force for the team’s annual intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville. While these exhibitions never really give us the full scope of what we can expect from the Hoos even early in the season, there were four items of note I took away from the event.
This is Ty Jerome’s team
For all the talk about the importance of De’Andre Hunter and what he brings to the floor—and we learned all too well back in March just how much of an x-factor he is—it’s clear that Jerome is the unquestioned leader of this team. Even during a scrimmage mainly for the fans more than anything/anyone else, he looked legitimately steamed a few times when the blue team (the backups) would force a turnover or just outplay the starters a little bit. On the flip side, you could just as easily tell when he was having fun out there, with an ear-to-ear grin showing up on the jumbotron. He also looked very comfortable shooting the ball, going 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-4 from the line for 14 points, along with five rebounds and a game-high six assists. This will be a great year for the New York native.
Mamadi Diakite has room to grow
I thought Diakite looked fine when he was on the floor, more so in the first half when he was with the blue team (eight points, four rebounds). In that first half, though, he also picked up four fouls in those 20 minutes. He committed 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes played last year, far and away the most among the Cavaliers’ rotation. Like he did a few years back with Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey, I would expect Tony Bennett to make some adjustments to the post rotation to allow Diakite and Jay Huff to put the talent they do have to good use on both ends of the floor, while masking their defensive imperfections and keeping them out of foul trouble as much as possible. And with the relative lack of depth on this year’s team, he’ll need to.
Jay Huff is ready
It feels like we’ve been talking about this forever. After redshirting in 2016-17, Huff averaged 7.8 minutes over 12 games last year, and he was heavily limited in the spring and early summer after suffering a torn right labrum the day before that game. In his small sample size of minutes, his offensive rating (points generated per 100 possessions) was an eye-popping 129.2. He had 15 points, three rebounds, and three blocks in his 40 minutes on the blue team, and not only does he look to have made a full recovery from the injury, but he seemed to be comfortable with his non-dominant (left) hand as well.
Plus, this dunk was pretty sweet.
Update from JPJ: Jay Huff can still dunk pic.twitter.com/mbXBji96hv— Damon Dillman (@DamonDillman) October 13, 2018
Will Marco Anthony be the fifth starter?
It stands to reason that Jerome, Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Jack Salt are cemented in the starting lineup. The fifth starter spot will likely come down to Diakite or guard Marco Anthony, who started the game with the white team. He had a quiet game overall, shooting 1-for-2 from the floor with both attempts coming from the outside and gathering one defensive rebound in the first half. He didn’t do a much after moving to the blue team, swapping with Diakite, in the second half either—three assists and one turnover. Right now, I would guess that Bennett’s default lineup is the bigger one with Diakite, but depending on matchups, Anthony could get a few looks here and there.
A few other quick hits:
- Redshirt freshman forward Francesco Baddochi was in street clothes and did not play, but the 6-foot-7 Italian who could find himself with some solid bench minutes this season said after the game that he was under the weather.
- Junior guard Braxton Key played on the blue team as the Virginia program and its fans await word on whether he will receive his hardship waiver from the NCAA after transferring from Alabama. He had six points, all from threes, six rebounds, and three assists.
- Kyle Guy shot 1-for-7 from the floor and had two points.
- The regulars on the blue team were Key, Huff, Kihei Clark, and Kody Stattmann. The rest of the team did not play.