Tuesday, October 8, marked the 2019 ACC Operation Basketball, meaning 15 head coaches and 30 student athletes descended upon the Charlotte Marriott City Center to get ready for the 2019-20 season. Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Mamadi Diakite, and Braxton Key made the trip for the Cavaliers and had a day full of action.
First up, Coach Bennett went live on the ACC Network’s Packer and Durham with Mark Packer and Wes Durham. Bennett discussed a number of topics, including his gratitude at having been able to coach De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy:
Bennett closed out the segment shouting out Virginia’s No. 1 Men’s and Women’s soccer teams, the National Champion Men’s Lacrosse team, and Athletic Director Carla Williams.
Next up, the three hit the stage to field questions from media members. After participating in the larger press conference, each went to breakout sessions to provide more small-group access for questions. Bennett also spent time in one-on-one time with CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, and more.
After meeting with the media, the trio went to record promos for ESPN and the ACC Network.
Overall, Coach Bennett emphasized the uncertainty around his roster, but that the power dynamic has shifted from the back court to the front court. Returning players Jay Huff and Kihei Clark join Diakite and Key in seeing significant minutes from last season, and they’ll be relied on heavily to provide help for the newer, younger players.
The players were complimentary of newcomer Tomas Woldetensae’s ability to shoot the ball from deep, and everyone commented on the physicality of redshirt first year Francisco Caffaro.
A nice touch to this season: the Nike gear the players and Bennett were wearing had a new gold tab that reads “ELITE” that indicates they won a championship.
They said it:
Coach Bennett on his team’s height this season:
I think, yeah, with obviously our experience this year is more in the front court with Mamadi and Braxton kind of playing some more of the 4 and the 3 this year. He’ll do both. And Jay Huff, who got some limited experience. There is quality experience. The only other really guy with experience that’s returning is Kihei, and he doesn’t have a lot of height.
Coach Bennett on the 20-game ACC schedule:
But I was here when it was 16, and then it went to 18, and boy, that’s two more quality games. Now we’re at 20. You play in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, you play in these tournaments. So every game is a test. There’s such parity in college basketball. And then to start, because I said, we have a lot of new guys, there’s newness to this team, the experienced players will have to really rely on that because that’s the different kind of game in terms of that zone, that venue, and being ready for it.
Braxton Key on starting the season at Syracuse:
Yeah, it’s exciting. 20 games for the conference, I think it’s big. It’s great for the fans, great for the players. We love the competition in the conference. Syracuse is a great team, great coach, has had a lot of great success. And opening up at the Carrier Dome, it’s one of my favorite places to play. It’s massive. Last year we played there, and we got really hot, so hopefully we can keep that streak, and it’ll be a great match-up November 6.
Mamadi Diakite on his mentality going into the season:
I think everything started when we lost against UMBC, and I’m carrying that and hopefully all the other guys are still carrying it. I’m carrying that underneath my skin, and it drives me every time. I’ve been having it since two years ago, so I’m just carrying that through this year.
The season gets underway on November 6 at Syracuse. Stick with Streaking the Lawn as we continue counting down to the 2019-20 season.