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Tony Bennett believes Dante Harris “is one of the quickest on-ball defenders I’ve coached”

Harris’ strengths as an on-ball defender and ball handler could see him be the third starting guard for Virginia.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tipoff Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

During Tuesday’s ACC Media Tipoff, Virginia Cavaliers Head Coach Tony Bennett praised Georgetown transfer point guard Dante Harris, specifically highlighting his impact on the defensive end of the floor.

Dante is one of the quickest on-ball defenders that I’ve coached,” Bennett said. “And look, I’ve had Kihei [Clark], Reece [Beekman] is a terrific on-ball defender, and then a guy named Jontel Evans when I first took over the job who was tenacious.”

That’s a high level of praise from Bennett, and it speaks to how Harris fits the mold of a player that the Wahoo staff prioritizes in its rotation.

“Dante brings a level of quickness and toughness on the ball that is certainly helpful for us,” adde Bennett, also noting that it’s beneficial “that he’s played, and he’s a guy that can touch the paint and [be] very competitive.”

Bennett and his staff highly value being able to pressure the ball at the point of the attack defensively while also having multiple capable ball handlers on the other side of the floor. With the third backcourt starting job up in the air, Harris’ strengths lining up with what the staff prioritizes could be what pushes him into the starting lineup for Virginia to open the season.

In UVA’s Blue-White scrimmage earlier this month, Harris registered three steals in the 28 minutes of action. Going up against Beekman, he didn’t let up and made the veteran guard’s life difficult on that end of the floor as they went back and forth on offense and defense. Bennett said that he’s seen plenty of that in practice between the two point guards.

“I really have enjoyed seeing that competitiveness,” he said. “I told this to Reece the other night, watching Reece and Dante go against each other in practice. I think it’s been really good for Reece because if you don’t have good stuff, you’re not getting by a guy like that, and vice versa. Those guys have been fun to watch go head-to-head in practice and develop.”

This sort of in-practice competitiveness between a small, pesty, younger guard and the cagey vet isn’t exactly new to the Virginia program. Legend tells us that, before the 2018-2019 season, Kihei Clark frustrated Ty Jerome so much in practice that Jerome actually threw a ball at Clark’s head.

Auburn v Virginia Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Later that season, Clark and Jerome helped lead the Wahoo program to its first NCAA title. I’ll let you connect the dots for what Harris and Beekman’s back and forth could mean for this year’s squad...