In Monday’s media availability, I spoke to a number of Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball players and asked them a simple two-part question: Who on the team is hardest to guard, and who’s the hardest to beat? With answers from seven Wahoos of varying positions and experience, there were a few interesting answers.
It’s worth noting that a few guys listed multiple players. And, unfortunately with only 20 minutes of availability to run around the court at JPJ and interview guys, I couldn’t get everyone. But this seemed like a solid breakdown of perspectives, if slightly lacking in the frontcourt.
Hardest to guard (# of votes in parentheses)
Dante Harris (5)
Reece Beekman (3)
Blake Buchanan (1)
Ryan Dunn (1)
Hardest to beat
Reece Beekman (4)
Blake Buchanan (2)
Ryan Dunn (1)
Andrew Rohde (1)
Isaac McKneely (1)
“Well, I think you know the answer to the second one (Reece Beekman). But the first is probably Dante. His quickness is just unreal. When we’re in one-on-one drills and I’m matched up with Dante I’m just like ‘Oh boy, here we go. I got to get my slides on point right now.’ Of course Dante is really quick, but obviously Reece is also really tough to go against. But I love going against guys like that, it just betters me.”
“On defense, the hardest guy to go up against, I’ll say Ryan Dunn or Blake Buchanan. I think Ryan... his athleticism is just through the roof. Blake times things really well and he’s very athletic. On offense it’s the same guys. The competition level is through the roof, and we just push each other in that sense so it’s been great.”
“The answer is the same: Reece. Obviously I’m a point guard so I’m guarding him a lot. Then he’s guarding me a lot. Super smart, he can score it well. I don’t know how well he was scoring before, but he’s scoring it really right now in practice. He can make plays for others, but he’s also just really strong and quick. He has good moves. Defensively, he does the same thing. It’s been great for me to go against him everyday, and I feel like that’s just going to make me better. Yeah, he’s good.”
“For the hardest guy to guard, probably Dante or Reece. And then hardest guy to get past... probably those two. It’s been a great challenge, going against them everyday. That’s one of the biggest things you could ask for going up against guys like that everyday.”
“Dante is the hardest to guard. He’s super fast, it’s hard to stay in front of him. Hardest to go up against... I feel like me and Blake have good battles.”
“The hardest to guard is probably Dante. He’s so shifty and quick. One of the harder guys I’ve had to guard. He can get to the rim, he’s very strong so it’s been hard to guard Dante.”
“Hardest guy to beat... obviously Reece. Reece is a great defender. He’s one of the best to do it, so that’s the obvious answer. Someone that has done a good job would probably be Andrew Rohde... and Isaac McKneely is a great on-ball defender.”
“Probably the hardest to guard in practice is Dante. Dante is pretty hard to stay in front of. He’s just so fast. The one I probably have the most trouble with on offense is Reece. Reece definitely disrupts the ball.”
Again, this survey is probably in need of a few more opinions from the bigs on this roster. But Harris getting the majority of the “hardest to guard” votes stood out to me. Evidence has been mounting that Harris could be Virginia’s third starter in the backcourt, and while Tony Bennett himself even said that the starting lineup could be a revolving door, all accounts point to Harris being ready for the big time.
Beekman getting the most votes as the “hardest to beat” makes perfect sense. But Blake Buchanan getting Anthony Robinson and (one of) Jordan Minor’s votes stands out. His teammates had nothing but praise for the young center, so the hype around him appears to be very real.