In his career debut for the Virginia Cavaliers, forward Leon Bond put on an absolute show, scoring 12 points, corralling nine rebounds (five on offense), registering two steals, and flushing home one highlight dunk in 17 minutes of action.
“I thought he brought a spark off the bench,” said Tony Bennett after the win. “He didn’t practice yesterday, he had some kind of virus, so he was out yesterday. We weren’t sure he was going to play. It gave us a nice lift, obviously you get the crowd with his tip dunk. That was good to see.”
Bennett added that Bond brings “some versatility,” to the Virginia roster, also saying that “I was really happy for him. For this being his first game [because he] redshirted last year, it was nice to see him out there. I know those guys worked hard last year to get themselves as ready as they can. So that was good that he made the most of his minutes.”
For Bond, arguably the most charismatic personality on the UVA roster, Monday night’s performance wasn’t as easy as he made it look. “I was really nervous coming in,” he said in his first career postgame press conference. “I’m not going to lie, I had no expectation. I just went out there and was just hoping to score. So, it was surreal.”
With a roster that includes only four players who got minutes last year, this year’s Virginia team has had to build up new chemistry. But, according to Bond, time spent over the last few months is starting to pay off on the floor.
“We hang out a lot,” he said. “We hang out, we eat a lot of meals together. We’re always eating dinner. Wing night at Asado [Wing and Taco Company on the corner], that’s our spot. So, eating a lot of meals and playing a lot of pickup over the summer really helped.”
Three of the newcomers to the Virginia team, freshmen Elijah Gertrude, Anthony Robinson, and Christian Bliss are confirmed to be redshirting this season. After Bond redshirted last season, he’s been a worthwhile resource of advice for those three.
“I’ve just been telling them attack every day,” he said. “Understand that it’s a slow grind. Don’t get discouraged because discouragement is a loss of perspective. You’ve got to understand these workouts aren’t for nothing. They’re all going to add up so when you touch down the first game, they’ll pay off.”
Those are wise words from the 19-year old forward, and they speak to how impressive a player and a person he is. In game one of his Virginia career, he was all over the place, and all indications point to him being everywhere for the ‘Hoos for years to come.