This season, the Virginia Cavaliers’ men’s basketball earned a No. 1 ranking for the first time in over 35 years, has earned the top-seed in the ACC tournament, and has clinched the ACC outright for the third time in five seasons. Head Coach Tony Bennett has taken his squad from unranked and picked to finish sixth in the ACC to the top of the polls and a shoo-in for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Cavaliers’ success is thanks in part to the leadership of its trio of captains in Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, and Jack Salt. Bennett had never used captains before during his time in Charlottesville, but he felt the appointment was important this season, especially to a group of guys who embodied what it means to be a part of the Virginia program.
Jack Salt, Virginia’s 6’10, 250 pound center, may have surprised some people being selected as a member of Virginia’s player troika. Salt’s stats are modest, but have improved each season. This year, Salt has started every game for the Hoos and is averaging 3.4 points and four rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. His 62.7% shooting percentage from the field is the highest on the team for any player averaging over 10 minutes per game.
Against Georgia Tech last week, when the Hoos clinched the one seed in the ACC tournament, Salt scored six of Virginia’s first nine points, finished 3-for-6 from the field, and collected a team-high six rebounds to go with one block (though I think he had at least three).
The night before the game, Jack went to his favorite restaurant: Chipotle.
Turns out, Salt is a bit of a Chipotle fiend, eating at the Mexican chain restaurant five to six times per week.
“I get the exact same thing every time unless they’re out of something,” Salt said of his go-to order. “If I go later at night they might be out of something, but the same thing. It’s pretty much everything really. I get both rices, beans, fajita veggies, chicken, steak, and pretty much everything else.”
Using Chipotle’s nutrition calculator, that comes out to just shy of 1600 calories. For an athlete like Salt, however, that’s not out of hand. It also comes with an impressive 91 grams of protein, helping Jack grow big and strong so he can do things like this:
As a native of New Zealand, Salt isn’t able to get Chipotle when he heads home. A year ago, someone started a petition on change.org to attempt to attract the fast food chain to Salt’s hometown of Aukland. It got 47 supporters. So, for the time being, he’s going as much as he can.
He’s also not the only Wahoo obsessed with the delicious cuisine of the Mexican grill.
“Look so, Jack’s not alone in his Chipotle thing. I’m with him,” Wilkins told me before the season started. “I support anything with Chipotle.”
“Whenever he goes, I go. We live together, we go together.” Wilkins elaborated.
The order never changes for Zay, either. “I get a bowl with both rices - extra rice - both beans, chicken and steak, cheese and lettuce,” Wilkins says. “I don’t want all the sauce and stuff. I don’t like cold stuff”. By my calculations that comes out to about 1125 calories per bowl (not having guac and sour cream really knocks the calories off).
“Me and Zay are pretty similar on Chipotle levels, but I’m pretty happy to go by myself.” Salt explained. “I don’t eat it there by myself, but I’ll bring it back home. It can be a group thing, a single thing, whatever you need to get the food.”
The obsession isn’t just about Mexican food for Salt. It’s Chipotle only, and he won’t even entertain discussions of the similar chain, Qdoba.
“Never,” Salt said immediately. “Always Chipotle.”
Wilkins agreed. “Naw, I ain’t with the Qdoba.”
But it’s even more than that. It’s the Chipotle at Barracks Road for Salt, and nothing else.
“Always the one in Barracks.” Salt said emphatically. “I’ve been to the one in Pantops once and I didn’t like it and I never went back.”
Daniel Huggins, the manager for the Barracks Road Chipotle, is used to seeing Salt in the restaurant. “I probably see Jack every single day...I see him all the time.” Huggins said.
With the amount of times he goes weekly, Salt has gotten to know and recognize some of the employees. “They’ve got a lot of new workers in every time...” he said. “I see a lot of workers that I know and we always have a lovely conversation, but I do love Chipotle.”
“I’m a former basketball player myself,” Huggins stated, saying, “...the connection is there basketball player to basketball player.” Huggins sustained an injury that kept him from furthering his own basketball career, but having the players come through has allowed him to stay connected to basketball through the Cavaliers.
Huggins is always happy to see Salt and the Cavaliers. “They’re regular customers and they’re good to us.”