Men's Basketball Returns Experienced Squad
Aug. 24, 1999
Expectations. In one year, the expectations for the University of Virginiamen’s basketball team have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.As Pete Gillen prepared for his first season as the Cavaliers’ head coachin the summer of 1998, he admitted “everybody’s preaching gloom and doom.”As Gillen and his staff prepare for the 1999-2000 season, the feeling ismore like one dictionary definition of expectation: “eager anticipation.”
What’s the difference? What has changed the perception and feeling of theVirginia program in one year? The obvious first response is the job Gillenand his staff have done in all areas of the program. UVa fans and closeobservers of ACC basketball have gotten an introduction to Gillen’spersonality, his basketball philosophy, and his ability to coach, recruitand relate to players. They like what they’ve seen.There are other reasons, too.
The Cavaliers return nine lettermen, including four starters, from lastyear’s team that bought into Gillen’s up-tempo style of play and compiled asurprising (in a positive way) overall record of 14-16 and a 4-12 record inthe ACC. Despite having just six scholarship players available for most ofthe season, the Cavaliers played hard and four of their losses were by fivepoints or less. Gillen finished second in the balloting for ACC Coach ofthe Year Virginia’s players and fans quickly accepted Gillen’s up-tempo style ofplay. The Cavaliers run and press, and the result is an exciting style ofbasketball that is fun to play and to watch. Gillen’s first recruiting effort at Virginia resulted in a group that hasreceived a consensus Top Five ranking by college basketball recruitinganalysts and has been ranked as high as second best in the nation. The sense is Virginia’s improved depth will enable the Cavaliers to playtheir up-tempo style more effectively in the season ahead.”Last year the expectations for our team were very low if in fact therewere expectations,” Gillen said. “I think people assumed the worst andapproached the season with trepidation.”
A year ago, UVa had a diminished roster that included just six lettermenfrom a team that compiled an 11-19 overall record and a 3-13 record in theAtlantic Coast Conference in 1997-98. Three starters returned, but noneaveraged more than 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds a game. As a group, the sixlettermen averaged a combined 23.2 points and 15.0 rebounds a game. Therewere no seniors on the roster, and gone were second-team All-ACC selectionNorman Nolan (21.0 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and third-team All-ACC choice CurtisStaples (18.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg.). With the 1998-99 season one game old, theCavaliers lost Colin Ducharme, their starting center and top returningscorer and rebounder, for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle.The predictions of “gloom and doom” were certainly easy to understand.The 1998-99 Virginia team understood the situation and accepted thechallenge. The Cavaliers didn’t compile a winning record, but they didn’thave the feel of a losing team.
“Last year was a tremendously exciting one,” Gillen says. “We knew comingin it was going to be a difficult and challenging situation, and itcertainly was a challenge. To play in the premier basketball conference inthe country with seven scholarship players and to lose one of them, ColinDucharme, after the first game was really an absurd situation. I thoughtour guys played with a lot of courage, dignity, tenacity and heart. Theymaximized what they had from a talent and energy standpoint.
“We finished 14-16 which is not a great record, but I thought our playersdid a tremendous job. They played hard and together, and never gave up. Ithink we earned a lot of respect from our fans as well as fans throughoutthe ACC because of what our guys accomplished. We won four league gameswhen a lot of people predicted we would not win any. I’m proud of what ourplayers did. I think it was a great building block for us.”
Gillen installed his system last season and the team responded positivelyto the up-tempo style of play.
“Our style was different with the pressing and running,” Gillen said. “Ithought we played with energy and heart, and our players gave it their bestshot. When you throw your best pitch and a guy hits a home run, you wish hehadn’t hit the home run, but you can’t feel too badly because you threwyour best pitch. We threw our best pitch last season and to win 14 gameswith our limited number of scholarship players and no seniors, I think thatwas a significant accomplishment. We tried to take some positive steps in avery difficult situation.
“Despite the fact we finished 14-16, the morale on the team was still goodat the end of the season, and I believe the players and coaches wanted tokeep playing. I’ve been involved with some teams that were more successfulfrom the standpoint of wins and losses, but we were glad to see the seasonend. We were sad to see last season end even though it was a tough year. Ithink the players felt good about themselves after the season because theyoverachieved. Our kids gave it their best shot.”
Gillen knows the expectations for the 1999-2000 Virginia team will be verydifferent.
“I believe it will be a lot different this year, but I like expectations,”Gillen said. “If you have expectations that means you usually have goodtalent and you have numbers. I don’t mind that at all. I’d rather havehigher expectations and the talent that goes along with those expectations,than the opposite. We keep our goals within the team, but we set highgoals. Not impossible or ridiculous goals, but I’d rather set high goalsand fall a little short than set mediocre goals and achieve them.
“We also realize we have six new players, including Keith Friel, and ColinDucharme coming back from an injury. We have to blend and mesh. It’s goingto take time to put our pieces together, to get the proper chemistry and toget our guys playing together smoothly. As coaches we have to learn aboutthis year’s team.
“We’re very excited about the season, but understand we’re stillrebuilding. You don’t come into the Atlantic Coast Conference and go fromlast place to the top of the mountain without it taking some time.Everybody else in the conference is getting better. We’re just going to tryto be the best we can be.”
If the Virginia program is to continue to improve during the 1999-2000season, the challenge for Gillen and his staff appears clear. They need toblend an experienced nucleus of returning players with a group of talentednewcomers.
That challenge is most evident at the perimeter positions where a number ofplayers are expected to compete for starting positions and playing time.The hoped for result is a versatile and deep group that will provide theCavaliers with a number of options at both ends of the floor.
Any discussion of the point guard position must start with 5-11 juniorDonald Hand. When Gillen needed players to step up last season, Hand took agiant step. He earned honorable mention All-ACC honors after leading theCavaliers in scoring with an average of 17.1 points a game, an increase of12.4 points a game over the year before. His scoring increase is the secondgreatest in the history of the Virginia program.
Hand, a two-year letterman, also led UVa in assists (123, 4.1 apg.), steals(57, 1.9 spg.), free throw percentage (162-188, .862), three-point fieldgoals (50) and minutes played (34.9 mpg.) during the 1998-99 season. Hisfree throw percentage of 86.2 percent led the ACC and his 57 steals are thethird best single season total in the history of the UVa program. He wassecond in the ACC in free throws made (162) and first among guards in theconference, and he tied for third in free throws attempted (188).
He also averaged 4.8 rebounds a game and scored 41 points in an 82-79overtime victory over North Carolina State at University Hall. His 41points were the most by a Virginia player since Barry Parkhill set theschool record with 51 points against Baldwin-Wallace during the 1971-72season, and were the most by an ACC player last season. When Hand scored 25points and pulled down 11 rebounds in a victory over Wake Forest atUniversity Hall last February, it marked the first time a Cavalier undersix feet tall grabbed at least 10 rebounds in almost 40 years. Later in theseason he had 28 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in a loss at GeorgiaTech for the second double-double of his career.
Hand was the only player on the team to start all 30 games and was theco-recipient of Virginia’s Cavalier of the Year Award.”Donald had a tremendous year,” Gillen said. “He improved a lot and had aterrific season. I thought he showed he could compete with the top pointguards in the ACC. We’re hoping now that he can continue to step up.”Hopefully he won’t have to score quite as much all of the time this seasonbecause we have a few more players who can take some of that burden offhim. Ideally you want your point guard to distribute the ball and scorewhen needed.”
Gillen would also like to see Hand become a more consistent player.”Donald needs to continue to improve his consistency,” Gillen said. “Heneeds to be a little more consistent and improve his shooting percentage alittle bit. He’s a hard worker who’s gotten stronger and he loves the game.Hopefully he’ll take the next step now and become one of the top threepoint guards in the ACC. I think he’s capable of taking that step.”He will also play some two guard because his first instinct is to shoot.We want to move him off the ball at times.”
Virginia’s improved depth should mean more opportunity for Hand to rest andcould help improve his field goal percentage of 37.5 percent last year.Another returning starter and two-year letterman is 6-2 junior ChezleyWatson. Watson, who can also play either guard position, averaged 8.3points and 3.0 rebounds a game last season, and was second on the team inassists with 84 (3.0 apg.) despite missing two games with a sprained ankle.He made 78.9 percent (45-57) of his free throw attempts and received theteam’s Best Defensive Player Award.
“Chezley had a very good year last year,” Gillen said. “He’s an emotionalplayer and a very aggressive player. He plays with a lot of heart anddetermination. Chezley was one of the guys that really gave last year’steam some courage and enthusiasm. His enthusiasm permeates through the teamand he plays with high energy. He’s an upbeat guy who likes life.”Chezley provides a lot of the intangibles that don’t always show up in thebox score. He’s a very valuable player for us, and we need for him tocontinue to get better and improve. He’s a good defender and that will beone of his roles this season, to put the clamps on some of the perimeterplayers we’ll face.”
Junior Josh Hare also returns to the Virginia backcourt. A fan favoritebecause of his hustle and hard-nosed style of play, the 6-2 Hare joined theUVa team as a walk-on after a student body tryout in October of last year.He became a valuable member of the team and his absence was felt when hemissed 13 games in the middle of the season with a broken ankle. Hareplayed in 17 games, starting two, and averaged 3.6 points, 2.5 rebounds,2.0 assists and 20.8 minutes played a game. He is another player who canplay both guard positions.
“Josh Hare did a great job for us,” Gillen said. “He really gave us somebig moments. He was invaluable. Like Chezley, he gave us some toughness,athleticism and emotion.
“Josh did a great job defensively against some quality players. He’s a veryvaluable player. He will be a significant contributor to our team no matterwho we have because he plays so hard, plays such good defense and knows howto play. Josh has worked on and improved his shooting. He’s a toughcompetitor who fits into our running and pressing style of play.”
Junior Keith Friel becomes eligible for the Cavaliers for the 1999-2000season after transferring from Notre Dame and sitting out last season.Friel, a 6-4 shooting guard, averaged 8.9 points and 2.0 rebounds a game asa sophomore at Notre Dame during the 1997-98 season. He led the Irish inthree-point field goals (45) and three-point field goal percentage (46.6 percent, 45-97) that season and provides Virginia with along range shooting threat.
“We recruited Keith when I was at Providence and I’m happy to have him inour basketball family at Virginia,” Gillen said. “He is an outstandingshooter with tremendous range on his shot. He’s worked hard to getstronger. Keith gives us a different dimension. Last year we didn’t have aconsistent deep perimeter threat and he will provide that for us. He’s aconfident young man with a lot of experience playing in the Big EastConference for Notre Dame.
“Keith will do some good things for us and will compete for a starting jobat the two guard spot. He’s a very good player and will be a very valuablemember of our team. In our up-tempo system, I think he’ll have someopportunities to shoot the ball. People haven’t really talked a great dealabout him because he had to sit out as a transfer, but in my opinion he’sgoing to be an impact player at Virginia the next two years.”
Freshmen Majestic Mapp and RogerMason are also expected to make an impact in the Virginia backcourt duringthe 1999-2000 season.Mapp is a 6-1 point guard from the Bronx, N.Y., who was a four-year starterfor head coach Gary DeCesare at St. Raymond’s High School. He was aMcDonald’s All-America selection and also earned third-team ParadeAll-America honors. He averaged 16.8 points and six assists a game as asenior.
“Majestic Mapp comes from a great high school program at St. Raymond’swhere he was coached by Gary DeCesare, one of the top high school coachesin the country,” Gillen said. “Majestic was the first high school player tocommit to us at Virginia. He got the ball rolling for us to have what wefeel is a very good recruiting class.
“He’s a pure point guard who thinks distribute the ball first and shootsecond. He has a good feel for the game and he’s at his best in a fastbreak situation. Majestic needs to continue to work to get stronger. He’s agood shooter, but needs to work on his consistency from the perimeter. Iexpect him to play a lot of minutes.
“People enjoy playing with Majestic because he’s unselfish and knows thegame. With the type of athletes we’ll have surrounding him, I expect him tobe very effective.”
Mason is a 6-4 shooting guard from Gaithersburg, Md., who was a three-yearstarter for head coach Joe McCall at Good Counsel High School. He averaged18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game his senior season, andfinished his career at Good Counsel with 1,426 points. He was namedPowerade “Mr. Basketball” as a senior, which is awarded to the best playerin the Washington, D.C., area.
“Roger is an outstanding player,” Gillen said. “He has been on verysuccessful teams for Joe McCall at Good Counsel High School in the toughWashington Catholic Athletic Conference, and he’s used to winning. He’s atwo guard by nature, but can play some point guard and on the wing in asmall forward position in a pinch. He plays good defense and passes theball very well.
“Roger hasn’t gotten the national exposure that other players havereceived, but I’m really excited about him. I think he has a tremendous upside and will be a very fine player at Virginia.”
Sophomore Adam Hall, a 6-5 swing player from Katy, Texas, provides theCavaliers with additional depth and versatility on the perimeter. He canplay either shooting guard or small forward. Hall averaged 10.8 points and4.5 rebounds a game for UVa as a freshman last season. He played in all 30of Virginia’s games, starting 17, and averaged 27.2 minutes of playing timea game. Hall was second on the team in steals with 49 (1.6 spg.), the 10thbest single season total in school history and the most steals in thehistory of the program by a freshman. He led the team in three-point fieldgoal shooting percentage (32.1 percent, 36-112) for players with at least20 attempts. He was named the ACC Rookie of the Week once during the seasonand was a member of the 1999 USA Basketball Men’s Junior World ChampionshipTeam. Hall received Virginia’s Mr. Intensity Award last season.
“Adam had an excellent first year,” Gillen said. “He’s a tremendous athletewho did some great things for us last year. He hit some big shots. Adam isa talented young man and has the potential to be a fine defender because ofhis quickness, strength and athleticism. He can guard a two guard, a smallforward and some point guards.
“Adam is a valuable player for us. He needs to continue to work on hisperimeter shooting so that he’s a little more consistent and on his freethrow shooting. He’s one of the top young athletes in the ACC and has agreat future.”
Additional depth in the backcourt is provided by sophomores Cade Lemckeand Jason Dowling. The 6-6 Lemcke joined the team as a walk-on last seasonand played in 26 games, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds.Seven of his 10 field goals were three-pointers. Lemcke received the team’sHardest Worker Award last year.
“Cade helped us win some games last season,” Gillen said. “He came in andgave us some valuable minutes in several games. He’s a smart player whoworks very, very hard. Cade’s going to see some minutes this year. He knowshow to play and he’s getting stronger.”
Like Hare, the 6-2 Dowling joined the team as a walk-on following a studentbody tryout in October. He played in 20 games, scoring seven points andgrabbing eight rebounds. Dowling shared Virginia’s Best Attitude Award lastseason.
“Jason is a good athlete and a good defensive player,” Gillen said. “He’squick and aggressive, and we’re hoping he can help us push players inpractice. At times he could be used, because of his quickness andathleticism, in a situation where we’re behind and need to press to catchup.”
Both starting forwards from a year ago return for the Cavaliers. SeniorWillie Dersch started at the small forward position during the 1998-99season and averaged 10.2 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. He is the onlysenior on the Cavaliers’ 1999-2000 roster and can also play the two guardposition. Dersch received Virginia’s Michael McCann Leadership Award lastseason.
“Willie Dersch did a terrific job for us last year,” Gillen said. “Ithought he had a very good season. He provided some experience andleadership for us at the small forward spot. We’re going to need him toprovide leadership once again this season as our only senior. He’s workedvery hard in the weight program and gotten stronger, and he’s increased hisshooting range. “Willie’s going to be a very important part of our team. Hecan play the three spot and a little bit of two guard, so he hasversatility. We’re going to need for him to have another good season likehe did a year ago, and hopefully step it up in his final year of collegebasketball.”
Sophomore Chris Williams was Virginia’s starter at the power forwardposition last season and had an outstanding first year in the program.Despite often playing against bigger players, the 6-6 Williams averaged16.8 points a game and led the team in rebounding with an average of 7.5rebounds a game. He also led the team in field goal percentage (51.2percent, 188-367), and was second on the team in scoring and blocked shots(41, 1.4 bpg.). He established a UVa freshman single-game scoring recordwith 34 points against Liberty University and he was named the ACC Rookieof the Week four times during the 1998-99 season. His 505 points are thethird-highest total by a freshman in school history. Williams played in all30 of UVa’s games and started 28.
A relatively unheralded player out of Minor High School in Birmingham,Ala., Williams was the ACC Rookie of the Year and a third-team All-ACCselection last season. He also earned ACC first-team All-Freshman honorsand was a second-team All-Freshman selection by Basketball News. He wasthe co-recipient of Virginia’s Cavalier of the Year Award and was a memberof the 1999 USA Basketball Men’s Junior World Championship Team.
Williams is better suited for the small forward position and is expected tosee playing time at that position during the 1999-2000 season.
“Chris had a phenomenal freshman season,” Gillen said. “People on thenational scene didn’t know that much about him. They didn’t really know howgood a player he was, so I think he surprised a lot of people. He was oneof the top freshmen in the country last year. He’s a tremendous person aswell as a great young player, and he’s worked hard in the off-seasongetting stronger.
“Chris can play the three spot as well as the four, so he’s versatile onthe court. He’s more comfortable facing the basket, but he can go insideand post up. He loves the game and has a desire to continue to improve.We’re very excited to have him with us.”
The Cavaliers are not as deep and experienced inside as they are on theperimeter, and they will miss the shot-blocking ability of Kris Hunter. The6-11 Hunter started at center for UVa last season and blocked ateam-leading 88 shots, while also averaging 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds agame. He left the Virginia program after the 1998-99 season.
The Virginia coaching staff hopes the return of Ducharme and the additionof newcomers Stephane Dondon, Jason Rogers and Travis Watson will improvethe Cavaliers’ rebounding. UVa’s lack of depth and size up front hurt lastseason when the Cavaliers were out-rebounded by an average of 6.9 reboundsa game, the team’s worst differential since 1973. Dondon, Rogers and Watsonwill be counted on to provide immediate assistance inside for theCavaliers.
Ducharme has two years of eligibility remaining after missing all but onegame last season because of his ankle injury. He was Virginia’s topreturning scorer (7.8 ppg.), rebounder (5.0 rpg.), shot blocker (34blocks), field goal percentage shooter (50.3 percent, 85-169) and freethrow shooter (73.3 percent, 63-86) entering last season. In addition tobeing the most experienced of Virginia’s big men, the 6-9, 243-poundDucharme also provides the Cavaliers with a physical presence around thebasket.
“Colin was really missed last season,” Gillen said. “He was the one guy onour team who had physical presence. He’s back now and we’re hoping to keephim healthy this year. You need some big physical guys to compete in theACC and we didn’t have any last year.
“Colin is a very valuable player who will be competing for a startingposition. If there’s a silver lining in his injury, he’s really developedmore of a love for the game. He’s spending more time on his game, workingto get better.
“We’re excited about Colin’s return and we need him. He’s worked on hisperimeter game a little bit so his skills are improved, he’s a littlebetter handling the ball and his 15-foot jump shot is improved. We’re goingto need him to give us some interior defense, some rebounding and hopefullysome scoring this season.”
Dondon is a 6-8, 239-pound transfer from Collin County Community College inPlano, Texas. From Toulouse, France, Dondon earned All-North Texas JuniorCollege Athletic Conference honors after averaging 14.2 points and 8.5rebounds a game during the 1998-99 season. He finished his two-year careerat Collin County Community College with 859 points and 550 rebounds. Dondonranks first on the school’s career rebounding list and fifth on the scoringlist.
“Stephane was a sleeper,” Gillen said. “We didn’t hear much about him untilthe spring. He’s a very intelligent young man who speaks four languages.He’s a power forward, but he is also comfortable facing the basket.Stephane can shoot the perimeter shot, score inside and rebound. He givesus some strength and athleticism that we need.
“Stephane also will compete for a starting job and I expect him to play alot of minutes for us at a couple of positions on the front line. Powerforward is his natural position, but he can also play some small forwardand, in a pinch, some center because of his strength and athleticism.”Rogers is a 6-10, 240-pound freshman from Staunton, Va., who lettered threetimes for head coach Paul Hatcher at Robert E. Lee High School. He wasnamed Virginia Group AA Player of the Year by both The Associated Press andthe Virginia High School Coaches Association, and he was the GatoradePlayer of the Year in Virginia for the 1998-99 season. As a senior, heaveraged 18.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.9 blocked shots a game.
“Jason can play either power forward or center,” Gillen said. “He playedfor Paul Hatcher who is a legend at Robert E. Lee High School, and I’mdelighted to have someone from Paul’s program come to Virginia.”Jason had an excellent senior year, and gives us some athleticism andrebounding. He needs to get a little stronger. I think he’s going to be avery good player for us, but his strength needs to improve to enable him toplay against the older, physical players in our league.”
Travis Watson is a 6-7, 245-pound forward from Brookneal, Va., who playedtwo years for head coach Steve Smith at Oak Hill Academy. Watson was aco-captain of the 1998-99 Oak Hill team that finished 31-0 and was rankedfirst in the nation on the USA Today Super 25 list. He was a third-teamParade All-America selection, was named Virginia’s “Mr. Basketball” by theRoanoke Times and played in the 1999 Nike Hoop Summit in Tampa, Fla., as amember of the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team. He averaged 16points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocked shots a gameas a senior at Oak Hill.
“Travis Watson played for Steve Smith, an outstanding coach, on the tophigh school basketball team in the country last season at Oak HillAcademy,” Gillen said. “I felt he was the top player on the top team in thecountry. He’s a great rebounder who outlets the ball very well on thebreak. He’s very unselfish and likes to pass the ball.
“I think Travis is going to be an impact player as a freshman. He willcontend for a starting job on the front line. We really needed a playerwith Travis’ ability. He brings things we need like physical strength andtoughness, rebounding and inside scoring. I expect him to have a verypositive impact on our team.”
Gillen’s up-tempo style paid dividends for the Cavaliers last season asVirginia improved its scoring by more than seven points from the yearbefore to an average of 72.8 points per game. UVa finished third in the ACCin scoring with its best average since 1995 (77.4 points a game) and theCavaliers led the ACC in free throw percentage (73.4 percent). Virginiashot 65.3 percent from the free throw line in 1997-98 and the improvementto 73.4 percent marked the fifth best improvement in ACC history.
Virginia’s pressing defense caused 5.3 more turnovers per game than in1998, resulting in the most turnovers caused (an average of 16.8 a game)since 1979. The Cavaliers averaged a school-record 8.6 steals per game andestablished a school record with 257 steals. UVa had five players with atleast 30 steals for the first time in school history and Hand’s 57 stealswere the most by a Cavalier since Othell Wilson had 69 during the 1983-84season.
“I thought last year’s team did an excellent job going from a half courtman-to-man offense and a good, physical man-to-man defense that Virginiateams had played so well for many years, to an up-tempo running andpressing style with changing defenses and presses,” Gillen said. “Hopefullythis year, with a lot more depth, quickness and athleticism, we’ll bebetter adapted to play our up-tempo style. We recruited for that purpose,to get players who can press and run and move their feet. Those are thetype of guys we want, we want to try to recruit athletes and then work ontheir skills to make them even better basketball players.
“I think we’ll be better at our style of play. Having more depth willcertainly be a big plus and I think we’ll be quicker. We have more athletesand I think we’ll be a high energy team. We’ll be able to play a littlefaster and more aggressively than we did last year because of our improveddepth and quickness.”
Gillen is well aware of Virginia’s rebounding deficiencies of a year agoand knows the Cavaliers must improve their work on the boards. “Reboundingwas a big problem for us last year because we only had one player tallerthan 6-6 in our regular rotation after Colin Ducharme got hurt,” Gillensaid. “I think we’ll be a much better rebounding team. Colin Ducharme’sreturn is a big plus and we feel Travis Watson is a tremendous rebounder.Jason Rogers at 6-10 is going to be a very fine player and Stephane Dondonwill help us.
“We got out-rebounded by almost seven rebounds a game last year which isunbelievable, and some games we got beat on the boards by 25 or 30rebounds. You can’t win at this level of basketball with that kind ofdisparity in the rebounding.
“We were just overmatched from a size and strength standpoint last year. Itwas very difficult for our guys to play out of position against bigger men.Chris Williams did a great job on the boards last year for a freshman andDonald Hand got 4.8 rebounds a game as a point guard, but we’re going toneed Ducharme, Travis Watson, Rogers and Dondon to step up and help us. Ithink we’ll be a much better rebounding team because of our size, strengthand athleticism. We have to be because you can’t play at this level withoutbeing able to rebound.”
The Virginia head coach is pleased with the group of incoming recruits, butwants to give them an opportunity to get acclimated to the Virginiaprogram.
“I think we have an outstanding group of recruits coming in,” Gillen said.
“I don’t feel you can really measure recruits until two or three years downthe road, but we’re very excited about this group. We think these playersare the real deal, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse andproclaim too many great things until they’ve actually played here and shownwhat they can do.
“I think all five players will be impact players at Virginia. When each onewill be an impact player, time will tell. They all have the potential to becontributors in their first year in the program, but we understand it’s abig jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We think they’re terrific young men and good students, and they appreciatethe great school they’re going to be attending. My staff did a wonderfuljob. We have a group that blends together, and provides us with someversatility and athleticism.”
One thing the new players will provide is increased competition within theteam. Virginia’s practices should be spirited.
“I think this is a very important ingredient that was missing last yearwith only six healthy scholarship players,” Gillen said. “It was verydifficult at practice to have game-type situations. I think our practiceswill be more intense and more competitive, and I believe that will make usbetter during the season.
“A lot of times after games last season we couldn’t practice because wewere beat up and sore with several individuals playing too many minutes.This year the competition will help us. I feel we’ll be able to play atleast 10 players a game, sometimes 11. Hopefully we won’t have too manyinjuries, but if we have injuries we’ll be able to deal with them a littlebetter because of our depth and our numbers. I think the competition isgoing to help us a lot and make us a better team.”
Gillen also likes the versatility the Cavaliers improved depth provides.
“We should also have more flexibility,” Gillen said. “A good team is a teamthat can play different ways. We can play big with a couple of big guys, orwe can play small. A team that is versatile is usually a pretty good team.”Competition never hurt anybody. Competition is something you learn fromand you grow from, it’s not something you’re afraid of or worry about.Competition brings out the best in the competitors, and hopefully it willbring out the best in our team.”
The Virginia coaching staff has a new look this year. Assistant coaches TomHerrion and Walt Fuller remain, but assistant coach Bobby Gonzalez andadministrative assistant Michael Malone are gone. Gonzalez is now the headcoach at Manhattan College and Malone joined his staff as an assistantcoach. Scott Shepherd has joined the UVa staff as an assistant coach andAlex