Cavaliers Hope To Meet Increased Expectations In 2001-02 Season
Dec. 3, 2001
As the University of Virginia men’s basketball team prepares for its fourth season under head coach Pete Gillen, the evidence of how far the Cavaliers have come in three short years is not difficult to find. A quick glance back to last season provides a long list of accomplishments, including 20 wins, a second consecutive 9-7 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, four wins over Top 10 teams, an NCAA Tournament invitation, and final rankings of 16th in The Associated Press Poll and 21st in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Virginia was recently ranked 11th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
UVa’s fast-paced style of play energized its fans at University Hall where the Cavaliers compiled a 14-1 record, the best home winning percentage in the ACC (.933) during the 2000-01 season. Five UVa players averaged in double figures and a sixth averaged 8.4 points a game as Virginia ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (85.0 ppg.) and 20th in the nation in scoring margin (+10.2).
“I thought last season was a very successful season,” Gillen says. “We made some significant strides with our basketball program and our players received some postseason recognition, but it’s important to realize we still have a long way to go. We need to do a better job on the road, especially against the elite teams in our conference, and we have to get a little bigger and stronger.”
“Our fans were wonderful again last season, as good as any in the country. We made the NCAA Tournament and that was great. That was one of our goals. Hopefully, in the near future, we can get in the tournament again and win some games. It’s not easy to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament in our great conference.
After the success of the last two seasons, expectations figure to be high for Virginia in 2001-02.
“We don’t want to stop here. We want to try and reach the NCAA Tournament again, hopefully this season, and then win some games and advance in the tournament.
“I think expectations will be higher for the coming season,” Gillen says. “We’ll have higher expectations of ourselves, but each year you start at ground zero. You start from scratch and must do it all over again. Whatever happened last year is last year. That won’t help you this year in terms of concrete wins and losses. It will help your confidence, determination and the intangibles, but as far as productivity is concerned, you have to produce again.UVa has nine lettermen, including four starters, returning from last year’s 20-9 team. Four of Virginia’s returning players earned conference recognition last season. The Cavaliers should also be bolstered by four highly-regarded freshmen. UVa, however, suffered some significant losses with the departure of five lettermen. Gone from last year’s team are starting point guard Donald Hand, three-point shooting threat Keith Friel, forward Stephane Dondon, and guards Josh Hare and Greg Lyons.
The Cavaliers also got some bad news in early October when point guard Majestic Mapp decided he would undergo another operation on his right knee, meaning he would miss his second consecutive season in 2001-02.
Mapp was the leading candidate to replace Hand at the point guard position. The 6-2 red-shirt sophomore missed all of last season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in August of 2000.
As a freshman during the 1999-2000 season, Mapp provided valuable minutes at the point guard position. He played in all 31 games, starting two, and averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 assists and 18.7 minutes of playing time a game. An excellent passer, he was second on the team in assists (69) and fourth among ACC freshmen that season in that department.
“Majestic Mapp is a fine young man and a terrific player,” Gillen says. “There was some uncertainty as to Majestic’s status for this season. He made the decision to have the operation now so he would have time to rehabilitate before next season. Hopefully he’ll be ready to play next summer and set to go for the 2002-03 season.”
With the loss of Mapp, Roger Mason, Jr., could move into the starting position at point guard. Mason started opposite Hand in the backcourt and also served as the backup point guard last season. He could see a lot more action at point guard for the Cavaliers in 2001-02.Mason emerged as a key player on last year’s team, leading the Cavaliers in scoring with an average of 15.7 points a game (sixth in the ACC) and leading the ACC in free throw percentage (88.4 percent, 122-138). He made 45 consecutive free throw attempts during a nine-game stretch of the season. The 6-5 junior earned third-team All-ACC honors and his free throw percentage established a Virginia record. He was second on the team in assists (72, 2.5 apg.), averaged 3.7 rebounds a game and shared the team’s Most Valuable Player Award with Travis Watson.”[Roger] is a tremendous player and still has room to get better,” Gillen says. “If he stays healthy, he has a chance to have a terrific third year.”
Another versatile perimeter player for Virginia is 6-5 senior Adam Hall. An extremely athletic player and the team’s best defender, Hall averaged 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game while shooting a team-leading 50.6 percent (118-233) from the field last season. He was selected to the 2001 ACC All-Defensive Team after consistently drawing the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer as his defensive assignment. He also improved his free throw shooting and shot 81.5 percent (22-27) from the free throw line in the last 10 games of 2000-01.
“Adam Hall had a terrific third year,” Gillen says. “He made the ACC All-Defensive Team which is not easy to do. He sacrificed some of his offense to help us win. Adam can guard a point guard, a two-guard or a small forward on the perimeter. In a pinch, he can also guard a four-man.”
Maurice Young is expected to compete for increased playing time at the small forward position in 2001-02. The 6-4 Young played in 25 games in a reserve capacity last season and averaged 2.6 points a game. He twice earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors a year ago.
Providing depth at the guard positions are freshmen Keith Jenifer, Jermaine Harper and Bret Gladstone, and senior Jason Dowling. The loss of Mapp for the season provides an opportunity for Jenifer and Harper, in particular, to earn playing time at point guard.
Jenifer is a point guard from Baltimore, Md., who played at Hargrave Military Academy last season. He averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds a game for Hargrave.
Up front, UVa could have more depth than it’s had in any of Gillen’s three previous seasons as head coach. Senior Chris Williams and junior Travis Watson head the list of returning players which also includes sophomore J.C. Mathis and junior Jason Rogers.
Williams has started for the Cavaliers since his freshman season and has been a model of consistency. The 6-7 forward earned third-team All-ACC honors in 2000-01 when he averaged 14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game, while shooting 50.3 percent from the field (147-292) and 76.0 percent (95-125) from the free throw line. He ranked third in the ACC in field goal percentage, 10th in scoring, rebounding and defensive rebounds (4.41 pg.), 11th in free throw percentage, 12th in offensive rebounds (2.24 pg.) and 13th in steals (1.52 spg.) last season. He joins Hall and Mason as 2001-02 tri-captains and also served as a tri-captain last season.
“I thought Chris had a terrific year last year,” Gillen said. “I call him the ‘silent assassin’ because he might score 21 points and you don’t even realize it. I thought he had a tremendously consistent season and made third-team All-ACC. He usually has his best games against the best teams.”
Watson has anchored Virginia’s front line for the last two seasons while providing the Cavaliers with a physical presence inside. A true power forward at 6-8 and 255 pounds, he’s more than held his own while playing against some of the finest collegiate centers in the nation. Last year he battled through five significant injuries to play in every game for Virginia and start all but one. Watson earned second-team All-ACC honors last season when he averaged 12.3 points a game and ranked second in the conference with an average of 9.1 rebounds a game. He led the team in blocked shots with 35 and made 49.7 percent (149-300) of his shots from the field. He led the ACC in double-doubles (13) and offensive rebounds (3.45 pg.) last season, ranked second in defensive rebounds (5.66 pg.), was fourth in the conference in field goal percentage and ranked eighth in blocked shots (1.21 bpg.).
A fierce rebounder, Watson led the Cavaliers in rebounding 20 times during the 2000-01 season and was in double figures in rebounds 14 times. He is just the second player in the history of the UVa program to have more than 500 rebounds (522) in his first two seasons (Ralph Sampson is the other) and he has 21 double-doubles for his career. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 8.7 rebounds a game for his Virginia career, and has made 51.4 percent (286-556) of his shots from the field.
“Travis had a tremendous sophomore season,” Gillen says. “He was voted second-team All-ACC and I think people appreciated what a great job he did. He was our inside scoring presence, was the second leading rebounder in the ACC and had more double-doubles than anyone else in the conference. Many times he was out-sized and out-weighed, but he did a marvelous job.
The 6-8, 224-pound Mathis made significant improvement during the 2000-01 season and was a key reserve for the Cavaliers. An aggressive player, he averaged 3.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 11.9 minutes of playing time a game while playing in every game a year ago. He earned ACC Co-Rookie of the Week honors for his play in UVa’s victories over two nationally-ranked teams, Maryland and Wake Forest.
The 6-11 Rogers has lettered twice for the Cavaliers. He played in 16 games last season and averaged 1.9 points a game.
Freshmen Elton Brown (Newport News, Va.) and Jason Clark (Virginia Beach, Va.) are expected to make an immediate impact for the Cavaliers in 2001-02. The 6-9, 265-pound Brown played at Warwick High School last year and averaged 28.4 points and 9.8 rebounds a game, while the 6-8, 225-pound Clark was a teammate of Jenifer’s at Hargrave Military Academy. Clark averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds a game last season.
Virginia ranked fourth in the nation in scoring last season and Gillen believes his team will be solid offensively again in 2001-02. What remains to be seen is whether the Cavaliers will approach the 85 points a game they averaged last season.
“We’ve lost two good scorers in Donald Hand and Keith Friel who accounted for 21 points a game,” Gillen said. “Donald was a scoring point guard and Keith a great perimeter shooter. That’s a concern, but I think we’ll be able to score. We’re going to have to score more off our defense and with our quickness. I still think we’ll be a very good scoring team.”