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The Virginia men’s and women’s basketball programs held media day on Monday, Oct. 12. Below are excerpts from head men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett’s and head women’s basketball coach Debbie Ryan’s press conferences.

UVa head coach Tony Bennett
On official start of practice:
“We’re certainly looking forward to it. With the way the NCAA over the last few years has changed the rules, you get a little taste of it when you get to work for two hours a week with the team for about a month. So to be able to start building habits on a day-to-day basis will be crucial for us and I think that’s what every coach is looking forward to before we play.”

On the offensive style of the team:
“The offensive style is going to start with soundness. Trying to build some discipline and first and foremost trying to take care of the ball. That’s a constant that you have to have. We work hard at being, as we say, “ball-strong,” or sure with the ball. We’ll see how certain guys can score in certain situations and give guys freedom with hopefully good decision-making. But our style will certainly start at the defensive end. When the opportunities are there we’ll have the balance to get out and go at times, and we’ll be solid in the half court as well.”

On team building habits:
“The things we do from the system’s standpoint are different. How we want to shape the ball, using our terminology, and how we want to get the guys used to it on a daily basis. Just the things we want to emphasize. You’ve probably heard that it’s not what you teach, but what you emphasize. Until you can have enough times of “hey, you didn’t do it right” we’ll do it again and again, and we’ll do it the next day and until you get it right. We’ll have the things we call our “non-negotiables”, our areas, our constants. Certainly transition defense is one, as well as trying to be sure with the ball, trying to take good shots, trying to not give up second chance points, those kind of things.”

On teaching good defense and playing good defense:
“I think to be a good defensive team, it’s a challenge for the players and honestly it’s a challenge for the coach, too. You’ve got to constantly stay after them, you have to push them and you can’t yield on what’s important to you and what you emphasize. So it isn’t always the most appealing thing, but you always look at your program and think what is going to give us the chance to win. They have to understand it and it has to fit. I think you can talk defense, but they have to understand why they are doing this one on one drill, or this three on three drill, and why does it fit into the whole. I think they have to be rewarded when they do play the kind of defense that you want and we try to do that through positive affirmation. The commitment to it can’t be lukewarm. That’s our job as coaches and our players have to certainly acknowledge and buy into that.”

On commitment of the players:
“I think without a doubt, it’s a very hard working group. The effort is there. The way they talk, the way they train, their condition. I’ve been pleased with that, but I think every team in America has been working hard right now and we haven’t had to go through any adversity yet. That is going to be a significant test. How will we be when we go through some hard times? Will the character stay strong? Will the work ethic be there? Will the commitment to team over self win out? Those are the things that don’t happen overnight. They are part of building programs that are huge.”

On Virginia’s Sylven Landesburg, the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year:
“Sylven is a talented player and he really wants to be good. My challenge will be this, and I’ll say this publicly and I’ve said it to him, every good player I’ve been around, real good ones, they just find a way to make their teammates better. I believe he wants to do that, so I really want to challenge him. I’ve watched over the years and players figure out ways to do it.”

UVa head coach Debbie Ryan
On starting the season with 699 career wins and playing the first game on the road:
“The schedule is done long before you actually know anything like that. That’s my own fault. I would have won on the road anyways if I had won our last game of the season last year [in Los Angeles, Calif.] vs. Cal.”

On the emotional impact of the 700th win:
“It’s more about the pride that we take as a program and as a team – not as individuals. I honestly don’t feel like this belongs to me. I feel like it belongs to all of us. I haven’t scored a basket for the University of Virginia. Probably my biggest emotional part of it will be that I got to live this long to see it – that’s true.”

On the team’s schedule:
“It’s very exciting. I think there’s nine TV games and there’s two ESPN games and it’s a really exciting schedule. If you look at it, it’s just tough as nails. I imagine it will probably be right around a top 5-10 schedule in terms of RPI so it’s a very, very difficult schedule. Even when you look at some of the teams we added late, we really did a good job of keeping the RPI nice and low. I’m just really anxious and excited to get the season started and to see where we stand.”

On freshman guard China Crosby:
“She probably lends herself more to a Tora Suber who has the inside-outside game, a little bit toward Dawn Staley with her size and her ability to play bigger than she really is. She definitely plays bigger than she is. I’d say more along those lines, she can penetrate so well that it’s amazing. She just finds little cracks and crevices and just gets in there and either finishes herself or kicks it out. She is amazing.”

On who will emerge beyond senior guard Monica Wright:
I don’t know the answer to that. I would think that Paulisha Kellum left us scoring about 10 points per game, is ready to take over in that area. In the guard position, I just really couldn’t tell you because we are going to be so tested in terms of that. I do think Whitny Edwards can give us a lot more scoring. Lexie Gerson looks like a scorer to me. Telia McCall looks like a scorer to me.”

On finding a dominant rebounder:
“I really feel like Simone Egwu is that kind of player, a dominating rebounding player and I think that [assistant coach] Wendy [Palmer] being here is going to help a lot because Wendy was such a dominating rebounder. Telia McCall has the ability to rebound the basketball. Erinn Thompson is going to have to find a way. Chelsea Shine was an adequate rebounder last year.”

On the talent level of the program:
“I think the talent level is pretty high, and I don’t want to speak too soon, but there is a good level of talent there.”

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