By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa sophomore Sylven Landesberg stood outside the lobby of the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C., a piece of paper in his hand.
“This is going up on my wall,” Landesberg said Sunday evening, waving the results of voting at ACC Operation Basketball.
The media picked its preseason all-ACC team Sunday, and Landesberg wasn’t on it. He finished sixth in the voting, behind Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, Clemson’s Trevor Brooker, Duke’s Kyle Singler, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney and North Carolina’s Ed Davis.
“That’s motivation,” said Landesberg, who in 2008-09 was named the ACC’s rookie of the year.
A 6-6 guard from Queens, N.Y., Landesberg led the Cavaliers in scoring, free throws made (and attempted) and minutes played last season. He was second in rebounds and assists.
Landesberg shot only 31.4 percent from 3-point range, but he expects to be more accurate this season. He’ll need to be, because opponents are well aware of his ability to slash to the basket, and late last season they started leaving him open on the perimeter.
“I felt like every time I did drive or penetrate, there were multiple people being thrown at me, and at times I got frustrated and tried to force things instead of making the smart decision and finding an open teammate,” Landesberg said.
“But this year, the whole summer I worked on basically just my jump shot. Got tons of shots up, and I feel like my jump shot improved tremendously. So this year I’m hoping it’ll be a lot harder to guard me, with teams worrying about my outside ability and being able to get to the basket.”
NOTHING TO IT: Landesberg’s new coach, Tony Bennett, made 49.7 percent of his 3-point attempts during an illustrious career at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
That’s still an NCAA record, and Bennett, from all accounts, hasn’t lost his touch.
Asked if he ever challenged his players to games of H-O-R-S-E, Bennett smiled and shook his head. “That’d be like taking candy from a baby,” he said.
THE WRIGHT STUFF: Landesberg has become the face of the men’s program. On the women’s side, that distinction belongs to senior guard Monica Wright, who Monday was named the ACC’s preseason player of the year at the conference’s media day in Greensboro.
Wright is the only senior, in terms of athletic eligibility, on Debbie Ryan’s team this season. The roster includes five freshmen who’ll look to Wright as a mentor.
Her early impressions of the class?
“They all came in with a great mentality, they all came in ready to work,” Wright said. “There have been zero problems at all from our first-years.”
The newcomers include 5-6 point guard China Crosby, the first McDonald’s All-American to join the program since Wright.
“She’s definitely been a shining light,” Wright said. “She’s been working hard. She’s someone that wants to get better. You can see it.
“She’s so eager to get better, and she thinks the game, which is rare for a freshman, to have that high [a basketball] IQ. But she definitely has it, and it’s important being a point guard.
SHAPING UP: When he graduated from Word of Life Christian Academy in the spring, Tristan Spurlock weighed 220 pounds.
“I’m at 216 right now,” Spurlock said at UVa’s media day this month.
Like his teammates, the 6-8 forward raves about Virginia’s new strength-and-conditioning coach, Mike Curtis.
“He trimmed me down, but he’s definitely bulking me back up now,” Spurlock said. “In the summer, I remember I tried to do one body-weight pull-up, and I kind of struggled. Now I can do eight or nine pull-ups with a 20-pound vest on. So he’s definitely got me a lot stronger.
“I can feel it when I’m going to the basket. I’ve always been a pretty good athlete, but now I’m jumping probably higher than I’ve ever jumped before. The other day I hit my head on the rim. It’s definitely helping me.”
TRICK OR TREAT: In football, UVa plays at home Saturday for the second straight week. In a Coastal Division game, Virginia (2-1, 3-4) hosts ACC rival Duke (2-1, 4-3) at 3:30 p.m.
The Cavaliers’ record on Halloween is 5-8. They haven’t played an Oct. 31 game since 1998, when they crushed Wake Forest 38-17. UVa hasn’t played at home on Halloween since 1992.
DECISION DELAYED: An announcement was expected Monday on the starting time for Virginia’s Nov. 7 football game at ACC foe Miami. ABC/ESPN and Raycom, however, chose to exercise six-day options on four games, including UVa’s.
The announcement will be made no later than noon on Sunday.
RAISING HIS GAME: If it’s Monday, Nate Collins must be the ACC defensive lineman of the week.
Collins was so honored two days after UVa’s Oct. 17 win at Maryland, and he repeated this week. (He’s sharing the honor with Duke lineback Vincent Rey this time.)
A 6-2, 290-pound senior, Collins had a career-high 16 tackles, 10 of which were unassisted, in Virginia’s 34-9 loss to No. 11 Georgia Tech. Two of his tackles were for loss.
“It seemed like he was in on almost every tackle,” inside linebacker Steve Greer said Monday. “Sometimes I was trying to get there, and he was already there way before me.”
In the Cavaliers’ first six games, Collins played defensive end. He moved to nose tackle — his position in 2006, ’07 and ’08 — for the Georgia Tech game.
Collins is “a player who’s got good versatility on [the regular defense], where he can play a couple spots, and because of that versatility also has a role on the dime team,” Groh said. “That’s very valuable to us, and there’s a good likelihood that that might prove to be very valuable to Nate in the future.”
Asked about Collins’ prospects for playing in the NFL, Groh said, “His athletic ability is quite a plus for him, and that’s going to give him a chance.”
COMING ON: Tight end Colter Phillips entered the Georgia Tech game looking for his first reception as a Cavalier. The 6-6, 245-pound redshirt freshman finished the game with two catches, for 20 yards, and ran a short kickoff back 9 yards.
“He did a nice job yesterday,” Groh said Sunday night. “I was pleased with what he showed, and on the basis of that, he certainly, probably will get some more time.
“As we’ve talked about in the case of developmental players, he really wasn’t ready for this earlier in the year. But he applies himself every day, he’s a good practice player, and he did a real nice job on special teams yesterday. And so the jobs we’ve given to him he’s starting to grow into more.”
EXPANDED ROLE: On an afternoon when the Cavaliers’ other starting defensive linemen, Collins and left end Zane Parr, had 16 and 12 tackles, respectively, John-Kevin Dolce’s total of seven was more modest.
But the 6-2, 245-pound Dolce, heretofore a nose tackle this season, played well at right end in his first start as a Wahoo.
“He didn’t have the kind of numbers that the other two did, but he certainly gave us a very positive performance,” Groh said.
“There was one play early where he was in the backfield and had a chance for a negative play on the quarterback, and [Yellow Jackets QB Josh] Nesbitt eluded him. But there were really very few plays in the game that you could realistically or honestly say, ‘Oh, gee, we wish somebody else was in there other than John-Kevin.'”