By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On the roster, Tristan Spurlock is listed as a guard/forward. But at 6-8, 217 pounds, he’s one of the bigger players on UVa’s basketball team, and the loss of Jamil Tucker means Spurlock is likely to be logging more time in the frontcourt.
First-year coach Tony Bennett announced Tuesday night that Tucker, a 6-9, 235-pound senior, had been dismissed from the program for academic reasons.
“We expect our student-athletes to perform to certain standards academically, and Jamil has not met those standards,” Bennett said in a statement.
Tucker took a personal leave of absence before the season. After Thanksgiving, he started practicing with the team again, but he didn’t play in any games while UVa officials awaited his first-semester grades.
For his career, Tucker made 43.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in ACC games.
“I was hoping to be get a chance to see that silky-smooth jump shot, but that won’t be the case,” Bennett said Tuesday night on his weekly radio show.
With Tucker’s status resolved, Bennett goes forward knowing he’ll have no more than four post players — five, if Spurlock is included in that group — available for any game this season. Assane Sene and Jerome Meyinsse are UVa’s centers, and Will Sherrill and Mike Scott are the power forwards.
Scott, however, suffered a high-ankle sprain Dec. 5 and hasn’t played since. Fortunately for the Cavaliers (5-4), they’ve played only twice since then — losing to Auburn on Dec. 7 and beating New Jersey Institute of Technology on Monday night — but Scott is doubtful for Hampton’s visit to John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday night.
With the 6-8, 239-pound junior in the low post, the Wahoos are “a different team,” Bennett noted Monday night. Scott leads the team in rebounding and is second in scoring.
“He’s progressing, and I don’t think there’s any major harm,” Bennett said on his radio show. “It’s just a matter of getting it strong enough and well enough to cut, to jump, to move.”
If Scott can’t go Wednesday night — and he’s more likely to return Dec. 30 against UAB — Virginia probably will start Sherrill and Sene inside against the Pirates (2-9). Both played well in UVa’s 68-37 rout of NJIT.
In 22 minutes, the 6-9 Sherrill totaled 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. The 7-0 Sene played a season-high 28 minutes and had 11 rebounds, 4 points, 2 blocked shots, 1 assist and 1 steal.
“It was great for me to be in there and playing a lot,” Sene said. “I was doing what Coach needed me to do.”
The announced attendance Monday night at JPJ was 7,264, but that figure represented the number of tickets distributed for the game. Because of the weather, the actual attendance was closer to 1,500, and the lack of buzz in the arena was noticeable.
“I don’t want to say that that affected us early in the game, but you just have to create your own energy,” Sherrill said, “and even in a game where it’s a sold-out crowd, if the team doesn’t have energy, you’re not going to perform well. We did come out flat, but we kind of fought through that little adversity in the beginning of the game and started playing a lot better, especially on the defensive end.”
Spurlock hadn’t left the bench in Virginia’s previous four games, but the freshman from Woodbridge played the final 5:05 against NJIT and scored a season-high 6 points.
His ability on the offensive end, though, has never been an issue. Defensive lapses have limited Spurlock’s playing time at UVa.
He’s been working to improve in that area and believes he’s making progress.
“There were a couple times during practices where I felt like, ‘Man, this might be too much, this might not be it,'” Spurlock said. “But never did I feel like I was going to just give up and quit. I’m not a quitter. I’ve never been raised to quit. So I just felt like I had to work that much harder, I had to push myself that much more.”