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Feb. 22, 2010
11:48 a.m.

MIAMI — After weeks of battling the cold and snow in Charlottesville, the UVa men’s basketball team is enjoying the semi-tropical climate of this South Florida city.

Forty-eight hours before the start of the Cavaliers’ next ACC game, however, Tony Bennett’s players were not in South Beach. Not even close. On this Sunday night, they were in study hall, just as they’d been earlier in the day.

“It’s always hard to really focus in on schoolwork when you got a big game coming up, especially with how it’s been the last five games,” junior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said after the session in a conference room at the team’s Miami hotel.

“We’re definitely focusing in on trying to right the ship. But academics is also an important part of being in school, and learning.”

Two study halls are scheduled for Monday, too, each lasting about an hour. UVa plays Miami at the BankUnited Center on Tuesday night.

“If it’s not build into the schedule, they’ll find anything to do other than take out a book and glance at it,” said Jim Booz, UVa’s associate athletics director for academic affairs.

Booz, who monitors the players’ academic progress throughout the school year, schedules and oversees the study halls on the road.

“We just want to make sure they have the opportunity to continue the progress they’re making,” Booz said Monday morning, “whether that’s completing assignments that are due, preparing for exams they have to take when they get home, or catching up on reading they have to do for their classes.

“Obviously, by missing class, they miss the in-class discussions, but if they do the reading, they’re not as far behind.”

On Sunday night, the players were spread around four tables. About 40 minutes in, Booz had a representative from each table stand up behind a lectern and address the rest of the team.

The assignment for each speaker: talk about something he’d learned in his reading that evening. The speakers were Farrakhan, Sylven Landesberg, Will Sherrill and Jerome Meyinsse, and their topics ranged from the short-selling of stocks to the money-making machine that is University of North Carolina basketball.

“We don’t do that every time,” Booz said, “but I try to build in something where they have to articulate what they’ve learned. If they have to talk about it, then they’re more likely to retain something.”

Farrakhan has two exams to take when he returns to Charlottesville, so he brought work for each of those classes with him on a road trip that started with a visit to Clemson.

“Study hall’s never fun,” Farrakhan said, “but we know it’s a part of it, so we’ve just got to do it.”

­Jeff White

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