March 25, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE — When they were first-year players, UVa competed in the College Basketball Invitational. That’s better than nothing, perhaps, but it doesn’t compare to the NIT or, of course, the NCAA tournament.
In men’s hoops, UVa’s Class of 2011 comprises Mike Scott, Jeff Jones, Mustapha Farrakhan, Sammy Zeglinski and Will Sherrill, though Zeglinski was granted a medical hardship waiver as a freshman and so will be eligible to return as a redshirt senior in 2011-12.
The Cavaliers’ roster next season will include those five players and at least five freshmen. Incoming recruits are likely to fill key roles in 2010-11, but Farrakhan, Zeglinski, Jones and Scott started in UVa’s final game this season, and Sherrill came off the bench to play 11 minutes.
“As I told them in our [recent] meetings, ‘You have an upper hand on guys coming in because you’ve been with me for a year now and you know what we need,’ ” Tony Bennett said on a teleconference Thursday morning, “and that leadership will be important.
“None of those guys have had postseason experience, an NIT or NCAA, so there’s certainly something that they desperately want, and I think that will definitely be a challenge for them.
“And the other challenge will be, in my opinion, they have to be a positive influence. They gotta try and show these first-year guys coming in the way. Just building a relationship with them. Because I know how important that is when the freshmen come in: that the seniors take them under their wing a little bit, just helping them out. Yeah, they’ll be competing for time and all that, but they still gotta treat them like they’re little brothers.”
The 2009-10 season was Bennett’s first at UVa, and there were many bumps along the way. He hopes that experience will strengthen the bond among his rising seniors and make them determined “to stick this thing out and finish it together, and be part of the foundation,” Bennett said.
“This group, they’ll be able to look back and say, ‘We were part of establishing some good things at Virginia.’ ”