By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa men’s basketball fans do not have to wait until Nov. 12 for a look at Tony Bennett’s team and its highly regarded first-year class. Hoops is on the schedule at John Paul Jones Arena this weekend.
A week after their closed scrimmage at Marquette, the Cavaliers will be in public view Saturday. At 4 p.m., UVa meets Division III Roanoke College in an exhibition game at JPJ.
“It’ll be good to see how some guys respond when we’re playing the first time in front of a crowd in the arena,” said Bennett, whose team went 15-16 in 2009-10, his first season at Virginia.
UVa opens the season Nov. 12 against William and Mary at JPJ.
This has been an intense week of practice for the Wahoos, who returned from Milwaukee with a lengthy list of areas to address. Bennett said he’s seen progress from his players.
“I have,” he said. “Against each other, I have. That’s the value of it: You play a team and they expose some areas that we’ve really worked on, and those have been key points to focus on this week, and we’ve done a better job in practice, though we can’t replicate some of the things we went against.”
Roanoke won’t be as big or quick or strong or talented as Marquette. Still, Bennett said, the exhibition game will be valuable for his team.
“I want to see a little more soundness and a little more consistency maybe than at Marquette,” Bennett said. “At Marquette we were up and down. I know it’s a a different opponent, but I want to see the ability to sustain a little longer than just the short moments as we did last weekend.”
Junior guard Sammy Zeglinski is off crutches, but his return from knee surgery is still more than a month away. That leaves Bennett with five scholarships players for the three perimeter spots: point guards Jontel Evans and Billy Baron and wings Joe Harris, K.T. Harrell and Mustapha Farrakhan. (Baron, Harris and Harrell are freshmen.)
Look for all five to be in the rotation, at least until Zeglinski returns. Bennett has more options at power forward and center, and “that’s a little more challenging. That’s where we have to make some decisions, and that’s evolving.”
Junior Assane Sene and seniors Mike Scott and Will Sherrill figure to play significant roles in the frontcourt this season. Bennett has yet to determine how he’ll use first-year big men Akil Mitchell, Will Regan and James Johnson.
Sene, a 7-0 center from Senegal, has been a revelation in preseason practice. He’s added much-needed weight and strength — Sene is up to about 242 pounds — and for the first time as a Cavalier has shown the ability to cleanly catch the ball and finish around the basket.
“He’s done a good job this fall,” Bennett said. “He’s worked hard, he’s shown some good signs in practice, and my hope is that he’ll just keep coming.”
The exhibition game is part of UVa’s season-ticket package. For other fans, tickets are $10 and $15. For ticket information, visit www.virginiasports.com or call (800) 542-8821.