By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After getting out of surgery Tuesday, University of Virginia point guard Jontel Evans stopped by John Paul Jones Arena, where basketball practice was about to begin.
“As soon as he was done, actually, he came in here with his mom,” Joe Harris said Tuesday evening, “and he said he just wanted to see his teammates and tell us that everything went well.”
Pain in his right foot forced Evans, a 5-11 senior from Hampton who goes by “Bub,” to pull out of a practice last week, and tests revealed a stress fracture. Evans, who has started 70 games for UVa, had surgery Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined about six weeks.
“Jontel, obviously, he’s got a strong mind, and he’s a quick healer, so hopefully he’ll be back soon,” fourth-year coach Tony Bennett said Tuesday night. “It was something that needed to be done, and everything went well. It’s unfortunate. You don’t want to have to miss your preseason.”
Bennett smiled. “Although maybe when you’re a veteran, you want to miss the preseason. I don’t know.”
The Cavaliers, coming off a season in which they advanced to the NCAA tournament, open Nov. 9 against George Mason in Fairfax. Evans is likely to miss the opener, and sophomore Malcolm Brogdon, who can play both guard positions, may not be available, either.
“With Malcolm still not back, it limits us a little bit,” Bennett said, “but it’s a great opportunity for other guys to get the reps.”
The 6-5 Brogdon was the Wahoos’ sixth man for much of last season. In early March, though, he had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. Brogdon, who averaged 6.7 points as a freshman, didn’t play during the team’s tour of Europe in August and has yet to be cleared for full participation.
“Progress is slow, but he’s progressing,” Bennett said.
Virginia’s other options at the point include 5-11 senior Doug Browman, a walk-on from Midlothian; Taylor Barnette, a 6-2 freshman from Lexington, Ky.; Teven Jones, a 6-0 freshman from Kannapolis, N.C.; and, perhaps, Harris, a 6-6 junior from Chelan, Wash. (Another point guard, walk-on Justin Miller, has been slowed by a foot injury.)
“It’ll have to be by committee,” Bennett said.
Harris, who averaged 11.3 points in 2011-12, is UVa’s top returning scorer. He’s most comfortable on the wing, but Harris briefly ran the point in Europe and said he’ll play wherever the coaching staff wants him to.
“I’ve played quite a few positions in my career thus far,” Harris said.
Evans, a graduate of Bethel High School, is the only senior among the scholarship players on UVa’s roster. As a junior, he led the ‘Hoos with 124 assists and 50 steals and was named to the ACC’s all-defensive team. He also emerged as an offensive threat, averaging 7.3 points in 2011-12.
“As long as we can get him back [soon], I know I’ll be happy, and so will the rest of the team,” Harris said.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for Bub, going into his senior year. He’s team captain, he had a great summer, played really well in Europe, and now he’s got kind of a minor setback. But he said the surgery and everything went well today. Bub’s got real high spirits, and he’s got the right attitude, I feel, to come back.”
Injuries have hammered Bennett’s program in recent years. Forwards Mike Scott and Will Sherrill missed much of the 2010-11 season with injuries, and then in 2011-12 UVa lost Brogdon and center Assane Sene to medical issues.
Harris didn’t miss any games last season, but he played the final month with a broken left hand that limited his effectiveness. And now comes Evans’ setback.
“Let’s get it out of the way right away so we’re good through the whole year,” Bennett said.
Virginia’s home opener is Nov. 12 against Fairfield. That will be the Cavaliers’ first game in the NIT Season Tip-Off. To advance to Madison Square Garden in New York City, UVa must defeat Fairfield and then get past Delaware or Penn the next night at JPJ.