Barclays for the holiday: UVA basketball returns to New York City

New York City hasn’t been kind to UVA basketball the past couple of years. The 2012-2013 Cavs were booked for a trip to Madison Square Garden as part of the Preseason NIT, but were upset in the early rounds of the tournament and missed out on the trip.

Then the 2013-2014 squad made it to Midtown Manhattan for the Sweet Sixteen, but the #1 seed was upset by Michigan State in front of a largely orange-and-blue crowd.

Which gets us to 2014-2015. Virginia basketball is heading back to the Big Apple for the Nov. 28-29 Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, opening against LaSalle on Friday night, with Rutgers and Vanderbilt also in town for the second game on Saturday.

There’s work involved, sure, but there are other aspects of the return to NYC that have the players buzzing.

“Jay Z, one of the people who helped build that place, he’s my favorite musician, and I can’t wait to see what he’s done there and see all of the cool things that I’ve heard about that place. So I can’t wait to get there,” junior guard Justin Anderson said.

“It’s huge for us. I’m excited to be able to play in another NBA arena,” sophomore point guard London Perrantes said.

To be sure, the players know that it’s a business trip, and that the business of basketball is winning games. If they need anyone to remind them of that, taskmaster Tony Bennett is at the ready.

“To go into that setting with your team, those are good opportunities to see where you’re at,” Bennett said. “Certainly going to tournaments, and everybody’s playing in these tournaments now. There are quality teams there. You’re playing in a beautiful arena. I’ve never been in the Barclays Center, but all those things are positive.

“It’s really all geared toward finding out about our team,” Bennett said. “You don’t want to get to the conference and find out I don’t know what we’re made of. You want to put yourself in the spots where you have to play on the road, you have to play different quality opponents, different style of opponents so you really have a good gauge of where you’re at and try to be as ready as you can for conference play.”

Junior forward Anthony Gill sees the value for the talented freshman class that has not had the experience of playing in a tournament setting.

“Just going back into that kind of environment, where we’re playing in such a nice arena, it’s good for the freshmen to see,” Gill said. “They didn’t go with us to the tournament last year. For them to see that and to experience something like that is going to be fun, and it’s going to be good for the growth of this program.”

So yes, it’s a business trip, but a business trip doesn’t have to all business. For Mike Tobey, for example, a native of Monroe, N.Y., a one-hour, 27-minute drive from New York City, it’s the chance to have family and friends in abundance in the gym to see him play on the big stage.

“I can’t wait to play in the Barclays Center. We got to play in MSG, now Barclays Center. I’m from New York, so I’m excited about that,” Tobey said.

– Column by Chris Graham


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