Bennett on Jay Huff: Bright future, but it will take time
Virginia coach Tony Bennett, whose opinion on this is pretty important, is counseling patience in the here and now.
“I think that, for bigger guys, a seven-footer, I think the adjustment sometimes is harder. The adjustment period takes a little longer,” Bennett said Tuesday, talking about the redshirt freshman seven-footer, who is averaging 5.0 points per game in 12.8 minutes per game.
But Huff has only seen action in five games, with the bulk of his minutes, and production, coming in UVA’s 93-49 win over Austin Peay on Nov. 13, the team’s second game of the season.
What fans saw that night – Huff was 7-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-2 from three-point range in 24 minutes, with four rebounds and five blocked shots – was tantalizing.
Since that game, Huff has played a total of 40 minutes, going 4-of-7 from the floor, with six rebounds and three blocks.
Bennett sees the potential that the fans see. The challenge for Huff, according to his coach, is defensively, “being against to go against the pace of the game, the physicality.”
“All those things are there. He’s just got to keep taking steps,” Bennett said.
Big men do seem to have a steeper learning curve in the Bennett system. Think back to Anthony Gill, who averaged double-digits as a junior and senior, but as a sophomore, after a redshirt year following his transfer from South Carolina, could barely get on the floor, averaging just 19.8 minutes per game despite being that team’s best post threat.
Another talented seven-footer, Mike Tobey, now playing in Europe after a season in the NBA, never averaged more than 18.1 minutes per game at Virginia.
Bigs have to be able to do a lot on both ends of the floor. On offense, they’re constantly setting screens and then either rolling to the basket or popping to the perimeter; on defense, they’re responsible for hedging on guards on ball screens on the perimeter before scrambling back to their man in the lane, in addition to their duties in post-to-post doubles and straight-up man defense in the lane.
Patience. That’s the message from Bennett with regard to Huff.
“He’s in his first year,” Bennett said. “I think there will be some opportunities here and there, and as he continues to improve, he’s got a bright future. But it is a process, and I think for bigger guys, it takes a little longer.”
Story by Chris Graham