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‘Hoos stepping up to fill void left by Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell at UVA?

uva basketballThe big question for UVA basketball coming into the 2014-2015 season had to do with who would step up to fill the voids left by the graduations of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell.

The foundational elements of the early Tony Bennett years at Virginia, Harris averaged 12.0 points per game in 28.8 minutes per game, shooting 40 percent from three-point range and 44.1 percent from the floor overall, while Mitchell averaged 6.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 25.7 minutes, shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and serving as the team’s defensive stopper.

Otherwise, Virginia returned seven of its top nine contributors from 2013-2014, and added a solid freshman class along with redshirt freshman point guard Devon Hall, so it wasn’t a question of talent in the pipeline, but rather productivity.

The early returns through four games, including a 59-42 win over George Washington, a 2014 NCAA Tournament participant, on Friday night, are looking good, and to answer the question as to who will be the guys to step up, it’s looking to be Justin Anderson and Darion Atkins as the primaries in that area.

Anderson, a 6’6” junior, was on the short list of suspects to the cause before the season. The 2014 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Anderson is the team’s leading scorer in 2014-2015, putting up 16.0 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game in 27.8 minutes per game on 52.5 percent shooting from the floor and 58.8 percent from three-point range. Last season, Anderson, in 21.5 minutes per game, averaged 7.8 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game on 40.7 percent shooting from the floor and 29.4 percent from three-point range.

Atkins, a 6’8” senior, is averaging 8.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 21.8 minutes per game in 2014-2015 and is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor, numbers that match up nicely to what Mitchell was able to provide in 2013-2014. Atkins last season played 10.4 minutes per game, averaging 3.0 points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game.

Continued improved production from Anthony Gill has also taken up some of the interior slack left behind by Mitchell. Gill is contributing 10.8 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game in 21.8 minutes per game in 2014-2015, up from the 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game he offered in 19.8 minutes per game in 2013-2014.

Junior seven-footer Mike Tobey has also stepped up a bit, at least statistically,  improving from 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes in 2013-2014 to 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in 17.0 minutes in 2014-2015, but after starting the first two games, Tobey has been coming off the bench behind Atkins the past two games.

– Column by Chris Graham