How do you get Virginia freshman De’Andre Hunter more minutes?
Since getting on the floor for just six minutes in UVA’s 59-58 ACC opening win over Boston College on Dec. 30, Hunter has averaged 22.8 minutes per game, and has scored in double figures in five of the six games in that span, putting in 12.3 points a game, shooting 59.2 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range.
Going deeper, Hunter has provided interesting lineup flexibility for coach Tony Bennett. Nominally a 6’7” guard, Hunter has been getting the bulk of his minutes in ACC play at the four spot, essentially stealing minutes from starting center Jack Salt and redshirt sophomore Mamadi Diakite.
Salt has averaged 17.3 minutes per game over Virginia’s last six; Diakite just 8.5.
With Hunter on the floor, Isaiah Wilkins, a 6’7” senior, slides over to the five, giving Bennett a death lineup with two 6’7” forwards, two 6’5” guards (Devon Hall and Ty Jerome) and 6’2” Kyle Guy, all rated in the top 12 in the ACC in defensive efficiency, all capable of scoring from the perimeter, creating their own shots, and in the lane.
Back to the wish list, and how Hunter can get more minutes. Unfortunately, that’s not so easy.
Salt doesn’t fill out the stat sheet, but he brings elite post defense in his 20.3 minutes per game, his 89.0 defensive rating ranking ninth in the ACC.
Hunter’s minutes would be more likely to come at the expense of Wilkins or Hall, but those two are the team’s glue guys, so that’s not happening.
Diakite, unfortunately for him, seems the odd man out. His minutes have been dwindling as Hunter has been emerging of late, Diakite playing the role of Darion Atkins to Hunter’s Akil Mitchell.
At this stage, the extra minutes for Hunter, which are coming, will be a couple more from Salt, a couple more from Diakite.
You can’t start him, but you have to have him on the floor when it’s time to finish.
It’s a nice problem to have, having Hunter giving you the productivity and the flexibility that he has been giving of late, knowing that he’s only going to get better as the calendar flips.
Story by Chris Graham