Landesberg’s Oscar moment
Basketball honors like Rookie of the Year awards are not like the Oscars where we only see the best results of an actor or director’s work. We see ballers turning the ball over on fast breaks and airballing wide-open threes and getting lit up off the dribble in the course of a season of action on the hardwood.
But that’s not to say that they don’t have their Oscar moments, too. I had Sylven Landesberg on the line this afternoon to talk about his ACC Rookie of the Year award, and I had this in mind as I was thinking about his bravura performance Feb. 15 at home against Clemson in an 85-81 UVa. win – 23 points on 11-of-21 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, and more significantly to me, Coach Dave Leitao made sure the ball was in Landesberg’s hands every possession down the stretch in regulation and in the overtime period.
So, Sylven, your Oscar moment …
“I would have to say the Clemson game,” said Landesberg, who led all ACC freshman in scoring (16.8 points per game) and floor time (34.1 minutes per game). “That was my first win against a national team, and our first win against a national team this year. So I think that was a pretty big win, and I would say me and our whole team stepped up big time in the overtime, late in the game, to help get that win. That was just a great feeling, especially at home, with all the fans getting into it. That really helped us out a lot,” Landesberg said.
The 6-6 guard came to Charlottesville with a ton of hype and more even in the way of expectations on his shoulders as the Virginia program’s first McDonald’s All-American since Majestic Mapp in the late 1990s. He rarely disappointed, coming out of the gate with a 28-point performance off the bench in the Wahoos’ season-opening 107-97 win against VMI and adding 11 more 20-point games to his resume on the season. He came up especially big in UVa.’s four ACC wins, averaging 20.5 points in the victories against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia Tech and on Sunday at home against Maryland. He did have a bit of a rough patch down the stretch in back-to-back-to-back games against Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson, scoring just 8.8 points per game while going a combined 6-for-23 from the field in three Cavs losses.
“Those three or four games, I just got a little frustrated, defenses just started playing me differently, a lot of things were going on,” Landesberg said. “Just worrying about the Rookie of the Year award, it never really crossed my mind, but I guess at one point I thought about it, and I thought I might not have a chance to get it now. But I just tried to work through my struggles.”
Landesberg conceded that winning the Rookie of the Year award “was a goal of mine” coming into his freshman season. “I always thought I was underrated, but I felt like I could compete with the top of my class. And I felt like it was more possible to happen when I kept racking up ACC Rookie of the Week awards. I didn’t know about them until people came up and told me about them after they happened. After that, I was like, Well, I might have a chance now,” Landesberg said.
But he has things in perspective, as we like to try to say about our story subjects in sports writing. “When Coach Leitao told me I had won this award, I was happy, but then he also told me that I was honorable mention for the All-ACC team. And when I heard that, that’s what really stood out to me. I wasn’t happy about that,” Landesberg said. “He told me there were three teams, and then with the three honorable mention there were 18 people. So I just started thinking, If people think there are 18 people better than me in the ACC, then that means I have a lot of work to do. After I heard that, I totally forgot about the Rookie of the Year award and just started thinking about concentrating on that. That’s really going to be my main focus of my work ethic for the whole summer, just try to change people’s opinions about me, try to work my way up,” Landesberg said.
– Story by Chris Graham