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Leitao looks ahead to ’08-’09

Story by Chris Graham

Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show,” featuring an interview with UVa. basketball coach Dave Leitao. Show Length: 11:20.

uvaduke1.gifEleventh in scoring defense. Eleventh in field-goal-percentage defense. Eleventh in three-point-percentage defense.

Eleventh in steals. Twelth in blocked shots.

It’s hard to win when you can’t stop the other team from scoring.

This message was reinforced to Virginia basketball coach Dave Leitao this season.

And it will be a focal point for Leitao and his staff in the offseason.

“From this point where we’re at right now until school gets out after final exams, we can still have some semblance of organized not necessarily full-out practice, but organized basketball with coaching instruction. So obviously we’ll use that time judiciously so that we can make sure that we start the process of what I had said in getting our guys to refocus on what truly is important in terms of winning,” Leitao said today in a teleconference interview with reporters.

“As you get into May, June and into the summer months, you have to put that upon the shoulders of your players, specifically, and hopefully leadership enough to know that when they do get in the gym and have some things to work that that maintains itself as a very important part of their preparation and their progress,” Leitao said of his expectations from his players heading into the 2008-2009 season.

Virginia was thisclose to having a successful 2007-2008 season, finishing 17-16 while losing three games in overtime and another three games by one or two points in regulation.

The difference between a return trip to the NCAA Tournament and a run in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational, then, came down essentially to six defensive stops, or the lack thereof.

The key to next season, in addition to a renewed emphasis on the defensive end, will be on reshuffling the deck on the other side of the floor in the absence of career 2,000-point scorer Sean Singletary.

“Regardless of what you do, what kind of offense you want to run, you’ve got to have enough people handling the ball, and obviously that had been a little bit of a concern, a lot of a concern, this year. And then you lose one of the best in the business as far as that goes. And so what you don’t get out of one, we’re hoping to spread around and get from more people. And if you can have three or four of those guys, then obviously you have more a little bit more options. That’s kind of my thought process,” Leitao said.

“We’re going to look at the group throughout the spring and summer and make the appropriate decisions. Whether it means a change in what we do and how we do it on the offensive end or not, that won’t be done until later on,” Leitao said.


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.

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