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Virginia Basketball Notebook: ‘Hoos fighting through injury bug in backcourt

Chris Graham
reece beekman defense
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

You wouldn’t know from his final statline – 35 minutes, 12 points, five assists, three steals, two blocks – that Reece Beekman was a game-time decision with a knee issue.

The counting numbers and stabilizing presence on the offensive end are one part of the story for Beekman’s effort in Virginia’s 59-47 win over #14 Texas A&M on Wednesday.

The maybe bigger part of the story: what Beekman was able to do to A&M point guard Wade Taylor, who was averaging 20.0 points per game coming in.

Taylor finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting, 1-of-6 from three, four assists and five turnovers in 36 minutes.

That part of Beekman’s game is a big reason why Virginia pulled the mild upset.

“Reece was, you know, a little questionable with his leg, so like, you know, who’s gonna match up on him? Well, I thought Isaac did a good job, the minutes he was on him, and then Reece did the job when he was there. We just knew, you know, Reece would do as best as he could and respond to the challenge,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said.

Compounding the issue was the absence of Dante Harris, who was on crutches Wednesday after suffering a sprained ankle.

Harris has been giving Bennett 19.5 minutes per game off the bench this season as a backup point guard who is a plus defender.

Bennett was able to get minutes from a newcomer to the rotation, 6’3” freshman guard Elijah Gertrude, who had been expected to spend his freshman season as a redshirt.

Gertrude didn’t play last year after suffering a torn ACL, and the combo guard and Bennett had decided on the eve of the start of the regular season that it would be better for Gertrude to focus on continuing to work toward getting to 100 percent physically.

The thinking on that changed in recent weeks as Gertrude starting showing the return of the athleticism that he’d had pre-injury in practice.

“We were just talking about the depth and all that stuff, and we were at, Elijah’s leg is getting stronger and better. I mean, you saw him jump up, grab a rebound block a shot, and you know, it was just one of those situations where even before I think we were talking about it, then it made sense. And of course, it was discussed thoroughly with Elijah and his parents, um, he was like, Heck yeah,” Bennett said.

Gertrude didn’t get much run in his first collegiate game – eight minutes off the bench, four in each half, with one missed shot, an ai,rballed three from the left corner, one rebound and one blocked shot.

“Valuable experience and quite a way to burn your redshirt, getting thrown into that game in that situation, but I think, he airballed the three in the corner and was smiling. I saw him, and I said, That’s pretty cool. I think he’s got a nice upside, and he’ll just have to keep working,” Bennett said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].