Virginia coach Tony Bennett and freshman combo guard Elijah Gertrude had agreed before the start of the season that Gertrude, coming off an ACL injury that cost him his senior season in high school, should redshirt this year so that he could focus on rehabbing his knee.
It didn’t take long for Bennett to realize, as Gertrude played with the scout team in practice, and seemed to be as close to 100 percent physically as he could be, that a change in plans was necessary.
“In the last month, I feel like he’s taken a step with physical, like he may be able to explode, cut, and a little more timing. And you know, he goes against, in practice a lot of times, it’s Reece (Beekman) or Dante (Harris), was Dante, other guys, so he’s had to, you know, get his ball taken if he wasn’t right. So, I think all that stuff helped,” Bennett told reporters after Virginia’s 77-47 win over North Carolina Central on Tuesday.
Gertrude had 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 17 minutes off the bench in the win.
He just made his debut back on Nov. 29 in the 59-47 UVA win over then-#14 Texas A&M, giving Bennett eight minutes off the bench.
In three games, Gertrude is averaging 6.3 points in 14.7 minutes per game on 47.1 percent shooting.
“You see his ability to, you know, that pull-up, how quick he’s off the floor, and he’s slick with the handles and you know, he’s still coming defensively,” Bennett said.
“He’s a classic, to me, combo guard that can, you know, he can go get his own shot, but he also can touch the paint and find some other people. So, these last couple games, terrific for him to get these minutes. I threw him in there against Texas A&M in a pretty tight game. So, the fact that in three games he’s gotten whatever minutes he’s received has been very good for him coming off the redshirt.”
Is time running out on Jordan Minor?
Merrimack grad transfer Jordan Minor was an intriguing add off the transfer portal in the spring, because Minor, at 6’8”, 242 pounds, was a beast with his back to the basket, averaging in double-digits the past three years, topping out at 17.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in 2022-2023.
Minor has barely been getting on the floor for Virginia through the first third of the season, averaging just 7.4 minutes per game, almost all of that in garbage-time situations.
Bennett said the “adjustment” for Minor is that he played in a zone defense at Merrimack, and is still needing to pick up on the principles of Bennett’s Pack Line.
“His physicality and his work ethic will have to win out in this, and you know, that’s where, you know, I always encourage those guys, just keep battling and don’t hang your head,” Bennett said. “There is an adjustment whether you’re in your fourth or fifth year or you’re in your first year when you either are coming to this level or just a new system, ours, anyone else’s, it takes time and especially, you know, if you’ve, you know, with Jordan, he played all zone for those years, and you know, you can see that he has some of those, you know, if we were a zone team, I think he’d have some instincts for that. But that’s a little bit of challenge, and getting used to the size and all that stuff. But he’ll keep coming, and he’ll keep working. And he’s a wonderful teammate. So, all that stuff’s good.”