Tony Bennett: On PT for Jay Huff, not wearing a tie

tony bennett national champsUVA basketball coach Tony Bennett took two questions from Seth Davis at The Athletic for a recent column, talking, first, playing time for Jay Huff.

“With us losing the amount of guys we did and Jay’s improvement, he should certainly have an expanded role,” Bennett said of Huff, the rising redshirt junior, who averaged 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game in 2018-2019.

The ‘Hoos actually only lose one big from their rotation, Jack Salt (3.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 16.6 minutes per game in 2018-2019).

Mamadi Diakite, a rising redshirt senior, figures to get starter’s minutes at the five. Diakite averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, but blew up in Virginia’s NCAA Tournament run, averaging 10.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 32.2 minutes per game.

Bennett went four-guard for about 75 percent of Virginia’s minutes last year, with De’Andre Hunter and Braxton Key getting a lot of minutes as stretch-fours.

Key returns, and figures to get a mix of three and stretch-four minutes in 2019-2020.

Rising redshirt freshman Francisco Caffaro is also likely to get rotation minutes.

As for Huff: “I would never get into a number of minutes this far out, but I’m excited for Jay.”

Translation: still work to do.

On the ties: Bennett, famously, didn’t wear a tie on gamedays in his first coaching gig, at Washington State, but the AD at UVA who hired him, Craig Littlepage, made it clear, that he would at Virginia.

“I was like, oh, brother,” Bennett said. “I asked my wife, and she said she thought it would probably be a good idea. So, I wore the tie, but couldn’t stand it.”

The results are in: nine years wearing a tie, no national titles, one year sans tie, national title.

Heading into 2019-2020, then?

“I’ll keep going without it, but it’s not because we won a championship that way. I’m not superstitious at all. Sometimes I’ll do something just to prove I’m not superstitious. It’s all about being comfortable,” Bennett said.

Uh, all due respect, coach, but, comfort, sch-momfort.

Superstitions are totally rational.

Just win, baby.

Column by Chris Graham

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.


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