UVA Athletics Notebook: ‘Hoos all over the pros

uva athleticsJoe Harris thisclose to making World Cup roster: Joe Harris was a late invite to the FIBA World Cup Team USA camp, but it’s looking like Joey Buckets is close to a sure bet to make the team that will compete in China next month.

In part, it’s been a war of attrition, as numerous top players have bowed out, with training camp for the 2019-2020 season looming.

Harris would be the primary floor-stretching perimeter shooter on the US roster.

The 6’6” guard shot 47.4 percent from three-point range in 2018-2019, as he put up career highs in scoring (13.7 points per game) and pretty much everything else in terms of the counting stats.

Jordan Ellis carries the load in preseason game: Recent UVA football alum Jordan Ellis gained 52 yards on 15 carries and hauled in five catches for the Cincinnati Bengals in a 23-13 preseason win over the Washington Redskins this past Thursday.

His increased playing time came in part because the Bengals are limiting the snaps for their top two running backs, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, and because rookie sixth-round pick Trayveon Williams has had to leave each of Cincy’s first two preseason games with injuries.

Ellis is doing his best to take advantage of the opportunities. Through two games, he has gained 63 yards on 18 carries on the ground and recorded 10 catches for 63 yards.

Ellis gained 1,026 yards on the ground for UVA as a senior in 2018.

Matt Schaub solidifies spot: Matt Schaub is old. He graduated from UVA in 2004. He’s the last ‘Hoo QB to beat Virginia Tech.

Being old at quarterback in the NFL usually means you have experience, and Schaub, 39, has three years of experience at Atlanta as the backup to Matt Ryan, in a wide-zone offense that he ran as the starter for the Houston Texans for seven years.

Schaub actually entered the 2019 preseason fighting for his job, though, with another UVA quarterback, Kurt Benkert. The Falcons have been grooming Benkert, a two-year starter at Virginia as a grad transfer, stashing him on their practice squad in 2018, with the expectation that he’d compete for the backup job this summer.

That came to a quick end in Atlanta’s preseason opener, a 14-10 loss to Denver in the Hall of Fame game, in which Benkert, who completed 19 of his 34 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, left with a toe injury that ended up requiring season-ending surgery.

That left Schaub, who has thrown for 24,887 yards and 133 touchdowns in 148 regular-season games over his 15-year NFL career, with the job to lose, pretty much.

The Falcons signed Matt Simms and Danny Etling to take snaps in preseason, but Schaub’s play has erased any notion that there may have been regarding a battle for the second spot.

In Atlanta’s 22-10 loss to the New York Jets in Game 3, Schaub was 8-for-10 passing for 76 yards and a 98.3 passer rating.

His Game 2 effort – 12-of-19 for 172 yards and a 82.4 rating.

Yeah, it’s Schaub’s job.

Hultzen in line for a callup? Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, had his sure-thing ascent to the majors derailed by a litany of injuries, but, good news, he may be on the verge of a September callup with the Chicago Cubs.

Hultzen has been stellar as a lefty reliever with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, posting a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings, striking out 22 (14.5/9 innings) with a 0.878 WHIP.

The Cubs need all the arms they can get right now, with relievers Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek and Craig Kimbrel all on the IL.

If Hultzen can get that callup, that would be among the more awesome things to the sports year.

Thaiss is nice: After a hot start, Matt Thaiss had cooled off a bit. The 2016 first-round pick is slashing .205/.286/.443 with six homers and 18 RBI in 29 games.

At least for a day, Thaiss is back in the swing. In a 9-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, Thaiss was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI.

Column by Chris Graham

 


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