UVA Basketball ready to begin defense of national title

uva basketballUVA Basketball is just one week away from opening as the defending national champs.

The Cavaliers don’t have the luxury of a warm-up contest as they hit the ground running with an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup at Syracuse.

Last April, the Cavaliers were cutting down the nets in Minneapolis, winning the program’s first national championship in men’s basketball. But this will be a much different looking squad that takes the floor in the Carrier Dome next Wednesday evening.

Gone are De’Andre Hunter, now with the Atlanta Hawks, Final Four MVP Kyle Guy, now a Sacramento King, Ty Jerome with the Phoenix Suns, and rugged warrior Jack Salt, playing professionally in New Zealand.

Much of loss for UVA will be in the backcourt, which puts pressure right out of the gate on sophomore Kihei Clark and highly-touted freshman Casey Morsell. Clark, now a virtual veteran on this young squad, will shoulder the ball handling duties from his point guard position.

Clark has also assumed the role of mentor as he has guided his “student” Morsell during the offseason and preseason in adapting to the rigors of NCAA Division 1 basketball.

Morsell, a highly sought out player form the ultra-competitive Washington D.C. area and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, said playing with, and against, Clark is challenging.

“He gets the best out of you on both ends of the floor, he pushes you, he gets the best out of you,” said Morsell.

Clark said Morsell is “sponge-like.”

“He’s always wanting more, wanting to learn and improve,” noted Clark.

Bennett spoke about the extended three-point shot arc (going to 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches), adjusting to playing a taller lineup at times, and briefly offered an overview of his first-year players.

The following is Bennett’s breakdown of those individuals.

Justin McCoy, 6’8” Forward. “He’s had some good moments in practice, he plays aggressively and is not afraid of any contact,” noted Bennett.

Casey Morsell, 6’3” Guard. Bennett’s highly-touted early signee. “I think he’s going to be at good two-way player, he can guard the ball well,” said Bennett. Bennett said the tough WCAC play prepared Morsell well. “That’s a highly competitive, intense league, “noted Bennett. “He’s not afraid to step up and take the shot, he’s going to be good.”

Tomas Woldentensae, 6’6’’ Guard. “Being a junior-college transfer, from overseas (Indian Hills Community College, Bologna, Italy) he’s got a great feel for the game. He was injured earlier (wrist) but healthy now. I think he’s going to be a good deep shooter. Like the other new guys he’s getting adjusted.”

Kadin Shedrick, 6’11’ Center. Bennett was practically raving about his newest tall-timber player. “He’s rangy, a shot-blocker, very mobile, a wingspan of nearly 7’5”.  Kadin is just scratching the surface of his ability,” praised Bennett. With an abundance of frontcourt players, a redshirt year may be in Shedrick’s future. “We will look at that soon, as always it’s a player and his family’s decision,” added Bennett.

Story by Scott German


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