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Walk-on Malachi Poindexter earns rotation minutes with hard work on practice court

Malachi Poindexter
Virginia guard Malachi Poindexter. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Walk-on guard Malachi Poindexter subbed in with 10:14 on the clock in the first half last night, ahead of four-star sophomore Carson McCorkle and four-star freshman Taine Murray.

Then Poindexter, a St. Anne’s-Belfield alum, was the first guard off the bench in the second half, ahead of both McCorkle and Murray and also senior Kody Stattmann.

Was Tony Bennett sending a message to his guys?

Obviously.

“At the beginning of the year I sat down with Malachi and Taine, Carson and Igor, and I said, look, you know, you four, we’re not really set on who are sometimes our 7,8,9, I may play eight, I may play nine, I may play 10, and said, You guys just stay encouraged and keep working,” Bennett said after Friday’s 68-52 win over Coppin State.

Poindexter ended up getting 14 minutes off the bench – he’d played five total over parts of two seasons coming into last night.

The sophomore, who averaged 13 points and five assists per game at St. Anne’s-Belfield as a senior in 2019-2020, was rewarded for hard work in practice.

“Just looking at practices, and that’s why the competition in practice and evaluating is important, his ability, again, to be poised, handle the ball, and shoot it well and can guard a little bit, those things stood out,” Bennett said.

Poindexter scored his first career college points last night, on a jumper with 3:10 left in the game, added a rebound and a foul, and had a plus/minus of -3.

Modest numbers, but something to build on.

“I just wanted to come into the game, and I knew I didn’t have to affect it by scoring, I just wanted to go in and play good defense and do what we were taught, and that was it,” said Poindexter, who admitted to being caught up in the moment a bit, playing in JPJ in front of the hometown crowd.

“It’s crazy to think about because I’ve been watching UVA basketball since I was an 8-year-old kid. I’ve always wanted to be on the court with all the other guys here, and I’m glad I could do it with this group,” Poindexter said.

Bennett made clear, they were minutes earned by Poindexter.

“I think all of our guys have to be ready all the time. Look, Kody didn’t play as much, he gave us a good lift in the other game. Carson had played in some, and Taine had played. It’s just kind of getting a feel for practices, seeing how things are, seeing how these guys perform in those opportunities. That’s why those last three minutes, I’m sure people are like well why wouldn’t you to put in … and I really wanted to put in the guys that worked hard in practice, but we’re trying to really watch those guys, and that three and a half minutes, and get them game reps and seeing how they perform. That stuff is really important,” Bennett said.

You can bet that practices will be a little harder, a little crisper, given that imperative.

That’s how Poindexter earned his minutes last night.

“I just try to pay attention to our players who had a lot of minutes last year. I want to pay attention to Kihei (Clark) and Reece (Beekman), and how well they defend the ball and how they’re always in the gap. I try to make myself more like them so it’ll equate to more playing time,” Poindexter said.

Story by Chris Graham