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Williford talks UVA bigs: Hauser, Huff as building blocks, with depth

uva basketball
Photo by Dan Grogan.

Jason Williford, who coaches UVA’s bigs, has his work cut out for him, having to account for the losses of Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key, two key members of the 2019 national-title team.

He has a couple of aces in the hole in Sam Hauser and Jay Huff to build around.

“Obviously, losing Mamadi and Braxton, probably two of our better athletes on the team, we lose tremendous rebounding and some defensive versatility with both of those guys. I don’t know if we’ll be as good defensively, but I think with the addition of Sam, we’ll be able to stretch the floor, make some shots from beyond the arc,” Williford said.

Hauser, a 6’9” stretch four, averaged 14.9 points per game as a junior at Marquette in 2019-2019, shooting 40.2 percent from three-point range and 92.4 percent from the free-throw line.

He spent the 2019-2020 season leading the scout team as he redshirted through his transfer year.

The ‘Hoos could have benefited from having Hauser out there.

You know, the thing about finishing 234th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.

“Sam can really shoot it. He proved that day in and day out in practice. Boy, could we have used that this year. But his offense is going to be huge for us (next season),” Williford said.

Huff started to come into his own on the offensive end late in the 2019-2020 season, averaging 14.3 points per game in Virginia’s final three games, wins over Duke, Miami and Louisville, shooting 56.7 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range.

He was also dominant on the defensive end and the boards in that stretch – averaging 7.8 rebounds per game, and of course you remember the near triple-double, 15 points, nine rebounds and 10 blocks, in the Duke win.

“I think what clicked was there was a mentality, there was an aggressive, assertive mentality that he demonstrated towards the latter part of the year,” Williford said. “I just think he’s got to bring that mindset this coming season and continue to work in every area, improve in every area, attack, getting stronger. But it’s just a mindset. I think his mindset of, I’m going to be aggressive, I’m going to attack. He was tremendous in blocking shots down the stretch. He’s just got to have that mentality.”

Depth in the post will come from 7’0” redshirt sophomore Francisco Caffaro, 6’11” redshirt freshman Kadin Shedrick, and 6’8” sophomore Justin McKoy.

Caffaro had his moments – 10 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in the Dec. 8 win over UNC, actually, being his moment.

“If he can just get experience of being on the floor, and stay out of foul trouble, his aggressiveness, his physicality, we need. There are times that we’ve got to have that,” Williford said.

Shedrick, a four-star recruit, sat out 2019-2020 as a redshirt year, looking to add size to his frame under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Mike Curtis.

“Obviously, he sat out, but I had a chance to work him out a lot, especially on game days. He’s just got to bring an aggressive, assertive mentality next year,” Williford said. “He’s got some raw skill, and he’s got to just continue to get stronger. And with added strength, which, you know, we put some weight on him, and he’s gotten stronger, just getting on the floor and going through baptism by fire, he’s just got to go through it.”

The backups at four and five “are going to have to collectively step up, help defend, and more importantly help rebound the basketball,” Williford said.

Story by Chris Graham