Cavalier Corner

February 2019

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16 CAVALIER CORNER and Isaiah Wilkins, those guys kind of set the tone ev- ery game and every day. "So I tried to learn from them. I'd say it's something that I had in me, but I also learned how physical you need to play this game here." "He's really physical," redshirt second-year forward De'Andre Hunter said follow- ing the Tech blowout. "He's a big body. He knows how to use his body and he knows what he does well on the court. When you run into a screen like that, you're dazed for a lit- tle bit, but you get used to it." "He absolutely doesn't back down from anything," Jerome said earlier this sea- son. "He's definitely some- one you want to have on your team. He does absolutely anything to win. I'll go to war with that every day." "He symbolizes what this program was built on — toughness, grit, resilience, humility," Guy told The Rich- mond Times-Dispatch. "The most important things players do don't always show up on the stat sheet." With Salt doing the little things, Virginia won its first 16 games of the season and was 17-1 (5-1 ACC) as of Jan. 25 "It's awesome," Salt said of the season so far. "Look, bas- ketball is a team game, and we've got a lot of talent on this team and the way coach is able to bring it together. "And with the experienced guys on the team, Ty, Kyle and Dre, just being able to bring everyone together and give you a max effort every game, every possession, it's just awesome to see." As one might imagine, seeing the types of careers Hunter and Jerome have put together brings Salt a lot of pride. As the lone old man in the bunch, he gets a great amount of satisfaction from their improve- ment as well as the team's progress. "That's been truly awesome," he said of watching the younger guys mature. "They've all gotten so much better since they got here. "It's a great group of guys, and I've enjoyed being on this team and practicing with them every day and playing games with them." His consistency has been critical to their development, just as it has to Virginia's un- precedented success (a 100-23 overall record over the past three-plus years as of Jan. 25). "I feel like I have a good understanding of the defense now and that's why I play," Salt said. "I'm not really an offensive threat, but I defend, I'm physical, I try to rebound and set screens on guys, and we've got guys that can score so I'm happy to help them out." As an upperclassmen who knows his role, Salt believes it's up to him to set the tone the way veterans before him taught him. "I mean, it doesn't just come on the floor," he said. "It comes in the weight room. It comes in practice. It comes being punctual for your treatments. It's a lot of things, and I didn't know or understand that when I first came here and I had to learn it because I was young. "I thought I could just rock up, just do whatever. But it's hard. It's hard to stay fo- cused every practice, every session. But that's what you have to do if you want to be great. "I think the coaches have done a really good job of instilling that in the players. I think the players have done a really good job of re-emphasizing that amongst the team." With the help of associ- ate coach Jason Williford, who works with UVA's big men, as well as Mike Cur- tis' strength and conditioning program, Salt believes he's been able to make up for a lot of his physical limitations. "Just being able to bring my body up to a level that I'm able to compete with the guys that are just pure athletes, that's big," he said. "I'm not an athletic guy. But MC, he gets you ready." As someone who was known for his propensity to foul early in his career, Salt also discovered that if you don't stay on the floor you can't contribute regardless of how much work you've put into your body. "The biggest thing is an- ticipating and not reacting," he said. "So, before, I would react to everything, but now that I've played for a while I can kind of anticipate what's going to happen. "I mean, I still have prob- lems with fouls. I'm still a physical player and I pick up some that I shouldn't. The biggest thing now is I think I'm able to anticipate plays sometimes and I'm not al- ways reacting to a situation." Now that he's done all of this for years without missing home too much certainly helps underscore just how much he's gained from his Virginia experience. "I'm really lucky," Salt began. "I've never been home sick while I've been in Charlot- tesville. I've had a group of amazing people within the basketball community and within the UVA community and even the greater Charlottesville community. I've had so many people that have just been amazing to me and welcoming to me. "So like I said, I've never been homesick here and I would have never thought I would have enjoyed it as much as I have my past five years here. I go home once a year, usu- ally four or five weeks. I'm lucky because my mom gets to come over here, sometimes twice a year. So I see her quite a bit and I've got family in northern Virginia, my dad's brother, my auntie and three cousins. "I love it here," he added. "I love the school. I love the basketball community here. I like the food a lot in Charlottesville, Salt's career averages of 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game through 106 contests don't jump off the stat sheet, but his coach and teammates value the intangibles be brings to the court. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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