Cavalier Corner

December 2021

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12 CAVALIER CORNER BY KRISTIN THURMAN A fter losing three starters — the team's top three scorers — to professional basketball fol- lowing last year's 18-win sea- son that resulted in a regular- season ACC title, head coach Tony Bennett went to work on the recruiting trail. The Cavaliers brought in transfers Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin to help offset the losses of Sam Hauser (16.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) and Trey Murphy III (11.3 and 3.4), while redshirt second-year Kadin Shedrick and redshirt third-year Francisco Caffaro were called on to fill a hole left by Jay Huff (13.0 and 7.1) in the post. Anytime a team is integrating new play- ers into the roster, though, it can take time to find chemistry and consistency, and the Wahoos opened the season with a surpris- ing 66-58 home loss to Navy Nov. 9. Virginia turned around that disappoint- ing start to the season just three days later when it defeated Radford 73-52. Franklin showed his offensive prow- ess with 21 points, making 5 of 8 from three-point range, and Gardner added 18 points. It was Franklin who really took that opening loss to Navy to heart. "I felt like I didn't do my job to the best of my ability," he said. "When I don't do that, I feel like I'm letting people down. But my teammates and my coaches, they al- ways keep their confidence in me, and I got a lot of texts from guys that night, just telling me that they believe in me, they know what I can do and just to keep shooting. "So for this to happen tonight, I made a couple of shots, it just speaks to every- body's confidence in me, and I just felt like I played well with their confidence." The early struggle gave Virginia an op- portunity to see where it needed to improve and start to establish a better sense of this team's chemistry and identity, something that was very apparent in Bennett's previ- ous teams. After another tough loss (67-47) Nov. 16, this time on the road at Houston, the Cavaliers righted the ship once again with a 68-52 win over Coppin State Nov. 19 to spark a four-game win streak. After the Coppin State game, Bennett discussed how the team was starting to take shape. "I think sometimes it's matchups," Bennett said. "Coppin State's five man was hard for Francisco Caffaro to play against and Kadin [Shedrick] at times, and so when they do that sometimes it has to do with matchups on the floor and what you're doing. "I think all of our guys have to be ready all the time. Look, Kody [Stattmann] didn't play as much, he gave us a good lift in the other game. Carson [McCorkle] had played in some and Taine [Murray] 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 want 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 in that three and a half minutes and get them game reps and see how they per- form. That stuff is really important." The Coppin State game saw four play- ers in double-figures for the Cavaliers. It was another great turnaround after a tough loss early in the season. With a big game against Georgia on the hori- zon, along with the Big Ten/ACC Chal- lenge and ACC opener coming, it was important for the team to learn how to bounce back after those games. "You just come ready," Bennett said. "I challenged them after the game. I've got the Steve Prefontaine poster in my office. It says, 'To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,' and it's him straining across the finish line. "I mentioned that before the game, but then after I said, 'If you're giving anything less than your best with your mindset, your attitude, if you're not getting to play … not ev- eryone is going to play, but that doesn't mean you can't play great.' That's what I want. "As far as bouncing back and not sac- rificing the opportunity that's given to these young men, to me as a coach, to our staff, [it's important] to just give your best attitude-wise, effort-wise. I cited again, look at these guys, we call them the green group. They just serve, and they maximize that. "That's the challenge, and that's the word that was given to them, and I thought there COMING COMING TOGETHER OGETHER The Cavaliers Have Been Growing And Learning During 6-4 Start Fourth-year guard Jayden Gardner, a transfer from East Carolina, led the Cava- liers in scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.5 boards per contest) through 10 games this season. (Photo courtesy UVA)

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