Virginia basketball preview: Tony Bennett looks to steal another ACC title from Tobacco Road.
This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
Many of Anthony Gill’s favorite plays begin with a miss. He’s in some hostile ACC environment, fans riled to ear-splitting decibels, when one of his teammates clanks a shot off the rim. The 6' 8" senior forward grabs the rebound, then converts the putback or kicks it out to another Cavalier for a second-chance jumper. The effect: a satisfying atmospheric deflation. Says Gill, “I love to take the energy out of the building.”
Few players in college basketball are more adept at initiating such crowd-displeasing displays than Gill, whose offensive rebound rate last season (15.5%) ranked 13th nationally and second in the ACC. “He’s got the heart of a warrior on the glass,” says coach Tony Bennett. “He won’t be denied.”
Gill’s flash-free game does little to bolster his name recognition, especially on a team whose methodical pace limits his scoring (11.6 points per game last season) and that’s best known for its stifling Pack-Line defense. Gill was only third-team All-ACC, but kenpom.com’s advanced metrics placed him seventh in its national player of the year standings. He also ranked fourth in the country in win shares per 40 minutes, which measures a player’s wide-ranging contributions to his team’s victories. “I think he’s gotten noticed by the right people,” Bennett says, “and I think he will get more [attention] if he continues to play at that level.”
Marial Shayok, 6'5" sophomore forward
Shayok’s case for earning minutes will be helped by his jumper. His 38.0% shooting from deep in 2014–15 is the best of any returning Cavalier after UVa lost last year’s three-point leader, Justin Anderson.
“With a 30-second shot clock now, some teams will try to set up presses just to chew a little clock so you have less time in half court. All those things might come into play. When we’re playing well defensively, one of our strengths has been people haven’t been able to break us down right away. You have to add little things to be disruptive, but it always comes down to: What’s your identity and the core of what you do?” — Tony Bennett
Projected depth chart