Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia lands four-star 2020 wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim

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Virginia continued its hot recruiting run on Wednesday as the Cavaliers landed a commitment from four-star Class of 2020 wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim.

The son of former NBA all-star Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jabri is regarded as a high-end, four-star prospect as he checks in at No. 41 overall in the Rivals national Class of 2020 rankings.

At 6-foot-6, Jabri was one of the Nike EYBL’s most productive players this spring as he ran with the Playaz Club out of New Jersey. Putting up 25.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in 13 games this spring, Abdur-Rahim showcased big-time scoring ability while also helping out on the glass. While Abdur-Rahim will have to improve his 39 percent field-goal percentage and 30 percent three-point shooting, he will be forced to take more efficient looks once he’s in the Virginia offense.

Head coach Tony Bennett continues to do a fine job of gathering 2020 commitments as the Cavaliers beat Michigan in the race for Abdur-Rahim. The third pledge for Virginia in 2020, Abdur-Rahim joins four-star guard Reece Beekman and three-star guard Carson McCorkle in the class so far. With three commitments in 2020, Virginia can comb the class for another player or start focusing on younger classes as the program is ahead of many others when it comes to future commitments.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Mamadi Diakite returning to Virginia for senior season

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Virginia is losing a lot from the team that claimed the school’s first national title last month, but it is retaining one of the players that was instrumental in claiming that title.

Mamadi Diakite will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to the Cavaliers for his senior season, he announced Wednesday night shortly before the deadline to do so.

“I am excited to announce that after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback,” Diakite wrote on Instagram, “I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year.

Diakite averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.8 minutes per game last season for the champs. He shot 55 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the line. His buzzer-beater in the Elite 8 against Purdue was one of the iconic moments of last season’s NCAA tournament, and kept Virginia alive on its ride to the national title.

Coach Tony Bennett already had lost Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter to the NBA draft following cutting down the nets in Minneapolis at US Bank Stadium. With Diakite, Jay Huff, Braxton Key and Kihei Clark, though, Virginia certainly will have enough talent to keep things interesting in the ACC.

Marquette’s Hauser brothers go separate ways in transferring to new schools

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After surprisingly transferring from Marquette following a successful season, Joey and Sam Hauser announced on Tuesday that they are heading to separate schools to continue their college basketball careers.

Sam Hauser, a junior with one season left of eligibility, will head to Virginia to play for head coach Tony Bennett. Joey Hauser, a freshman with three seasons left of eligibility, will play for head coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Both brothers were considered two of the best transfers available on the market a year removed from regularly contributing to a team that was consistently in the top 25 last season.

Sam put up 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range. Joey averaged 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds per game in his freshman year while shooting 44 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range.

Many expected the high-scoring brothers to continue to play with one another at their next destination, so the split recruiting decisions come as a bit of a surprise after the duo took official visits together during the recruiting process. Both brothers are expected to sit out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming their careers the following season.

While Sam could be an immediate boost offensively to a Virginia team that has sometimes struggled to score, Joey is a nice rotation piece that should add shooting to a promising young Michigan State core.

Kyle Guy says he’s staying in the draft, will not return to Virginia

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Kyle Guy is off to the professional ranks.

The Virginia junior had already declared for the NBA draft, but announced Monday that he plans to stay in the draft and not return to the Cavaliers next season, as he would be allowed to under NCAA rules.

“I am officially keeping my name in the draft. I know it’s the right step after much prayer and thought with my family,” Guy wrote on social media.

Players retain the option to return to school up until the end of next month, but Guy’s announcement makes it clear he has no intention of utilizing that avenue as he plows ahead toward a professional career after being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player as Virginia won its first-ever national championship earlier this month in Minneapolis.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in Virginia’s slow-paced offense while shooting 49.5 percent from 3-point range. Right now, Guy’s draft ceiling would appear to be in the second round with going undrafted a possibility as well. If he does make it at the next level, it’s pretty clear it’ll be the 3-point shooting that gets and keeps him there in a league that covets that skill now more than ever.

For Virginia, Guy’s decision simply crystalizes what was likely the reality already – they’re going to have a completely remade roster, which certainly isn’t uncommon for national championship winners. There’s a reason no one since Florida in 2006 and 2007 has repeated as champions. With Guy gone and Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite all having declared, Tony Bennett and Co. could be looking at more modest expectations following the greatest season in program history.

Late reversal turns tide for Texas Tech

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MINNEAPOLIS — Davide Moretti won the 50-50 ball near mid-court and saw daylight as he pushed towards the rim.

With his Red Raiders trailing 75-73 in overtime of the national championship game, the Texas Tech guard gained possession off of a Ty Jerome missed jumper. Moretti’s goal was to immediately get to the basket to potentially tie the game with just over a minute left.

“I think we were down so I was trying to attack the rim and try to make it a one-possession game,” Moretti said.

In an instant, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter swallowed up Moretti’s driving lane.

College basketball’s national defensive player of the year swiped the ball away from the dribbling Moretti as Hunter’s deflection forced the ball out of bounds. To the naked eye, it appeared Texas Tech would retain possession with a chance to tie, or take the lead, with 1:06 left in overtime.

Slow-motion replay cameras showed a different story.

Officials reviewed the play and saw the ball graze off Moretti’s right pinky before it went out of play. The initial call of Texas Tech ball was overturned. Virginia was given possession after the official monitor review.

The momentum-shifting call gave the Cavaliers a chance to gain a two-possession lead. When play resumed, Jerome was fouled and made two free throws to give Virginia a 77-73 lead with 41 seconds left. The Red Raiders never had another possession with a chance to tie, or take the lead, as the Cavaliers closed out their first men’s basketball national championship with a memorable 85-77 overtime win.

Some viewers immediately criticized the merit of replay, and overturned calls, after the Moretti out-of-bounds decision was reversed. The referees’ new conclusion changed the momentum of a thrilling game — though the ruling was ultimately correct. Others also maintained the spirit of the replay rule was compromised by the switched decision in the midst of an intense back-and-forth contest.

Those critical of the decision also argued that Virginia’s Kyle Guy wasn’t called for a potential foul for hitting Moretti right before Hunter knocked the ball away from him. Fouls are not reviewable.

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It also didn’t help that officials tagged Moretti with a foul call a few possessions earlier. Guy appeared to trip over teammate Mamadi Diakite’s foot instead of a Texas Tech defender as Moretti shouldered the blame. Another missed call, with the foul given to Moretti, gave Guy two free throws to cut the Texas Tech lead to 73-72 with 2:45 left. Official review also isn’t allowed to check on a play like that.

The animosity of multiple perceived blown calls down the stretch resonated with those who wanted a classic title game to stay tight until the very end.

“I think they called a foul on me when Kyle Guy tripped over his teammate. And they overturned a call that they made on the inbound. I think that was two big-time moments that helped decide the game,” Moretti said.

The replay not going Texas Tech’s way hurt enough. The overturned out-of-bounds call also made it difficult for the Red Raiders’ coaching staff to properly prepare for what was next in the team’s huddle. In the midst of a tense one-possession game, with the season on the line, head coach Chris Beard tried his best to get the Red Raiders ready for an either/or scenario during the official review. Being behind is tough enough. Trailing during an uncertain situation is that much more difficult. It was impossible to predict what was coming in the midst of the chaos and confusion.

“We prepared both ways. If we get the ball, do this. If we don’t get the ball, do that,” Beard said. “One of the differences between winning and losing [comes that close].”

Even though the national championship game was a thriller — the first overtime title game since 2008 — some fans believed the replay situation, and missed calls, marred the outcome. It’s also tough to take those claims seriously when some of those same viewers would complain if a ruling occurred if slow-motion replay wasn’t allowed.

The human element of officiating — with referees who are some of the finest in a sport filled with rapid decisions — has always been a part of basketball — and most sports in general. Replay, and overturned calls, have also been demanded by many fans during a modern era where we demand accountability for every single call in a game’s final minutes.

We can’t have it both ways. Although Moretti is correct in his assessment that those plays shifted the momentum of the outcome, he also dribbled straight into one of the sport’s best defensive players when teammate Jarrett Culver was trailing for a potential layup. Texas Tech could have just as easily called a timeout when Moretti dribbled into the double team. Moretti’s mishap is being glossed over by some even though the slow-motion replay, and changed decision, ended up being correct.

“It was a 50-50 ball, and after I grabbed it, [Hunter] touched it so I couldn’t make a move,” Moretti said. “I was thinking about making a move but he was quicker than I thought he was going to be.”

Replay isn’t going away. Referees sometimes miss calls in key spots. Adjustments to the rule book might even prevent some of the aforementioned scenarios. But to claim that Texas Tech lost because of an overturned call is silly. Although the Red Raiders were undoubtedly hurt by some officials’ decisions, they still held themselves accountable for a difficult loss that will sting for a long time.

“We’re a no-excuse program so I think we lost the game in other respects,” Moretti said.