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Key Players:
PF/C Travis Watson Senior 14.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 52.5% FG
PF Elton Brown Sophomore 7.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 50.3% FG in 14.6 minutes a game
C Nick Vander Laan Junior (transfer from Cal)
PG/SG Todd Billett Junior (transfer from Rutgers)
PG Keith Jenifer Sophomore 4 ppg, 2.8 apg
SG Devin Smith Sophomore (JUCO transfer)

Strengths: Let’s clarify something. Virginia was, at one point, the fourth ranked team in America last year, they beat then number one ranked Duke and had a starting lineup that could challenge any team in the country.

But then something happened. The Wahoos finished 17-12 on the season and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Four starters leave, leaving only Travis Watson. But yet, Virginia is still in the top 25. What gives?

It is called depth mixed with a little bit of good fortune and patience. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they could be in Charlottesville. Head coach Pete Gillen is optimistic for the upcoming year despite the dramatic downfall last year.

“We were a little frustrated by the way we ended last season, but we played great teams, had some injuries and some inexperience,” Coach Gillen said. “Each season is a new season. The past is past and I don’t think it will have any effect this season. If anything, I think we’ll be more motivated to have continuing success this season.”

Leading Virginia once again is three-year starter and All American candidate, Travis Watson. He led the ACC in rebounds with 9.7 per game helping him garner second team All ACC honors. Without a true center on the roster, Watson was forced out of his natural power forward position last year. This year will be different.

“It should be a plus for us that he’ll be playing a lot more at the power forward position. He’ll still play some center when we go small, but a good part of the time he’ll play power forward,” Gillen explained.

Helping matters in the paint is sophomore Elton Brown. The crafty big man has a nice combination of post skills as well as a deadly shot from deep. He averaged 7.4 points and shot 38% from three-point land last year.

“Elton Brown had a tremendous spring. He worked on his strength and on his conditioning. I thought he had a very good freshman year and contributed significantly to big wins against Georgetown and GT on the road,” Gillen said.

Jason Clark will have a big role off the bench again. He is a tremendous shot blocker. He averaged 1.4 blocks a night. Clark has “the most potential of any player on our team”, according to coach Gillen.

Nick Vander Laan is a huge addition to the team. Not only does he step into the starting center spot, allowing Watson to shift back to his natural position of power forward, he brings immediate help in scoring and rebounding.

Vander Laan comes to UVA from Cal where he averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The 6-10, 250 junior is another physical player that gives the Cavs some tenacity.

“I believe Nick will help our defense a great deal. He’s not afraid to throw his body around, take a charge or div on the floor for a loose ball. Nick’s happy to do the dirty work, unlike a lot of players. He’ll screen, run down a loose ball and he runs very well for a big guy. He’ll be a big plus for us.”

Devin Smith is a highly touted junior college transfer from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. While there, he was named a Junior College All American as a freshman while averaging 19.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and shot the ball extremely well posting a three point percentage of 45%. Known for his aggressive attack to the basket, Smith should be the energy in the lineup that is needed.

Coach Gillen calls Smith an “impact player”. That is exactly what they need him to be especially to fill the role of Adam Hall and Chris Williams. Both players brought a lot of energy and athleticism to the team.

Attempting to help Smith fill the void of losing the graduates is freshman Derrick Byars, a 6-7 Memphis native. He is a good athlete with a nice touch from the outside as well as a good perimeter defender. His minutes will be sparse but hopefully effective.

The best name in college basketball will hope the third time around is a charm. Majestic Mapp tore his right ACL and has been in recovery since 2000. He’ll certainly be rusty and perhaps a little timid, but he’s needed badly in the backcourt rotation.

The Hoos have been without a point guard since Mapp went down two years ago. Roger Mason, Jr. was forced to lead the offense and did a respectable job but his role was mainly to score.

Sophomore Keith Jenifer will came on strong at the end of last season, starting 15 of the last 18 games for Virginia, some at the point. He’ll continue to improve and could perhaps be huge asset to the program.

“Keith’s one of the quickest players in the country and he can put good pressure on the basketball which is important for a point guard. We want to play fast and he’s the type of point guard we like.”

The biggest addition and possible answer to the lingering point guard problem is Todd Billett, a 6-0 transfer from Rutgers. He brings two years as a starter to the program as well as a great scoring mentality. As a sophomore at Rutgers, Billet averaged 16.6 points and 4.2 assists per game. He was a third team All Big East selection that year. A great outside shooter, Billett hit 40% of his three pointers.

Weaknesses: Four of the five starters are gone. The team must gel right away. They are participating in the ever popular, ever talented Maui Invitational to kick the season off. Teams seem to really make their mark in paradise…With the tough schedule ahead of them, the team must not fall apart like they did last season when it really mattered. Winning the winnable games is a must. They dropped too many easy ones (Clemson and Florida State)…Defensively, Virginia has to make some serious strides in their attempt to contain the opponents.

“We have to realize we can’t just try to outscore people. We have to defend better if we want to consistently be successful in a great conference. We have to improve, there is no doubt about it. With defense, 75 percent is mental, and 25 percent is the technical, physical and fundamental principles. We have to improve our mental commitment to defense, our determination and our tenacity.”

Key Games:

11/25/02 @Chaminade (Maui Invitational Tournament)
11/26-27/02 Maui Invitational Tournament (featuring: Chaminade, UMass, Indiana, Arizona St, Kentucky, Utah and Gonzaga)
12/4/02 @Michigan State
12/28/02 Georgetown
1/5/03 @NC State
1/11/03 UNC
1/15/03 @Duke
1/23/03 Wake Forest
2/1/03 @Georgia Tech
2/6/03 @Maryland
2/9/03 NC State
2/12/03 @UNC
2/15/03 Duke
2/23/03 @Wake Forest
2/26/03 @Ohio
3/5/03 Georgia Tech
3/9/03 Maryland

2003 Recruiting Commitments: SG J.R. Reynolds 6-3, 180 Roanoke, VA
 

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Here are some more of Uva's strengths concerning concepts only.


Strengths
-Improved PG play
-Perimeter shooting (best in the Acc)
-Rebounding
-Interior scoring
-Athleticsm
-Depth

Weaknesses
-Experience
-Chemistry
-Coaching
-Defense
-Lazy style of play
 
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