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Tony Bennett: Frontcourt rotation undecided, redshirt decision looming

By Steve Yanda

Several spots in the Virginia frontcourt rotation remain up for grabs as the Cavaliers prepare for their regular season opener Friday night against William & Mary, Coach Tony Bennett said Tuesday. That rotation will be affected by a meeting Bennett and his staff will commence following practice Thursday during which they will discuss which players they plan to redshirt this season.

Bennett said that due to the fact the team has only five healthy scholarship perimeter players right now, he can't afford to redshirt any of the freshmen guards. That leaves forwards Will Regan (6-foot-8, 222 lbs.), Akil Mitchell (6-foot-8, 221 lbs.) and James Johnson (6-foot-9, 234 lbs.) as the candidates. And of course, it remains possible that none of the freshmen will redshirt this season.

"It's always that question of, Does a year of work and development help in the weight room and just extra individual skill work? Or does the game experience" help them more?, Bennett said. "And you can't always say, 'Well, this guy is going to get 20 minutes a game, so therefore it's worthwhile.' There's some hard decisions to make, but we'll certainly do what's best for the player, certainly what's best for the team and for the long haul. I think you've always got to look at how things will be played out, not just in a one-year period, but over the course of a few years, how it will benefit everyone involved."

Bennett said that Johnson -- who sprained his ankle during the first practice of the season and was forced to miss more than a week of team workouts -- is returning to full speed. Johnson logged 14 minutes Saturday during Virginia's 82-50 exhibition win over Roanoke College. He made 1 of 2 shots from the field and 3 of 4 free throws to finish with five points. Johnson also tallied six rebounds.

As for the overall rotation entering the start of the season, Bennett said he would prefer to narrow it to 9-10 players. Again, the perimeter rotation is set. Sophomore Jontel Evans and freshman Billy Baron will handle the point guard duties while junior Sammy Zeglinski continues to recover from recent knee surgery. Senior Mustapha Farrakhan and freshmen K.T. Harrell and Joe Harris will split time on the wings.

Senior forward Mike Scott is by far Virginia's top returning post player. Barring foul trouble, he'll likely play around 30 minutes most games. Especially early on in the season, expect to see junior center Assane Sene log significant minutes, as well. Senior Will Sherrill will be a part of the rotation, as well.

And that brings us back to the three freshmen forwards, who will be competing for the 1-2 spots remaining in the regular rotation.

"There's not a ton of separation (between Virginia's frontcourt players), and each guy brings different things," Bennett said. "And with the youth, sometimes there's moments I go, 'Okay,' and then it's like, 'Uh-oh.' So you're trying to juggle a lot of things. And so to say, 'Boy, you've just got to be consistent,' will be challenging ... But if you can be consistent, that does help, just experience-wise and over the course of time. But with not a lot of separation, that makes it hard for our staff to say for sure it's these three or four guys who will play."

By Steve Yanda  | November 10, 2010; 6:04 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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