I just posted the first program check-up piece from The Sabre’s “State of the Programs” Series; the article is a look at men’s basketball. As we do frequently here on the blog, here are some leftover quotes from coach Tony Bennett that didn’t make the article.
On the returning players …
“Certainly you want the guys who are returning to address the areas that needed improvement, get some more consistency. They have a year under their belt in terms of knowing what I want and what our program will entail. I think the returners know there are certain things like when I work out on my own, I know some of the shots I’m going to get, I know the things that are going to be required on the defensive end. There won’t be as many ‘Well, this is brand new to me. I don’t know what you’re talking about Coach.’ There’s a little more experience and understanding of how we have to do it. I think that part will help. That’s why I hope to see a jump in the returning players.”
“The kids that are in the program, they want to be here. Other guys that have left, they had some other opportunities that they wanted to pursue and I don’t hold that against them at all, but what’s left now are those that have been through this year, we’ve got work to do, and ‘I’m in.’ Those accompanied with the incoming class, that’s why I think you could say it is foundational in that regard.”
Media gathered at the 2010 ACC Football Kickoff on Monday picked Virginia to finish in sixth place in the Coastal Division. Read more about the votes here. UVa coach Mike London isn’t worried about the prediction, though.
“It is what it is right now,” London said. “People that are not associated with the program as far as what is going on – have to start somewhere regarding predicting our order of finish – and that is where we are starting. By no means is this where our mindset is – that is what other people are saying and all we are worried about is how we think and what we say about ourselves.”
So what do you think? Where will the Cavaliers finish in the Coastal? Cast your vote in this Sabre poll! You can vote through Sunday at midnight.
Day 2 of media days is swiftly drawing to a close, and I thought I would leave you with a few quick comments before I head off to dinner. Look for more posts later this evening after I get a chance to sift through my hours and hours of audio material!
Marc Verica prefers to let his performance on the field do the talking.
Don’t get me wrong; Verica is a very well spoken young man who always has an intelligent answer at the ready. However, he seems more at ease leading his team than answering the same questions six times in a row. I don’t blame him in the slightest. From speaking with Marc both during interviews and before dinner last evening, I get the sense that he is anxious to give people something new to talk about. There has been enough conversation about his play during the past couple of seasons. He has new coach, new offensive coordinator, and, for the first time, he goes into camp knowing that he is our guy. It’s a whole new ballgame this season, and Marc Verica is ready to play.
On the other hand, Ras-I Dowling enjoys playing to the crowd.
Dowling’s electrifying style of play on the football field translates to a sparkling personality in the interview room. He was quick to strike up a casual conversation about our shared “757” roots. Ras-I, like his teammate Verica, is ready to start the season. He was quick to point out that it’s impossible to name a champion before the season has even begun, and it’s clear that he has his own lofty goals. His most important goal: graduating this December. Dowling made it clear that getting his degree takes precedence over his NFL prospects. His academically minded attitude made him a model spokesman for Coach London’s program.
For the second year in a row, Boston College sent two of the best interviewees.
Last year, I was more than impressed by BC’s Matt Tennant and Jim Ramella. This time around, listening to Mark Herzlich made me want to cry tears of joy, and then do something really intense and amazing like run through a brick wall. Although head coach Frank Spaziani is “cautiously optimistic” about Mark’s return to the field. Herzlich himself was rather emphatic about the absolute reality of his return to football. The last time I saw Herzlich, he was bald from chemotherapy at Scott Stadium last November. He looks like a different person now that his curls have grown back and he’s been out practicing in the sun. I’ll post a picture later after I upload my photos to my laptop. His cohort Anthony Costanzo joked about having to take a backseat to Herzlich. He certainly took it in stride, and gladly answered questions about Mark in addition to queries about the Eagles’ offense and QB David Shinskie.
Don’t Tweet that!
The prevalence of social media at this year’s football kickoff meant that “Don’t Tweet that” is the new incarnation of “off the record.” My fellow interns and I interacted with the players more casually after interviews were over, and a common theme while sharing stories was the omnipresence of Twitter and Facebook. Florida State QB Christian Ponder got a lot of grief for not accepting friend requests in a timely manner, and Anthony Costanzo jokingly mused about creating a Twitter account purely for inventing rumors.
Coach London was quite the crowd-pleaser.
I made sure to get to Mike London’s interview session early to get a good seat, and it was a good thing I did. Throughout the 1:15 interview session, London’s table was consistently full and surrounded by media anxious to hear Virginia’s new head coach discuss recruiting, running backs, and his new 4-3 defense. London answered every question clearly and completely, giving plenty of good sound-bites and food for thought. I can’t wait to catch up with him again next week at Virginia’s own media luncheon. Hopefully I can get more of my questions answered!
Coach Fisher has the personality to fill Bobby Bowden’s place.
We will have to wait and see how Jimbo Fisher’s coaching ability compares to Bowden’s, but Fisher has a lot of the same sparkle that made Bowden such a great interview. Fisher had a quip for every question, and his rapid-fire answers kept our pens moving as we struggled to keep up. He was nothing but complimentary of Coach Bowden, but it’s easy to see that Fisher can’t wait to leave his own mark on Seminole Football.
Former Cavalier baseball great Ryan Zimmerman is well known for his accomplishments inside the friendly confines of Davenport Field and in the Major Leagues.
A three-year starting third baseman for the Cavaliers, Zimmerman started in all 174 games he appeared and he concluded his career among the top 10 in Virginia history in batting average, at-bats, hits RBI and doubles. The fourth overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals, Zimmerman was one of the pioneers in the emergence of Virginia baseball as a national power.
In April of 2009, Zimmerman signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Nationals through the 2013 season. He was selected to play in his first All-Star Game that season and was honored as the best defensive third basemen in the National League in 2009 earning his first Gold Glove Award. For the former collegiate All-American and inaugural recipient of ESPN’s Web Gem Champion award, Zimmerman’s biggest challenge is away from baseball – finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Zimmerman’s mother Cheryl was diagnosed with MS in 1995. A chronic, unpredictable neurological disease, MS affects the central nervous system and more than 400,000 people in the United States. In 2006 the native of Virginia Beach launched ziMS Foundation, which is “dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of MS by funding comprehensive support and educational programs.” The foundation is a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) charitable organization classified as a public foundation working to raise money and awareness of MS.
The highlight of the foundations’ 2010 fundraising year will be “A Night at the Park”. “A Night At The Park” will be held August 9 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Nationals Park.
I’ll be keeping you updated Sunday and Monday throughout the ACC Football Kickoff. Make sure you follow thesabre on Twitter for up-to-the-minute feedback from Greensboro. Player interviews begin at 2 p.m. We’re going alphabetically this year, so I’ll see Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, VT, and Wake first. The other teams will follow at 4:30.
Manchester (Midlothian, VA) offensive lineman Jake Goins admits a decision is “getting kind of close.” Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech are the finalists for the 6-5, 285-pound rising senior, who will make two unofficial visits this coming week.
“I think I’m going to Virginia Tech on Wednesday and UVa on Friday,” Goins said.
These two visits likely will be the last for Goins, a first-team all-Dominion district performer last season as a junior. Stay tuned for more next weekend, when I’ll follow up with the standout prospect for more on his college decision.
Ocean Lakes quarterback Lafonte Thourogood was leaning towards a summer decision as well, but at this point the 6-2, 215-pound rising senior appears to be leaning in the other direction.
“Right now, he wants to concentrate on preparing for his senior season. He wants to go through and make official visits before he makes his college choice,” Dolphins head coach Chris Scott said.
“Lafonte has seen different places and established connections with coaches. He wants to continue to look into his choices. There is not a timetable. He wants to talk to his family. They want to get to know the coaches more. He doesn’t want to de-commit. He wants to make sure he has looked at everything.”
In a June interview, Coach Scott listed Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia as the three finalists. Those three remain in the race, but at this point Thourogood is “back to being open,” Scott said. Arkansas, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Tennessee are other schools that have offered as well.
Thourogood made an unofficial visit to UVa earlier this month along with his father. Similar visits to Virginia Tech and West Virginia are in the works, though no dates have been set at this time.
According to Sabre contributor Cvillehoops13 as well as several published reports, forward Paul Jesperson has committed to the Virginia men’s basketball program. Jesperson, a 6’7″, 185-pound forward out of Merrill, Wisconsin, passed up offers from the likes of Minnesota, Notre Dame and Northwestern to join Tony Bennett’s program. Read more about it in this WisSports.net article.
Jesperson first received an offer from UVa after attending Bennett’s elite camp in June; he stayed in Charlottesville for the NBAPA Top 100 Camp and told The Sabre how much he believed in Bennett, a high school star himself in Wisconsin.
“It’s definitely a plus and not just that, but you look at his recent success – I mean when he was at Washington State, he went on a great run there,” Jesperson said in June. “So you know he’s going to get it done here, it’s just a matter of time. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Jesperson is the first 2011 recruit to join the Hoos. UVa has a six-player class entering the program this fall. Stay tuned to The Sabre for more on Jesperson’s decision.
When Doug Doughty broke the news on June 16 that Fork Union post-grad shooting guard Thomas Rogers would walk-on at UVa there has been some discussion of him on the boards and what kind of player he is and what can be expected of him. Having seen Rogers play and spending some time at Fork Union I thought I would pass along some thoughts about Rogers to give a better picture of him as a player.
First off the good: Rogers is a great shooter, not solid, not good, but great. I think there is a case to be made that he is the best shooter in the class he is entering with. I watched Rogers play in an open gym situation last week with several other college-caliber players and in a gym that doesn’t favor outside shooters Rogers wasn’t even touching rim as he dropped in outside shot after outside shot. In terms of a specialty shooter UVa has landed a good one. Rogers is also an extremely hard worker and is deceptively athletic. I use the word deceptively because he isn’t explosive but he has the tools to get around the court, in terms of overall stamina and fitness you’d be hard pressed to find a guy in better shape coming out of FUMA.
Now considering Rogers was considered an ODAC caliber player if he hadn’t taken UVa’s walk-on offer there obviously must be some drawbacks. I already explained that he isn’t an explosive athlete and I think he’ll struggle getting to the rim in the ACC. His decision making and consistency are also issues that he’ll have to improve upon. I’m not sure that he’s actually his full listed height of 6’6” and he isn’t the type of versatile wing that’s going to be able to defend multiple positions and his build is going to make it difficult to match-up with more physical guards.
I personally think that Rogers shooting ability is going to make him a guy who gets minutes during his career and could open him up to earning a scholarship. I also think that the opinion I was given that “He is an ODAC player for the most part – but he works as hard as anyone and he can seriously shoot the ball.” Give the coaches credit on this one because if you can get any contributions out of a walk-on then you’ve made a great pick-up and I’ll be very surprised if Rogers doesn’t at least contribute as a specialty shooter by the time he is done at UVa.
A Few More Thoughts From FUMA…
There are at least two players on what should be a very talented FUMA squad that UVa fans may want to pay attention to this upcoming season. The first is David Wishon a 7’1” 280-pound center from the Charlotte area. Wishon is still a project but is vastly improved from the player he was a year ago at this time. In this class of bigs a guy with that kind of size who can catch the ball and make a lay-up is going to get a lot of attention – both FSU and UVa have already made the trip to see him in person.
VCU commit Briante Webber is a player who was picking up some serious interest through the spring from some major conference programs. Webber is a real steal for VCU if he honors his commitment but there will certainly be some programs pushing him to change his mind. Webber is very fast and is a great ball-handler with quick hands. He’s a generally explosive athlete who has some impressive dunks on his highlight tape and his outside shot, once a liability, has improved drastically since I saw him play last fall. I expect Webber to honor his commitment to VCU but that’s a name you should tuck away as some people around the VCU program think he could be the next Eric Maynor.
Afternoon thunderstorms, intense humidity, and summertime chatter about rankings, awards, and All-America lists all signal to me that it’s time to get geared up for another Cavalier football season. I’ve been watching Comcast’s Virginia Football: The Building of a Program, and I can’t help but get my spirits up. There are so many question marks this year, but my hopes are still building for a successful year. Don’t let me down, Coach London!
Last week, I had the pleasure of answering a few queries about Virginia Football for College Football Zealots, and a couple of the questions had me mapping out Virginia’s schedule and forming predictions for this season. As you all know, or will come to find out, I abhor predicting College Football results. My pick-em record last season was absolutely abysmal; I suppose I was asking for it by picking Florida State to win the ACC. Whoops. I was tempted to favor the Noles again this season (aside from my Hoos, naturally), but I remain a little leery of FSU’s prospects.
All joking aside, I still think Florida State will be one of the key match-ups on Virginia’s schedule this season. Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles bring a lot of offensive firepower and a retooled defense, not to mention a proud tradition and an intense desire to prove themselves worthy of re-inclusion among the ACC’s top tier programs.
I can’t wait to play Georgia Tech. Their situation is full of question marks on both sides of the ball, kind of like the Cavs. That said, I’m more than a little relieved that the game is in Atlanta rather than Charlottesville. Can you imagine the reception Yellow Jacket Defensive Coordinator Al Groh would receive at Scott Stadium? Personally, I think it would be more than a little awkward to run into Groh in the press rooms after the game. “Uh, hey there, Coach. Remember me? So … about that game against your former team in which you outmaneuvered Virginia/got outdone by your former assistant?” Bizarro World.
I’ve broken down the 2010 football schedule into three categories: Games We Should Win, Games We Can Win, and Games We Probably Won’t Win. One of the reasons I hate predictions is that almost nothing in college football is 100% absolute. Injuries, suspensions, large-scale team implosions (see: France at this year’s World Cup) … all of these make predictions infuriatingly difficult. My three-tiered system of prognostication leaves me some room for error.
Games We Should Win
Richmond, VMI, Eastern Michigan, Maryland, Duke. All home games except for Duke, all winnable.
Games We Can Win
North Carolina, Boston College. UNC has trouble with us in Charlottesville, and BC still has plenty of question marks on offense.
Games We Probably Won’t Win
USC, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami. USC doesn’t really faze me, Florida State is serious this year, Georgia Tech is an away game, and Miami is due for a resurgence.
You might notice one glaring omission. I have a special category just for our hated rivals from Blacksburg.
Things have been a little slow on The Good Ol Blog as we wait for the sports season to kick back up, but I thought I’d swing around the other Hoo blogs and see what’s out there. I ran across two posts some of you might want to check out.
The first is from Michael Schwimer over at Phuture Phillies on autographs. He shares his thoughts on why signing autographs isn’t as simple for players anymore even though he knows “full well that it will be my least popular column [he has] ever written.” Give it a look.
The second comes from Jeff White over at VirginiaSports.com. The topic is often a hot button one here on The Sabre message boards: academics. In this post, White shares some thoughts from current basketball player Mike Scott on the topic. Oh and there’s a tidbit on Norm Nolan too.