|Virginia will have five freshmen this season. It's a complete Cavalier overhaul. (Virginia Athletics)|
In our Trippin' series, we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Check here for all Trippin'-related stories.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett isn't quite sure what to expect from this year's group. Mike Scott, his do-it-all big man, is gone. So is veteran point guard Sammy Zeglinski and big man Assane Sene.
But Bennett was able to get a look at his new-look Cavaliers, one that features five freshmen and a bunch of other guys who will take on new roles, in the five-game jaunt overseas to the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
"We're definitely going to be a more balanced team," Bennett said after watching his team go 2-3 in the five games. "And I like that. It's more difficult to defend."
That's because the team's leading returning scorer, Joe Harris, is the lone player coming back who averaged in double-figures. Scott put up 18 points and 8.3 boards a year ago and Zeglinski was third on the team in scoring at 8.6.
What Bennett learned: "We have seven new guys. One transferred and couldn't play and another was hurt. We played five freshmen and the biggest thing for them was that they got a taste of how physical the game is. In some ways, overseas is more physical because of the rules and the fact that guys are older and stronger."
Who stood out: "I'm not sure any one guy stood out. Different guys at different times showed nice stretches. Joe Harris, our leading returning scorer, was solid. Paul Jesperson and Akil Mitchell both took nice steps from last year. It was tough with our freshmen, because I didn't know what to expect from them. They each had their moments and then struggled at times.
What is the biggest concern: "We gave up 100 points one game and 90 in another. That was a little eye-opening, but we're inexperienced. I think we realized we have a ways to go, but sometimes that's what's great about a trip like this. It gave us a reality check and how hard we need to work and improve, but I really like the future of these young guys."
- Sophomore wing Malcolm Brogdon made the trip, but didn't play as he's still recovering from the broken foot he suffered with four games remaining in the season last year.
- The only other player who didn't play was Anthony Gill, a forward who is sitting out this season after transferring from South Carolina.
- Joe Harris, who scored in double-figures in each of the five games, and Jontel Evans are the two guys who are nearly assured a starting spot, but Bennett said that Brogdon -- once he gets healthy -- also has the inside track to a starting spot.
- Akil Mitchell will have a shot to earn a starting spot as well. The 6-foot-8 junior, who averaged 4.1 points and 4.4 boards last season in 22 minutes per game, had the monster game of the trip with 20 points and 16 boards. Mitchell averaged 13.4 points and 10 boards in the five games.
- Freshman big man Mike Tobey was able to get into the Louvre for free because he wasn't 18 yet. "He's only 17," Bennett laughed. "So he didn't even have to pay." Bennett's thoughts on Tobey, who averaged 13.4 points on the trip: "He's got a big upside. He's skilled and has a lot of growth in front of him. He's mobile and has great hands." Tobey scored 18 points in the first game, a win over the B team from the Netherlands.
- Bennett on talented and highly regarded frosh Justin Anderson: "He needs to fine-tune his game, but he's got the physical tools. He's already got a college body." Anderson had 15 points in the first game, then averaged five points over the next three contests before finishing the trip with an 11-point performance.
- Bennett on Evan Nolte: "He's 6-foot-8, skilled and can play the four-spot. He just needs to add strength. He's got a great feel, though."
- Bennett on Taylor Barnette: "He's a combo guard who knows his role. He's a heady player who is a streaky shooter. When he's making shots, he's dangerous."