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January 10, 2011

Tony Bennett

THE MODERATOR: We have with us now Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. If you could, a few comments about your team and we'll open it for questions.
COACH BENNETT: Sure, we have a week to prepare and we are at the state that we just have to keep trying to improve. I'm not sure we are going to send out a release and I'm not sure if the release went out, the news that Mike Scott, our senior forward, will be undergoing a second surgery and he'll miss the remainder of the season. Again, I'm not sure if Rich had gotten that out. If not, it will be coming out very shortly.
Now we'll just know that that's the situation and move forward from that, and try again to get as good as we can and keep developing.

Q. With Mike out in particular, Assane Sene will grow; the numbers would suggest that he's been rebounding the ball better recently. He had 11 against Carolina and a couple other games. Is that accurate? Do you see improvements from him?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, against North Carolina he did a nice job for us rebounding the basketball. Offensively, but certainly defensively, we ask Assane when he's going against guys certainly, to try to keep people off and he can't grab it, try to tap it out there and keep it in play, and he did a good job at grabbing a few more.
With his size and his activity, we need that. Especially Mike was a double-digit rebounding guy for us, and you know, Assane at least has the size and the length to do that. So I've been pleased with Assane's effort, and his productivity on the glass.

Q. Over the last three games it appears that K.T. is really playing well, shooting it well fairly well. Can you talk a little bit about his progress, please.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I think he's definitely progressed well and is finding a rhythm, and is a capable scorer, and again, I thought he's done a nice job, had some real nice stretches. In Saturday's game, he had a nice stretch where he got through the lane, hit a three. I think he got to the rim, just did some solid things, and he's actually young for being a freshman. But I think now we're how many games in, 16 games in, I'm hoping that he'll continue to improve defensively and offensively.
But we certainly need him to look to not to score, and I've enjoyed watching him. He's a very solid young man and I've enjoyed seeing his maturing process, the maturation process of just kind of knowing when to be aggressive, when to let the game come, and that's continued to evolve. But he's done a good job, for sure, over the last number of games, and that's encouraging.

Q. Without Mike, is that the case with a lot of your guys, they are just going to have to look to score inside without Mike's presence?
COACH BENNETT: Well, certainly, with us, he gave us a nice -- even if it was inside or a little bit off the lane or different things, he drew some attention and passed well. Also, if he got doubled. Yeah, you look to adjust and find ways. Again, other guys will have to find ways without a dominant post players, scoring inside, or until we find other ways to do it. Yes, K.T. will be important, as well all of the other guys to continue to look to get good shots and being as rock solid on the defensive end.

Q. Can you go more into what went into the decision for the second surgery for Mike? Last week you said the focus was trying to find ways to see if it was possible for him to play again this year. What led to the decision for the second surgery?
COACH BENNETT: Did you get the release? I don't know if it went out or not.
You know what the release will say, and the second surgery, he's going to get some additional cartilage work and he's going to get impinging bone spurs removed. That's where it's at. And initially, he was trying to -- there was a loose piece or two in there, and it was a surgery in, hopes of getting that out, because it was kind of locked up and impinged on him the first time and he could not play.
And the surgery was more of an, okay, let's try and get this out and see if that can allow you to play without having to do the thing that would make him miss the three or four months and again, he recovered really well from the surgery and didn't have swelling and played and he recovered after his playing.
But he just wasn't able to go and then have another episode after practice after the surgery. He had like three or four episodes where he started practicing and bang, it locked up on him, and with our doctors talking and getting another pictures, I don't know, however you could say this procedure, more aggressive; it's probably what's needed to ensure him to be able to go full-bore and not have this where he's going to be out and in. That's kind of what led to it. We were hoping the surgery would help it quiet down and feel good, just for him to be able to go and play long range, that wasn't the case and this is what's needed.

Q. As you discussed, he's eligible for the medical red-shirt and I assume you guys will go forward and apply for that?
COACH BENNETT: Absolutely. He's right on that line. So you know, whatever you do to file the paperwork, we'll do that.

Q. I assume, and could you confirm that you will continue to hold out James Johnson and along those lines, it's hard not to get excited about 2011, 2012?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, the plan right now is to keep James Johnson on his red-shirt and really work towards getting as good as we can this year. We certainly have some challenges there but there are some opportunities out there. And then, you know, we are trying to build this thing.
I wish -- we talk about it a lot. It's hard, trying to figuring out ways now without a key guy and now other guys will have to step up and improve. Certainly thinking long term is always good, but right now, how do we improve and be as competitive and successful for this year. That's what in front of us.
It's tough news with Mike. We feel like he was really playing well and having a good year and things were really rounding into shape. But the flipside of it is, okay, if this can help him be really healthy and if everything goes as hopefully planned to have the potential of having him be with us next year is a positive, and you have to look at it that way. But in the meantime, try to get as good as we can and develop.

Q. How about Akil Mitchell, did you ever imagine he would have this kind of role this early?
COACH BENNETT: No. He was a guy we had considered perhaps red-shirting, because he's young, too. He could be in the class of 2011 as K.T. could. We knew K.T. on the perimeter would have ample opportunity, but Akil, we weren't sure of and with James red-shirting, I knew we would have opportunities. But with Will coming off his broken leg, Will Regan, and Akil, Akil has done some things nice, and I've been pleasantly surprised and encouraged by seeing him get out there and do some things. He's been thrust into a role, as is Regan at times, playing four guards; that wasn't planned on.
But now we know this is where we are at, so we have got to make the most of it, and I hope this will be really helpful for those guys in their future development for our program.

Q. For whatever reason, to follow up with Akil, he was not a dominant rebounder in high school, yet he's shown that he's capable of going in in traffic and getting rebounds at this level. Has that been at all kind of a revelation to you?
COACH BENNETT: Well, I think he has good hands and he has the athleticism to do that, and just where he's called upon to be used by us where the needs are, that's really important. And it's been really good to see him continue to improve in that direction. When you go against some of the big bodies and the lively play of guys in our league or high-level teams, that's really important.
So to see him become -- have some success doing that, we'll continue to need that and guard to them and continue to evolve his offense, all of that stuff is important.
But I think in high school, he kind of was inside/outside, did some things. But I would expect in high school he would have been able to do that. Although he had a really good teammate who snatched up most of the rebounds when they came that way.

Q. While you were in Washington State, did you ever lose a player that was your leading scorer and rebounder, and if so, how did you handle it?
COACH BENNETT: No. No, did not. So guess I can't tell you how I handled it. We are going to find out. Obviously with the youth, for this year, this is a blow. But again I'm trying to go back. No, we did not have that happen, so again, you adjust and you try to find the best ways for your team to perform. I know it's hard. Mike was playing well, like Minnesota and Virginia Tech, and thought we were getting a little bit of continuity and chemistry. But that was interrupted but now we know and we'll go forward. But this will be unchartered waters.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for being with us today and we'll hear from you again same time next week.

End of FastScripts

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