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February 14, 2011

Tony Bennett

COACH BENNETT: Continuing to try to improve. Feel like groundhog day a little bit where we're getting close in some stretches. We made a nice comeback against Florida State but didn't have enough. Still finding ways to maximize this team, keep our guys hungry and upbeat, but being realistic and looking at the areas to keep developing.
We were without Will Sherrill in the last game. He reinjured his leg from the Miami game, and that's kind of game to game now. We'll see how this week goes with him. Again, just trying to -- our numbers aren't real big, so a lot of guys are logging minutes. So at this stage of the year, we're trying to keep everybody as fresh and motivated as possible.

Q. Last year you had three walk-ons. Kind of wondering how you practice now, and just what went into the decision to cut the walk-ons this year, and how much of a problem is practicing?
COACH BENNETT: Yes, we use in practice, Coach Williford and Coach Sanchez quite a bit. They are. And at times with their maturity and not just their know-how and knowledge of the game, they sometimes can be advantageous for picking up things the other team will run or going at you.
So those guys have been used quite a bit with James Johnson red shirting. He's really on the scout team and doing things. Then we've added one more guy who is just a practice walk-on last year.
But the way it started, we had the numbers, and as guys have been injured and been out, that's where we've enlisted the services of our coaches a little more. We keep Coach McKay out of it. We don't want to do any irreparable damage to him.
So we go with guys a little younger and more apt. So probably the best Coach Williford and Coach Sanchez have jumped in there and certainly tried to keep things competitive and tense, maybe a little shorter duration, but get the most out of your time.
I think most programs taper down timewise as the season wears on. But when your numbers are limited to you, you make the most out of it.

Q. K.T. had a nice stretch in the second half the other day. But overall he has not been as productive. Is this just a case of a first-year guy kind of hitting that wall or is he getting more defensive attention?
COACH BENNETT: I hope, yeah, I'm sure that all of the players go through a little bit of fatigue at this time. There are stretches where you've just got to regain your stride, you've got to -- when you have a bad stretch, you've got to find ways to get back into the sync of things and impact the game in different ways if your shot's a little off.
I think with K.T. he's had a couple of tough shooting games or scoring games. But where I've challenged him is to impact the game to other areas. In the second half he drew some attention and had a couple of nice passes. Get on the glass, rebound, be solid defensively and keep working to get the good shots.
He's probably getting a little more attention at times certainly. He's coming off the bench the last couple of games with the emergence of Sammy and just wanting to bring someone off the bench. He's still getting minutes.
But I think he's just hit a little cold stretch with his shot. Hopefully, fatigue isn't too much of a factor. He'll get some good looks and get going.
But I think the battles of a young player are the consistency, and that's what he's striving for. The challenge for him, I said, is if he's a little off with his shot, we'll then find other ways, and that's what I think he's working at, and we certainly will need him.

Q. It seems that Akil's going to see some more time out there. Where is he with his development? I know he came in with more athleticism. How is he learning to harness that?
COACH BENNETT: I think he's getting the experience that will be valuable for him for his future. The minutes he's getting thrown into or playing are very important for him and for us. And he does bring a degree of athleticism. I think he's becoming a smarter player, too, with some know-how defensively and just understanding areas in the game where he can make an impact.
I think he's making the most of his time and knows that he's got some improvement in front of him and he certainly works very hard. He's one of those guys that works really hard before and after practice. Like I said, he's -- without Sherrill, he's gotten quite a bit more minutes. At times he's made an impact for us on the defensive end more so than the offensive end, whether it's rebounding or stops.
But he's continuing to work on his offensive side of the game. As that part of his game matures and evolves, I think he becomes a very valuable, as he is already, but a more valuable piece to the equation. He can put it on the floor. He's got a quick first step. He's just inconsistent with his shooting and that will come with probably a real hard off-season of work at that.

Q. I guess similar to previous questions, have you been able to tell if your team, given the limited numbers and especially the preponderance of freshmen, if they've hit a wall or if they still have a pretty good bounce in their step?
COACH BENNETT: You know, I think they've shown a good amount of fight in games. They've been in games and been competitive from that standpoint. So I think there is a little bit of mental and physical fatigue.
That's where, as a staff, you've got to be wise with your quantity of time out there. You certainly have to work at things. But I think you have to, again, when the numbers are down and the age of your team is pretty young or there is a lot of first or second-year guys, you have to be smart with how long you're pounding and how fresh they are.
Every coach does it a little different, but there is a tapering down at this stage of the year. We're in the last month of the season, so trying to get the most out of it and monitoring them. It takes almost as much discipline for them to sometimes -- I just caught the tail end of Seth's interview of maybe saying, hey, I've got to rest my body. Maybe I don't come in at night or an extra time and get an extra shooting workout or something. I just make the most of my practice time. Maybe spend some time either before or after and then shut it down.
I think that's where they have to be disciplined to get the rest, because that's always a factor. But I think everybody's in that boat.

Q. Given you've been at this a while, I'm curious, has your situation this year, you talk about tapering off, have you altered your practice schedule and practice habits even more this season than in previous seasons?
COACH BENNETT: Yes. I think because of the outside circumstances of the injuries and just numbers and then the age of the guys. You always monitor. That's why we have a really good strength-and-conditioning coach.
You monitor with your trainer and them where our guys are at health-wise. You can kind of see it. If there's a spring or a bounce in their step. You look at that, and I think you have to -- again, you don't compromise the quality of your work and things you have to get done.
But there are certain things you have to cut out and you have to be brief with them. Maybe be a little more mental with certain things, video sessions and walk-throughs, than early in the season or even if you have a mature team that's used to the volume and the workload. That is a big thing that newer players aren't used to the volume and the workload that is kind of the accumulative effect that is taking place.
So with this group, with our injuries and our youth, I'm probably adjusting a little more than I have in years past.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Will. You've left the impression for the last six weeks to two months that it was a matter of pain. Is it still a matter of pain or is it mobility, because he looks like he's limping a lot more now?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I guess both, really. It's kind of how if he's effective out there, we can use him. Initially it was probably both. Is he mobile enough to help us and could he deal with the pain?
Then as I saw the Clemson and Miami games, he was kind of over -- not that Will's a super mobile guy anyway, but he was starting to move back to what he was before the injury and was more active, and I think he felt less pain. Then it was a matter of whatever he could endure out there.
Now since the injury against Miami, it will come back to the same place. All right, is he mobile enough to play and what is his fain threshold when he's out there?
I don't think he can do any major damage to it. It's what can he endure and how mobile is he as the season progresses? He wasn't able to do anything leading up to the Florida State game.

Q. Is there a way you can quantify not having Mike Scott, especially in ACC play? How is he coming along, and has there been a decision made based on his future with UVA?
COACH BENNETT: The latter part. The surgery went well. They removed the spurring that he had on the top of his ankle which was definitely required and needed. Recovering great. The plan is for him certainly to return to UVA.
You have to get the waiver, which he meets all the requirements, so we're very hopeful and positive that he'll be back. From that standpoint, we'll have him next year, which will be very valuable. His experience and productivity will be a good thing. This year certainly that is missed with his ability to get to the free-throw line, get some offensive rebounds and some scoring around the lane or off the lane. He's just a solid player.
So when that's not there and you don't have much of a replacement, you just have to adjust and become a different kind of team. That's what we've tried to do without Mike.
So I think you can look at the areas where we're missing him from just even free throws, where our points are coming from, and just that experience that we're adjusting to. So certainly he's missed, but the certainly these guys are getting is valuable with Akil Mitchell. At times we're playing four guards and making the most of what we have.

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