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Virginia Basketball: 2007 Season Preview: The Men

Recruiting class has Cavalier men primed for return to the NCAA Tournament

Third-year forward Adrian Joseph

Hoos New? With a full year for head coach Dave Leitao to recruit, there will be a host of new faces on the bench.

The first-years:

Will Harris (6-6, 230, F/G): A solidly built, versatile New Yorker (via Brewster Academy in Maine), he can play shooting guard and both forward positions.

Jerome Meyinsse (6-9, 220, F/C): Offensively talented, he could take a red-shirt year to learn the system and get stronger.

Solomon Tat (6-5, 225, G/F): A strong and energetic swing player from Nigeria via Atlanta, he should physically hold his own in the ACC from day one.

Jamil Tucker (6-8, 210, F): He can bang inside and rebound, but also shows the ability to face the basket and shoot the ball.

The transfers:

Ryan Pettinella (6-9, 230, F/C): He played for two years at Penn before sitting out last season. With two years of eligibility left, he will likely add defense, rebounding and energy off the bench.

Calvin Baker (6-1, 170, G): He averaged 11.6 points per game as a William & Mary freshman and would be a welcome backup at point guard, but must sit out this season.

The assistant coach:

Bill Courtney: With 10 years of experience as a coach, he helped mine the D.C. metro area for many of the players who led George Mason on their surprise run to the 2006 Final Four.

Three reasons why the men should return to the NCAA Tournament in 2007

  1. Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds may be the best backcourt in the country. The All-ACC combo averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game last year, despite having defenses focus squarely on them.
  2. The Cavaliers should be more balanced offensively. At least three of the incoming first-years look like scoring threats, while the returnees have had an offseason to improve their offensive skills. That should open things up for Singletary and Reynolds.
  3. More warm bodies. Five first-years and a transfer add another layer of depth, allowing more competition in practice and more flexibility in coping with foul trouble and injuries.

And three reasons why they may not

  1. Missing the point. With T.J. Bannister’s late transfer to Liberty, there is no pure point guard to back up Singletary, who is coming off of shoulder surgery for the second straight year.
  2. Feeling at home. The John Paul Jones Arena will feel almost as new to Virginia’s players—and fans—as it will for their opponents. It may take a season or two to develop a true home-court advantage.
  3. Opportunities or obstacles? Home games against Arizona, Stanford and Gonzaga before the ACC season kicks in give the Cavs a chance to polish their NCAA resumé, but that’s a lot to ask of a team working five first-years and a transfer into its rotation.

House Warming

They will be the first class to play for four years in the new John Paul Jones Arena, but the incoming first-year players say it was the people, and not the place, that brought them to Virginia.

“To me, the difference maker was the team and the coaches, and the family atmosphere,” says Jamil Tucker. “They’re focused on ‘How can I help you in life?’”

Solomon Tat, too, says the coaches were the main attraction. “I really enjoyed being with them—they had so much love for the players. They’re not just our coaches, but our friends.”

The John Paul Jones Arena

That’s not to say they’re not excited to be playing in the new 15,000-seat arena.

“It wasn’t really the difference maker, but it was like an added bonus,” says Will Harris. “If they didn’t have the John Paul Jones Arena, I still would have come here. But since they have it, it was like, I’m definitely coming here!”

Read the 2007 Season Preview for the Women »