Tony Bennett Reflects on Championship; Return of Mamadi Diakite
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It's been almost exactly two months since Tony Bennett led Virginia to its first national championship in basketball.
Since then, he's celebrated his 50th birthday, and has spent lots of time catching up with former UVa players.
Looking back, it was an amazing run.
The national champion Cavaliers won their last three tournament games by coming from behind in the final seconds each time.
Tony Bennett says he watched the replay of all three games.
"It's a little different when you watch them," says Bennett. "'Man this is close.' It feels a little more nerve racking than when you are in the moment. In the moment you're thinking of what's next. It just added to how sweet the championship was, and how it made for great TV and why people said it was such an enjoyable tournament.
Next year's team will look a lot different, with De'Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy all going pro.
The 'Hoos got a big boost, though, with Mamadi Diakite withdrawing from the draft pool and returning to UVa for his senior season.
Bennett says, "I'm hopeful that him getting to go and workout for some other teams, being in a couple combines, he can use that, and learn from that, and come back and really help lead this team, and help this team have a really great year, and better his own game."
There will be a couple new rule changes next year, including moving the 3-point line back about a foot and a half.
Bennett says, "There are a number of guys where the end of their range is the current three point line, when they shoot their toe is to that line. It might separate some of the shooters. I don't know actually, for Ty and Kyle, it wouldn't have mattered, but they're not here now."
Another change is that the annual NBPA Top 100 Camp, which is held at JPJ and features many of the best high school basketball players in the country, will now be open to college coaches for a 24-hour period.
"I've heard there is going to be 300-plus coaches," says Bennett. "It's just one more opportunity with the rule changes. We'll watch a lot of the guys we've been recruiting, it's a short window. Get a few more looks and see some of your coaching friends and that'll be about it."