While fellow redshirt freshman Jay Huff landed heavily in postgame conversations after the Virginia basketball team’s 2-0 start, De’Andre Hunter put together a good debut at the John Paul Jones Arena as well. He played 10 minutes against UNC Greensboro and 21 minutes against Austin Peay.
In both outings, Hunter showed signs of his upside on the defensive end of the floor. At 6’7” and 222 pounds with a wing span in the range of 7’2”, he can bother opponents quite a bit with his reach and lateral movement. That gives him the potential to be a roadblock defender as Cavalier coach Tony Bennett has described rangy on-ball defenders before at UVA.
Bennett mentioned Hunter’s possibilities on defense after Monday’s 93-49 win against Austin Peay.
“What I most liked about De’Andre tonight was, he did a good job against Greensboro too, is his ability to slide, guard, and use his length,” Bennett said. “That’s so important as you continue to play teams and those perimeter guys get going, [to] have someone who can bother, so we’re going to keep trying to instill that in him, to be a stopper.”
I caught up with Hunter after Monday’s victory – he had 13 points, two rebounds, and an assist – for a Sabre Quick Take.
Quick Take With De’Andre Hunter
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: Defense is kind of the thing here – coach said you slide really well. How much have you focused on that as the way to get on the floor initially?
Hunter: He told me during my redshirt year that he wanted me to be the stopper. He really thinks I could be that guy that can guard the best player every night. I try to take that as personal as can be and just try to stop the man in front of me every play.
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: Was that a thing in high school for you, being the defensive stopper?
Hunter: I was pretty good but in high school no one really tries to play defense that hard. Once I got here, I just tried to play defense as best as I can. Going against guys like Devon, Marial [Shayok] was a great offensive player – I think that really helped me.
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: You got a game under your belt and not that you looked uncomfortable the other night, but you just looked really comfortable in this one. Was it good to get some games under your belt early and see how it goes?
Hunter: Yeah my first game, I had jitters you know. I didn’t know what the college game was like and hadn’t really played in a game other than the scrimmages and the Blue-White Scrimmage but that doesn’t really simulate a game so once I got the jitters out of the way and realized it’s just basketball, I’ll be doing pretty well I think.
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: How have you adjusted to the strength and some of the bulking up that both of you [Jay Huff] have done? Does it feel odd or uncomfortable at all?
Hunter: I mean it’s really helped. These two teams weren’t as physical, but it’s not odd or uncomfortable at all.
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: You had the one dunk in traffic (watch it here) …
Hunter: That one felt good.
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: It felt good? That’s what I was going to ask. Is that something you did a lot in high school too?
Hunter: Yeah. I’ve got length and I’m kind of athletic so it’s kind of easy to get up there.