Hoos Ready To ‘Heat Up’ As Practice Starts

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Sammy Zeglinski and other UVa defenders will need to play strong on-ball defense in Coach Tony Bennett’s system.

As the official start of basketball season arrives at the end of this week with full practices, the new Virginia coaching staff gets the chance to start the full-fledged system-building process with the 2008-09 men’s basketball team. One phrase that Tony Bennett uses frequently in describing his defensive style has already has crept into the Cavalier lexicon: heating up the ball.

The meaning is simple. Whoever is guarding the player with the ball, needs to apply enough pressure to occupy and challenge the dribbler without easily getting beat off the bounce. The idea is to create a tough environment for the ballhandler to play through and to force decisions under duress.

Freshman guard Jontel Evans , who was known for his defensive ability in high school, said there’s one major key to defending the dribbler.

“You can’t be scared. You can’t be scared of getting crossed up or [anything]. You can’t think of that. You’ve got to compete – you can’t be scared and you’ve got to compete. You’ve got to take pride in it,” Evans said. “It’s something like a cornerback. You’ve got to read and stuff. You can’t gamble all the time. I’d definitely say it has comparisons to cornerback on the football field.”

The heating up the ball principle is the starting point for Bennett’s defensive system, the pack-line defense. The style allows your players to pressure the ball while having a full stable of help defenders guarding against wide-open penetration lanes. With that said, the basic philosophy is as simple as it gets: force contested shots.

“We want to establish, certainly, being real rock solid on the defensive end. That’s always been a staple of ours and we’ve wanted to do that in terms of being real hard to