Departing senior starters Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key see a lot of potential in next year’s University of Virginia men’s basketball team.
“I believe in them. It’s going to be a team that has some potential offensively, and defensively too,” Diakite said. “We’ve been doing that for many years now. It’s going to be a lot of up and downs like this year, because it’s going to be a lot of new faces coming and they’ll have to buy into the defense. The only big thing about it is if they are committed to play, to listen to the coaches and to take all the stuff that the coaches are saying, then they’re going to be good. They have many weapons – Jay Huff, Kihei, and even Sam. Sam’s going to surprise a lot of people. Wisconsin boy. I believe in him. I think he can do it, too. I think next year’s team is going to be one of those interesting teams. We’ll see what they are going to do. I believe in them. I think they are going to go far.”
Key, who is proud of the grit and determination the 2019-20 squad showed, said: “This team next year will be really good and I can’t wait to watch them play from afar.”
Looking towards the 2020-21 Hoos, rising junior point guard Kihei Clark and rising redshirt senior forward/center Jay Huff will be expected to play prominent roles once again. Both players raised their games to help Virginia finish 23-7 this past season. The 7’1” Huff played in 12 games in 2017-18 and 34 games in 2018-19 before playing in all 30 of UVA’s contests in 2019-20, earning 18 starts. He established career highs in points (8.5), rebounds (6.2), and blocks (2.0) per game.
“Jay’s really talented,” Key said. “He’s a hard worker, and it showed this year. Defensively, he knew that was one of his struggles for him to get more time on the court, and he worked at it every single day. After practice. Before practice. Just trying to be better. For him to take the leap he did this year was huge. It made our team … I mean, having Mamadi and Jay in the paint protecting the rim and then scoring, it gives us so many options. He’s capable of scoring as everyone knows, but I think his defense really stepped up this year.”
Virginia fans know about Clark and Huff but haven’t seen as much from others who are expected to see their roles increase next season. Diakite and Key were asked...
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