March 14, 2013
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- At 6 o'clock Wednesday evening, 13 basketball players from the University of Virginia took the floor at the Greensboro Coliseum for a 60-minute shootaround. Two others remained on the sideline, watching from the bench.
"It's tough," said one of them, Anthony Gill, "being right here on the court but not being able to play. But in the long run it'll pay off."
For different reasons, Gill and Malcolm Brogdon have found themselves in similar situations this season. Gill, a 6-8 forward, has had to sit out this season after transferring to UVa from South Carolina. Brogdon, a 6-5 guard who was the Cavaliers' sixth man for most of 2011-12, is redshirting while recovering from foot surgery.
Each will have three more seasons of eligibility, starting in 2013-14.
"A.G. is one of the guys on the team I'm definitely closest to," said Brogdon, a graduate of Greater Atlanta Christian School.
"We've bonded really well over this process, because our situations, although they're different, they are similar in a lot of ways. We're both sitting out together, and we play on the same team every day in practice, and I think we've built really good chemistry. On and off the court, we really enjoy each other's company."
The Wahoos are in town for the 60th annual ACC tournament, which starts Thursday afternoon. Brogdon rode the team bus to Greensboro on Wednesday. Under NCAA rules, Gill is not allowed to travel with the Cavaliers to road games, but he drove from Charlottesville to Greensboro. He's staying with his mother, who lives in nearby High Point.
Gill is a graduate of Charlotte (N.C.) Christian School, where his teammates included Akil Mitchell. To be reunited at Virginia with Mitchell, a 6-8 junior who this week was named to the All-ACC third team, has been great, Gill said.
"I missed his jokes," Gill said, smiling. "They're harsh, but it's funny."
Gill started 26 games for the Gamecocks as a freshman in 2011-12 and averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. After a coaching change at South Carolina last year, Gill decided to transfer, and he also considered Ohio State and North Carolina before choosing Virginia, whose associate head coach, Ritchie McKay, has recruited Charlotte Christian for years.
Since enrolling at UVa last June, Gill has been polishing his game, and "from the beginning of the year, in practice and in my individual workouts, I've definitely gotten a lot better," he said. "It will be good to play against competition next year in the games, but I can definitely feel myself getting a lot better."
During regular-season games at John Paul Jones Arena, Gill, in street clothes, sat on the bench with his teammates. "I got to learn a lot of things this year sitting out, and I still am learning," he said. "So just sitting here gives me a different perspective on things, just to not take things for granted. I just take every day and live life to the fullest."
Brogdon played in 28 games for the `Hoos last season and averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds, establishing himself as one of the ACC's most promising freshmen. But he hasn't appeared in a game since Feb. 25, 2012, when he scored four points against North Carolina.
Ten days later, UVa announced that Brogdon had a broken bone in his left foot that would require season-ending surgery. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the operation in Charlotte on March 7, 2012.
"It's been a long time, and I think we've been as patient as we can," Bennett said last week at JPJ. "I think it's been smart, and now he'll have three years to attack this thing."
Brogdon had hoped to return this season but decided in November to take a redshirt year and proceed more deliberately with his rehabilitation. As the season has progressed, Brogdon's workload in practice has increased, and he's a key part of the scout team, along with Gill.
"I feel like we really help the team prepare for other games, for the next team, and I think that's really been able to benefit the team," Brogdon said.
Bennett knows the importance of physicality in basketball, and that's "what I see in practice from Malcolm and Anthony," he said. "They're both naturally physical players that will get to the free-throw line.
"It's a physical game. As you get into stretch runs, as you get into conference tournaments and postseason play, it becomes physical, and if you can't establish that, and meet that, it's hard to be successful."
UVa (21-10), the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament, will face No. 5 seed NC State or No. 12 seed Virginia Tech in a quarterfinal around 2 p.m. Friday. In the ACC coaches' preseason poll, Virginia was picked to finish seventh in the league, and that was when Brogdon was expected to play this season.
Of the players in Bennett's rotation, only point guard Jontel Evans is a senior.
"Bub is a big part of this team," Gill said, "but just knowing what we have coming back, it definitely excites me. Just looking at these guys every day playing, I know that when I get to play with them next year, it's definitely going to be great."
In addition to Gill and Brogdon, Bennett's options next season will include incoming point guards Devon Hall and London Perrantes, who signed letters of intent with UVa in November.
"There's some nice things on the horizon with this group, with Anthony and Malcolm and then with some of the signees coming in," Bennett said. "I'm excited about that. I can't lie about that."
Brogdon, a spectator at the ACC tournament for the second straight year, said he finds himself looking ahead to 2013-14 constantly.
"I keep trying to push through my rehab and focus on the now," he said, "but I can't help but to think about the future and how bright I think it can be and I think it will be for all of us."