Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A New Era Looms

While fans stormed the field of Scott Stadium last Saturday, Coach Dave Leitao was working on one messy project, the men's basketball team.

Yards away from the old, dilapidated U-Hall, construction workers toil away on the million dollar baby known as John Paul Jones Arena. From every indication it looks to be sleek, smooth and top of the line. The question remains, will the team that fills it fit that description?

Pete Gillen left Virginia basketball in quite a mess, one that has gotten worse since Leitao has gotten here (though through no fault of his own). Gary Forbes's departure has left Virginia with one less valuable contributor. Leitao is left with a bunch of young, inexperienced, undersized and under-worked players and a mindset to mold. Singletary may be a star in the making, but basketball is played 5 on 5.

Coach Leitao would be lucky to win eight games this season, and yet don't tell him that. His work is showing off any many ways that have gone largely unnoticed in the football driven world of Mr. Jefferson's University.

Leitao has sponsored many basketball events like a pancake breakfast, marathons and a Hoos fest last Friday. What's that? You didn't even know, you weren't the only one.

Leitao has been on the recruiting trail. He has already picked up two four star recruits. One is 6'8 SF Jamil Tucker from Gary, Indiana. First of all, anyone who can steal a kid from Indiana away from the Hoosiers has done something special. Second of all....he's 6'8 and a SMALL forward? That's sounds like UVA's starting center. As a junior last year Tucker averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds (good, especially good for Indiana).

Leitao also picked up Solomon Tat, a 6-5 SG from, Georgia (that's right....a guard that's TALLER than 6 feet). Tat also averaged 24 points, with 6 rebounds and five assists as a junior.

Leitao has preached defense! You know that forbidden word of Gillen's tenure was shown in the open practice Friday. In what observers likened to the WWF, players were forced to go after balls 4 or 5 rows into the stands. Leitao would accept nothing less than diving. J.R. Reynolds and many other Cavaliers admitted that they had never worked so hard before.

Leitao has done everything to fit into UVA. He wears the colors, he goes to football games, he recruits well, he has done every interview asked of him and he has never complained about the unfortunate situation he inherited. Maybe it's time Virginia fans invest some time into him.

It may be a long road to returning to any sort of basketball prominence, but at least with Dave Leitao we know we can actually reach it.


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