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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UVA gets lift with return of leader

    Five syllables: Sean Singletary.

    The 6-foot senior is the heart and soul of Virginia’s men’s basketball team. Last season, as the school’s top male athlete of the year, he led his team to a 21-11 record – good enough to be the Atlantic Coast Conference co-champions. Under the ACC Coach of the Year, Dave Leitao, the Cavaliers made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, wedging themselves into the second round.

    “”Everything begins and ends with Singletary,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”He’s a guy that pushes it down the floor, takes big shots, makes 3s, gets to the basket, gets to the foul line. He’s a very, very good point guard and a big challenge for our guys.””

    Singletary is a clean-cut guard who plays like he’s in the NBA. He almost was. After putting his name into the NBA draft last spring, the All-American withdrew to complete his degree in sociology and give Virginia another run at the postseason. Averaging over 30 points per game coming into this season, he is currently projected by NBAdraft.net to be picked 47th in the 2008 draft by Toronto.

    Though he is the nucleus of the team, Singletary is not the only star for the Cavaliers (2-0). He’s but one of three returning starters, along with guard Mamadi Diane and center Tunji Soroye. The other two starters from last season – forward Jason Cain, a second-team All-ACC member, and guard J.R. Reynolds, the team’s leading rebounder – graduated in May.

    Eight other lettermen also return to the team, making 11 players on the roster who helped defeat No. 17 Arizona last season.

    In the game, 93-90, Singletary had 25 points and six assists, but guard Mamadi Diane also exploded for 25 points – one shy of his career high – to help seal the win for Virginia.

    O’Neill, the unofficial defensive coordinator for Arizona, said that Diane’s surge was due to a lot of open shots against a 1-3-1 zone defense, and that all Cavilers will be better protected this time around with the Wildcats’ man-to-man defense.

    “”I think the reason we lost last year was because Diane ended up going off with 25 points,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan. “”We can’t let the role players have a successful night against us
    like that.””

    Virginia, which has 17 players on its roster, boasts the presence of eight players 6-foot-8 or taller. It’s a team that is known for being quick and physical.

    “”Their guys are big, strong and play well together,”” O’Neill said. “”Let’s face it, they won the ACC Championship last year. They know how to win. They beat us last year, so it’s going to be our job to rise up and parallel and play the way we should.””

    It’s no accident that the Cavs are strong. Shaun Brown, the strength and conditioning coach for the team, has 18 years of experience at the professional and collegiate levels. He was the strength coach for the Boston Celtics for six years and the Toronto Raptors for two during O’Neill’s stint as the Raptors’ head coach in 2003-04. Brown was also the head strength coach for Kentucky when it won the National Championship in 1996.

    “”I’ve known Shaun for a long time,”” O’Neill said. “”I know what kind of work he does. From the looks of it, they’ve probably got a lot of guys that could bench-press over 300 pounds. He gets them in the weight room and they just pump iron.””

    With the guidance of Shaun and Sean, the teams’ tournament hopes are wrapped up into five syllables: San Antonio.

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