Prior to last night's men's basketball game, when the Cavaliers dominated the Australian All-Stars 97-67, everyone knew this year's Virginia squad was going to be better than last year's. But before the game started, there were still a lot of questions up in the air.
After several weeks of intra-squad practicing, one question was how the Cavaliers were going to do against the Down Under Bandits, a set of players unfamiliar with Virginia's playing style. But in last night's thrashing of the Bandits in University Hall, the Cavs began to prove their potential.
The Down Under Bandits held the lead in the beginning of the game, after sinking a series of threes and deep jumpers. But with 8:58 left in the first half, Cav forward Willie Dersch scored off a Chris Williams assist to tie the game at 20, and the Cavaliers never looked back.
Virginia led 49-26 at the half and kept the momentum going throughout the rest of the game.
"We got tired of beating each other up in practice," Cav guard Donald Hand said. "That was the key, just going out there and playing someone else. Everyone did a great job [last night] and we all gave 100 percent."
But perhaps a bigger question was whether Virginia Coach Pete Gillen would redshirt first-year Jason Rogers. At 6-foot-10 and 216 pounds, many critics previously had said Rogers needed to gain more muscle before he could be effective in the ACC. And according to NCAA rules, if Rogers played any time in an exhibition game, he would forfeit the right to redshirt.
As Rogers sat on the bench for the entire first half, it appeared as if Gillen had decided that he would indeed be redshirted. But with 4:23 left in the game, Gillen sent the Staunton, Va., native out on the court in what appeared to be a split-second decision.
But Rogers said he knew before the game that he would not be redshirted.
"Within 10 to 15 minutes before we were going to stretch and warm up, [Gillen] told me that I was going to play," he said.
He added that this decision came after a meeting with Gillen earlier this week to discuss the options available to the first year.
Gillen "said that the decision was up to me about whether I was going to redshirt," Rogers said. "I said, 'Well, coach, as a player, I want to play. But someone in my situation wouldn't make the best decision for himself ... I would like for you to make the decision for me. I believe that you're a very knowledgeable man and that your decision would be the best for me.'"
He said he understands that he won't get many minutes but is happy to be playing this year.
"I'm excited about everything," Rogers said. "I've worked really hard and this is just a little bit of a reward for me."