Bennett on eventful off-season, UVA's evolution

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- De'Andre Hunter is expected to be an early first round pick in next week's NBA Draft, while Ty Jerome could also sneak into the late first round. Kyle Guy is hoping to hear his name called in Round 2.

All three players declared for the draft shortly after guiding the Virginia men's basketball team to the first NCAA title in program history. Head coach Tony Bennett voiced support of all three when they first announced their decisions -- and reaffirmed that support on Wednesday.

"This program is established because of the work of the players that have done such a great job," Bennett said. "And with all our guys, I want them to make a sound decision with their future. If there's an opportunity for guys, and they still want that, to leave, and get a great situation? Then if that's best, they I always hope that."

Wednesday marked the first time Bennett talked to local reporters since the Wahoos completed their magical run to Minneapolis by beating Texas Tech in overtime in the NCAA title game on April 8. The nine weeks since that milestone victory have been eventful as well -- headlined by the early departures of UVA's top three scorers from last year.

Forward Mamadi Diaktie also explored his NBA Draft options -- and waited until almost literally the last minute leading up to the May 29 deadline before announcing his return to UVA for one final season.

"We've lost enough guys, so it's good to have Mamadi coming back," Bennett said with a laugh. "And I'm hopeful that his getting the opportunities to go and work out for some teams, be in a couple of combines, that he can use that, learn from that, and come back and help really lead this team."

Diakite is just one of the veterans who will need to step into bigger roles for UVA, this season, along with forwards Braxton Key and Jay Huff, and point guard Kihei Clark. With off-season workouts beginning this week at John Paul Jones Arena, some of the new 'Hoos are now in town as well.

On Wednesday, Bennett called this off-season the next step in the "evolution of things." He also compared this summer to 2016 -- when Guy and Jerome and Hunter first arrived on Grounds, following the departures of players like Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey.

"We lost some terrific players, but there is some excitement and a challenge and, 'Okay, now we start again,'" Bennett said. "Coming off the championship, there's a whole lot of newness to everything. But it doesn't change. We have the formula. We go to work. Again, my message was 'lead well' to the returners, and to the whole group it was, 'Be really humble, and work.'"



 
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