CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jay Huff's Virginia teammates aren't surprised by what they've seen from the seven-foot redshirt sophomore in recent games. They're just happy he's getting the chance to do it.
"It surprised me when he first got here, but this is stuff that we see every day," junior Kyle Guy said after Tuesday's 68-45 win against Wake Forest, in which Huff finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 13 minutes, and added two rebounds and two blocks on the defensive end.
"He does a lot of miraculous things on the offensive end every day in practice. Makes a lot of tough shots," Guy said. "He's a great player and he's a very selfless player. The defensive end is where he's struggled, and now he's starting to pick that up. So it's good for us."
UVA coach Tony Bennett said on Monday that Huff had been "heading in the right direction" this season. Long a fan favorite at John Paul Jones Arena for his high-flying dunks and ability to stretch defenses with his 3-point shooting, Huff had to work hard to earn the trust of Bennett and his assistants on the defensive end.
After redshirting during the 2016-17 season, Huff averaged 3.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.8 minutes in 12 games last year. He only appeared in four ACC games, scoring four total points in 13 total minutes. That playing time was limited in large part because of Huff's struggles in UVA's pack line defense.
"I mean, it is frustrating in a way. But I knew that coming in," Huff admitted after the Wake Forest win. "I knew that we played defense this way. And that's the system, and that's what I have to do in order to earn playing time. It's not vice versa. I wouldn't expect that to change for me."
Huff has drawn praise from Bennett recently for his hard work and improved consistency in practice, which has led to more opportunities in UVA's rotation. He has averaged 9.0 minutes in the 17-1 Wahoos' six ACC games. Offensively, Huff has scored 6.5 points on 15-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line. Defensively, he has averaged 2.2 rebounds per game, with seven blocked shots.
"He's just got to keep being continuous and work hard defensively. He's not there at times, and he's got to keep embracing physicality," Bennett said Tuesday night. "But I like it that he's bothering some shots. He seems like his length is bothering people. And he's trying hard to show on ball screens and hustle back. And I think there are less breakdowns, which is a good sign."