Katstra 'shocked' by UVA's scholarship reveal

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Virginia never trailed in Tuesday's 81-59 win at home against ninth-ranked Virginia Tech. The fourth-ranked Wahoos' largest deficit through four ACC games is four points, early in UVA's conference opener against Florida State. The 16-0 Cavaliers have only played four games all season that have been decided by single digits.

So the argument can be made that possibly the most clutch shot of the first half of the UVA season came in the practice gym last weekend, when sophomore walk-on Austin Katstra stepped to the free throw line with his teammates lined along the base line.

Katstra didn't realize what was at stake when he was summoned by head coach Tony Bennett. It was only after the Albemarle High School grad hit the shot that Bennett broke the news: Katstra had earned a scholarship with the team.

"I had no idea. I was shocked. I was in shock for a little bit after it, too. It took a while for it to set in," Katstra said Tuesday night after UVA's win over the Hokies. "It means a ton to me. Especially since my dad and my grandpa both played here."

Bennett credited associate athletic director Ronnie Wideman with the plan to ambush Katstra with the reveal. He says he would have made Katstra a 'double or nothing' offer if Katstra had missed the shot.

There are conflicting reports as to who was aware of what was on the line when Katstra stepped up to shoot. According to Bennett, the rest of the team knew what was riding on the free throw; Katstra says he was told that only captains Jack Salt, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome knew the stakes.

On a video posted to social media by the basketball program Sunday evening, the entire team mobbed Katstra in celebration after he swished the free throw, as Bennett walked away beaming.

"I was just trying to stand up, because I didn't want to fall down and get stomped on," Katstra recalled. "But I didn't really know what was going on. I was just trying to comprehend everything, and it was just crazy."

A three-time all-state selection at Albemarle -- and the VHSL Group 5A co-state player of the year as a senior in 2017 -- Katstra has appeared in 18 games in two seasons at UVA, including seven points and four rebounds 22 minutes over eight games as a sophomore.

He's the latest walk-on to be rewarded with a scholarship by the UVA coaching staff in recent seasons. Earlier this week, Bennett recalled surprising Thomas Rogers with the news during the team's annual player-coach softball game. Justice Bartley was told in the locker room after the Wahoos' win at Virginia Tech last season.

"What the walk-on guys mean to our program. How valued they are and how they give. And then to be able to say, 'Here's a scholarship for a financial blessing and just what you've done,' was great," Bennett said. "So to see Austin's look and the teammates embrace him, those are the best things about coaching that I'll never forget."



 
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