MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jack Salt has taken the floor 126 times in his Virginia men's basketball career. Monday's national championship game will be his last.
“Jack tells everyone that he’s out after this year," UVA junior guard Kyle Guy joked during a session with media on Sunday. "He’s going to the league, so he’s done.”
“I feel like he’s one of the staff. Like he’s been here forever," said UVA associate head coach Jason Williford. "We’re going to miss the big fella, but he’s been the heart and soul.”
Salt is the only senior on this year's UVA roster. On Monday night against Texas Tech, Salt has a chance to do what no other player in program history has ever done -- end his career with a national title.
“It’s been a wild couple of weeks," Salt admitted in the UVA locker room on Sunday.
"We’re here because of the guys that laid the foundation and changed the culture of this program," Salt said. "I mean, Virginia basketball has been in a good place for a while, but to make it to this stage is a credit to the players and the coaches that have been here before us.”
UVA's current coaches and players credit Salt with embodying the pillars the program has been built on -- humility and servanthood in particular.
Salt started every game for the Cavaliers the previous two seasons. He started 26 of UVA's 29 regular season games this season. But during UVA's NCAA Tournament run, Salt has only made one start - against Gardner-Webb in the opening round. His 34-minute stint against Purdue in the Elite Eight marked the only time in the tournament that Salt has played more than 10 minutes.
“Here’s a guy who’s a fifth-year senior who started and played a lot, and all of a sudden his role has been reduced," said UVA head coach Tony Bennett. "And I remember talking to him and he said, “Coach, I just want to advance. Whatever you think is best.” Yeah it’s hard not to play, but whatever is best for the team.”
“Whether coach needs me or not, I’m going to be on the bench ready, engaged. And in practice I’m vocal, engaged. And in film I’m locked on," Salt said. "So I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can.”
Salt will serve as one of the Wahoos' captains for Monday's NCAA title game, just as he has for every past two seasons. Win or lose against Texas Tech, his leadership will serve as Salt's legacy as his UVA career comes to a close.
“He’ll do whatever is required," Williford said. "He’s a great example of just wanting to win and wanting to be part of a good program.”
"He’s the best teammate anybody could ask for. Just the way he accepts whatever role is given to him," said UVA sophomore forward Jay Huff. "He’s an amazing teammate, an amazing person, and he’s the backbone of this team.”