Stattmann pushing for bigger role in Wahoo backcourt

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- When Virginia takes the court Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome, Kihei Clark will be the lone Wahoo in the backcourt from last season with a couple newcomers and a seldom used bench player vying for the other guard spot.

At the Wahoos' local media day last week, Tony Bennett named sophomore Kody Stattmann, JUCO transfer Tomas Woldetensae and freshman Casey Morsell as three guards fighting to lineup next to Clark.

"The longer guys like Kody Stattmann are playing and getting out there in practices and scrimmages and Tomas, and we're using Braxton [Key] some and of course Casey [Morsell]," Bennett said, "They're getting more comfortable in a practice and a scrimmage setting and now you move the needle to a live setting."

During last month's Blue-White Scrimmage it was Stattmann, who lined up with returning starters like Mamadi Diakite, Clark and Key. As true freshman last season, Stattmann only played 73 minutes off the bench. But the sophomore guard says he learned a lot watching teammates like Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome.

"Watching them progress throughout the year and going up against them in practice definitely made me a better player," Stattmann said, "Just for this year I wanted to come in bigger and stronger and follow their path of what they did last year."

Over the offseason, Stattmann gained 20 pounds to get up to 200 pounds. He also had a leading role playing in the U-19 World Cup for Australia, something he hopes to build off.

"Being one of the main guys on that and just getting used to playing a lot of court time on a big stage," Stattmann said, "I guess that's one of the main things I probably took out of that."

Stattmann has stiff competition though, with 4-star true freshman Casey Morsell receiving high praise from teammates for his defense. While he says he is not quite at the "Malcolm Brogdon-level" some have compared him with he hopes it helps him get on the court early.

"The opportunities are there, I just got to take advantage of it," Morsell said, "A lot of guys that came back that have experience that I can take different information from. So I just got to learn from them and continue to improve each day."

Woldetensae comes in with some experience after playing at the JUCO level for Indian Hills Community College, where he shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range as a first-team All-American. The junior guard admitted to the sharp learning curve with the Wahoos' defense, but has been pushed by the competition so far.

"They go hard, like not only coming from JUCO and the change of level, but I think the guys you can just see it in their eyes," Woldetensae said, "They're ready to go, so that's great competition to go against for me."

Bennett said with the experience in the frontcourt, the Cavaliers are more likely to lean on the bigs early on, meaning whoever steps in at guard will have to fill a role and have the confidence to step up in big moments.

"Just believing in yourself and just playing our system and just doing your role in the system," Stattmann said.

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