Photo: 1) Mamadi Diakite and Kadin Shedrick; 2) Jay Huff
CHARLOTTE – Virginia, always on the lookout for the “hidden gems” coach Tony Bennett seeks to develop as a means to challenge the 5- and 4-star Duke and North Carolina recruits, has a possible Twin Tower pairing from North Carolina high schools.
Jay Huff is a 7-foot-1, 243-pound redshirt junior from Durham’s Voyager Academy. Huff has grown two inches and put on 53 pounds since his high school senior season in 2016 and redshirting his first year on campus. He’s ideally more of a stretch-4 with his three-point shooting range.
Kadin Shedrick is a 6-11, 214-pound true freshman from Holly Springs. He thought he was a pitcher/first baseman high school baseball player until he grew eight inches from his freshman year to 6-10 as a junior. He’s mobile but better as a post player with his touch around the basket.
This is something new for Bennett and his teams that are usually guard and small forward oriented to move the ball and work the clock. Another 7-footer on the roster is Francisco Caffaro (7-0, 244), playing this year as a redshirt freshman.
When Shedrick committed before his senior year, he was willing to redshirt to develop, but with the combination of his senior year improvement and the Cavaliers losing three underclassmen to the NBA draft, his timetable has changed.
At the recent ACC basketball media day at the Marriott City Center, I wanted to hear how Bennett and his star returning player, redshirt senior Mamadi Diakite, feel about having two big men from North Carolina helping them compete in the ACC with Duke and North Carolina – not to mention Florida State’s tall and lengthy rosters.
I expected to hear the normal platitudes about improving and potential. I heard more than I expected.
For example, the 6-9, 224-poound Diakite, who will like the help with from Huff and Shedrick if they produce, started out saying this about Shedrick: “He’s a freshman. There’s not much I can say about him. He’s raw … ”
But then he continued.
“But he looks really good for a freshman. He has the ability to block shots and grab rebounds. He’s athletic. He can also shoot. His touch around the basketball is unbelievable. He will be interesting to see how he develops.”
On Huff, Diakite said: “Jay has been up and down. Some people say his defense wasn’t good. I think he’s much better on defense now. He’s grown (adding weight) and I think his defense is much better. There is a correlation between two. I think he can take a big step. He can really shoot the ball, block shots and grab rebounds.”
Bennett didn’t hold back as much as I expected, either.
On Huff: “Jay is stepping into an upperclassman role and more is required of him. I think he’s looking forward to that opportunity. He gave us spot minutes last year and showed flashes and now of his offense ability. He’s ready for this opportunity. We’re going to need him he have him play a big part.”
Last year Huff averaged 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in 9.4 minutes. He posted career-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds in December against Marshall. He knocked down two three-pointers against Duke and has 12 in a game against Wake Forest.
On Shedrick, Bennett said:
“Kadin has a big upside in him. He’s going to be good with time, but right now it’s fast at times and he’s still growing into his body. I’m excited about his future; has a 7-4 or 7-5 wingspan. He’s long and mobile and active. He’s new to the game and has exploded onto the scene. He’s the type of guy we’ve done well with – a hidden gem that we can watch grow into what he’s going to be a year from now. He’s going to keep stepping up.”
Virginia begins it season on Nov. 6 at Syracuse, an opponent Diakite provides a bit of irony, considering Syracuse teams have always been known for their length.
“We’re going to be a bigger team this year,” he said. “It reminds of Syracuse’s length. Our defense is going to bother teams.”
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