Bennett explains redshirting of three freshmen

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photos: UVA Athletics

Tony Bennett confirmed after Monday night’s season-opening win over visiting Tarleton State that he has redshirted three first-year players: guards Elijah Gertrude and Christian Bliss and forward Anthony Robinson. Bennett usually has at least one player redshirting, and his actions Monday made perfect sense.

Virginia gave court time to 10 scholarship players against Tarleton, each receiving 10 minutes or more of action, a heavy amount for most teams. It would be challenging to attempt to squeeze playing time in for more players.

Bennett said the plan is to redshirt all three, but that could change depending upon circumstances as the season progresses.

“Christian was going to be in his senior year (of high school) right now and [redshirting] was sort of the plan all along,” Bennett said. “Elijah, I think by missing his whole senior year (in high school last season) with his knee surgery, set him back a little bit, but I’ll tell you, he shows flashes.”

Bennett said that last season he thought that redshirt Leon Bond III could have helped Virginia at times, but believed it would be better to hold him back a season, which would pay future dividends.

“We always leave it up [to the players],” Bennett said. “We talked to Anthony and said I think your best basketball is long-range. It’s something that happens when they get extra work during the season. When they play on the scout team (in practice), they just get aggressive and they kind of free up and they can play without worrying about making so many mistakes.”

Bennett said that when freshmen are trying to fit in, he’s noticed it can restrict them if they’re not in the playing rotation right away.

“So we just decided that we would recommend [redshirting] would be something that would probably bode well for their longtime future, but it wasn’t easy decisions, and of course, it was up to them if they wanted to and I think they all feel it’s the best decision right now,” Bennett said.

Bond believed prior to last season that a redshirt year would be beneficial to his game, particularly on the physical side of things, and thinks he is now getting the dividends. He has shared his thoughts on the subject with the three freshmen who will redshirt.

“I remember talking to Christian before he committed and I’ve been around Ant and Eli a lot, but I’ve been telling them to attack every day,” Bond said. “Understand that it’s a slow grind and don’t get discouraged because discouragement is a loss of perspective. So I told them that you’ve got to understand these workouts aren’t for nothing, that they’re all going to add up, so when you play in your first game it will pay off.”

Bond made his collegiate debut Monday night and was somewhat spectacular with 4 of 5 shooting, 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in about 17 minutes of playing time.