Bennett pushing Beekman to be his best as UVA heads to BC

By Jerry Ratcliffe

reece beekman

ERIN EDGERTON/THE DAILY PROGRESS Virginia Cavaliers guard Reece Beekman (2) throws the ball up during a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Jan. 6 at John Paul Jones Area. UVa defeated Wake Forest 70-61.

Virginia will attempt to go 3-0 in the ACC on Saturday afternoon when the Cavaliers venture to the northeast to play Boston College (2 p.m. ACC Network), and Tony Bennett will be looking for one of his newcomers to make a greater impact.

Depending on matchups, it appears that in most cases UVA’s best starting lineup consists of Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark, Trey Murphy III and Reece Beekman. Those were the starters in the Cavaliers latest outing, a 70-61 win over visiting Wake Forest.

Beekman, a prized freshman guard from Baton Rouge, La., broke out with career highs in points (12) and steals (5) in helping the Cavaliers discard the Deacs.

It was after that win when Bennett spoke about how he’s attempting to push Beekman a little harder now that Virginia has dived into conference play. Over the past several weeks, Bennett has encouraged the talented freshman to be more aggressive.

Why?

Because Bennett knows that Beekman can become a beast on the hardwood. Look at what Beekman did in high school back in Louisiana. The 6-foot-3, 174-pound guard led Scotland Magnet to four state championships and a 131-14 record. At the same time, he was named the state’s Mr. Basketball.

As a senior, Beekman averaged 19.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 9.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game. That gained him 21 Division I offers from a ton of Southern schools, along with Marquette and Southern Cal.

However, it was Virginia that attracted Beekman and when he attended the NBA’s “Top 100 Camp” in Charlottesville the summer between his junior and senior years, Beekman committed to the Cavaliers before he left town. He had led the camp in scoring and wowed onlookers with his athletic ability.

“I told Reece that sometimes when you play with Kihei (Clark, UVA’s starting point guard), I think you feel like ‘I’m with Kihei and I’m just supposed to occasionally do stuff,’” Bennett said. “I said we can’t afford that. I said, you have to be assertive.

“I told him, you can’t play poorly. That can happen. I think he’s quiet by nature but he does stuff. It’s uncanny how many times he’ll tip balls and do things. That was something I liked, his assertiveness (against Wake) and I think that’s important for us moving forward.”

While Virginia has several talented scorers on the roster, Beekman and Clark are the two who are best at creating their own shots and are also adept at creating shots for their teammates by distributing the ball in the right positions.

That’s another reason Bennett wants Beekman to be aggressive. He knows what Beekman can do, and it is natural for many freshmen to kind of back off and let the more experienced players run the team. Bennett believes Beekman is different in that he can make a huge impact if he stays aggressive.

Against Wake, Beekman was 4 of 8 shooting from the field, 1 of 3 from the arc and 3 of 4 from the free throw line. He also had three assists and two turnovers in 36 minutes, 42 seconds of playing time, third-most of anyone on the team, only behind Clark (40 minutes) and Murphy (38 minutes).

Beekman played so well against Wake that he was one of two players (Hauser was the other) selected for postgame media interviews, where he was asked about Bennett’s encouragement.

“I just came in trying ti play my regular game [offensively],” Beekman said. “I was looking for my shots and just be me, making the plays I know I can.”

He wasn’t shy about driving to the hoop, including a dunk.

Beekman and his teammates were more efficient on the defensive end of the floor, particularly in the second half when they held Wake to 31 percent shooting (after the Deacs shot 62.5 percent the first half), and to a mere 22 points.

“These last few practices we have worked on our defense,” Beekman said. “Staying in front of your man and just make it hard on the other team. We definitely worked our defense over the last week in practice and I can tell it translated to this game.”

The freshman is averaging 5.1 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field, 36 percent from the arc, while averaging 24 minutes of playing time per game, which could be going up now. He has 17 assists in eight games and leads the Cavaliers in steals with 14.

Virginia, ranked No. 22 nationally in the AP poll, has won nine of the last 11 games against Boston College, but every Wahoos fan remembers last year’s visit to Beantown when the Cavaliers played one of their worst games of the season and lost to the underdog Eagles 60-53. UVA redeemed itself in the return match when the Cavaliers scorched the nets on a 59 percent shooting average, 68 percent in the second half to win 78-65.

After Saturday’s game at BC, Virginia will host Notre Dame on Wednesday. That game was moved up to 2:30 p.m. rather the original 8:30 start. It will be televised by the ACC Network.

Comments

  1. Frank says:

    Great read, Hoots! Hope the guys play as well as you write today!

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