Shedrick growing in big man’s role for Virginia’s defense

By Jerry Ratcliffe

UVA’s Kadin Shedrick was a force down low in the Cavaliers’ season-opening win over NC Central Monday. (Photo by Jon Golden)

Once a feisty North Carolina Central team went on a 12-0 run to take a 44-43 lead Monday night, 18th-ranked Virginia did what 18th-ranked teams are supposed to do.

The Cavaliers dominated the last 14 minutes of the game and prevailed, 73-61, something forward Kadin Shedrick wasn’t so sure last year’s team could have done early in the season. Shedrick was right. UVA lost early-season battles with Navy and JMU due to a shortage of firepower and depth last season.

Neither should be a problem this time around in Tony Bennett’s 14th season at Virginia.

Shedrick is expected to become a force for the Cavaliers in his second healthy season. Inconsistent a year ago and prone to foul trouble, the 6-foot-11 redshirt junior is playing smarter basketball and gives UVA a true rim protector.

For a 12-minute stretch Monday night, Shedrick went beast mode on the glass and grabbed, blocked or intimidated everything that came his way. Six of his seven rebounds came during that span, as he helped limit Central’s shots, that is when he chose not to slap Eagles’ shots into oblivion.

His boardwork helped Virginia erase NC Central’s lead, as the Cavaliers answered with a 15-2 run, bolting to a 58-44 advantage. Central coach Levelle Moton said that was the difference. Moton was right.

“[Central] took the lead and part of me was hoping it wasn’t last year all over again,” Shedrick said. “I think we all just realized that we had to lock in at that moment. We couldn’t let them continue to build this momentum.

“The crowd stayed in it, which we really appreciate, and we stayed in it. We played hard and we were able to pull away, which was really good. I’m not sure last year’s team would have been able to do that early in the season, so I think we showed growth there.”

Virginia turned up the intensity once it lost the lead. Fifteen seconds later, Kihei Clark, who has a history of making big shots, drilled a 3-pointer to erase the lead, igniting the JPJ crowd. On the ensuing Central possession, Reece Beekman stole the ball from Marque Maultsby, raced down the floor and slammed the ball home for a 48-44 lead.

Beekman added a triple, followed by a 3 from Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas with inside buckets contributed by Francisco Caffaro and Shedrick for a 14-point bulge that took only four minutes to accumulate.

“They made significant plays at significant times,” Central’s Moton said. “They really responded. I heard some nervous energy in the stands from the crowd and I thought we put a lot of pressure on [Virginia], but they are a great team. They showed us why they are No. 18 in the country.”

Photo by Jon Golden

Shedrick wasn’t pleased with his first-half performance, and with good reason. He had only two rebounds and missed his only field-goal attempt. The big man finished with 10 points (3 of 6 from the field, 4 of 4 from the line), 7 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 2 steals and 2 assists in 27 minutes. Oh, and four fouls, something he’s trying to gain more control of.

“I tried to get on the offensive glass, and even if I wasn’t going to get the rebound, I tried to knock it out of bounds or to one of our guys,” Shedrick said. “I was trying my best to keep my man off the glass.”

With Shedrick, Caffaro and Jayden Gardner, the Cavaliers have experienced bodies in the paint, and the more rim protectors, the better. That’s where Shedrick can prosper.

“It’s so important defensively to have rim protection,” Tony Bennett said afterward. “Whether it’s blocking shots, grabbing some tough rebounds … and I thought some balls we kept alive on the offensive glass, and that was a key.

“Jayden had four offensive rebounds and Kadin and Ben kept some balls alive. It seemed like we kept some important offensive plays alive because they went hard to the offensive glass.”

Bennett wants Shedrick to be the team’s anchor on defense, and while establishing that role, also run the floor.

“He’s showed improvement from the summer and this fall, and I thought that was a good first step,” the coach said.

The next step by Shedrick could be huge as he becomes an intimidating force in the paint defensively, something this Virginia team desperately needs to have happen.