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What role will De’Andre Hunter play for Virginia basketball in 2017-18?

Last week, after Virginia defeated Davidson, the older brother and mentor of Cavaliers swingman De’Andre Hunter caused a brief and mild stir with a Facebook post seeming to suggest the redshirt freshman should transfer.

The folks over at the UVA blog, Streaking The Lawn, quickly got in touch with Aaron Hunter who backtracked and said De’Andre certainly wasn’t considering leaving the program.

If there is frustration Hunter, who averages 5.8 points per game, hasn’t immediately stepped into a starring role for the Cavs it probably stems from what might so far feel like unfulfilled potential. Hunter’s minutes have fluctuated a bit over the course of the season. After Tuesday’s blowout of Savannah State — in which Hunter played a team-high 23 minutes — Virginia coach Tony Bennett suggested Hunter still has some things to grasp offensively, but his defense could be huge for the Cavs as the season progresses.

“I like the way he is evolving as a defender,” Bennett said. “I think with his length that he has embraced that role. I do like what I have seen defensively. That will be valuable.”

Team defense and the helping principles of the Pack Line are constants in the Virginia program, but Tony Bennett’s best teams have been the ones with an individual capable of locking down top scorers one-on-one.

Akil Mitchell and Malcolm Brogdon have filled that role in the past, and Hunter may have that potential. At 6-7 with a wingspan of more than 7-feet, Hunter’s length can cause problems for many guards and he seems to be embracing that role.

Bennett frequently warns that even when a player redshirts, there is a significant learning process during that first season. But Hunter and fellow redshirt freshman Jay Huff both possess rare physical gifts that made them exceptionally intriguing prospects.

But right now Hunter seems closer really making a big impact as the Cavs inch closer and closer to ACC play. His minutes are going to become increasingly valuable as Virginia faces more athletic teams in the conference schedule.

Kyle Guy has improved defensively, but is still somewhat undersized on the wing. Times may come where matchups prompt Bennett to go with a bigger lineup.

If Hunter, who is a smooth outside shooter, can use that size and athleticism to get good looks it would open up a lot of possibilities for the Cavs.

Since scoring 23 against Monmouth a month ago, Hunter has had five games with four or fewer points. But he had nine Tuesday against Savannah State, perhaps a sign he and Bennett are both looking for ways to keep him more involved.

 

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