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Cavs looking at rebuilding

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Dave Leitao enters his fourth season as coach at Virginia feeling like he’s starting all over, building from the ground up.
And why not?
For his first three seasons, Leitao had Sean Singletary as his point guard, a virtual coach on the floor and reliable big-moment performer. He also had big man Jason Cain and shooting guard J.R. Reynolds for the first two years.
Now, as he looks around the gym, he sees plenty of talent, but just as many question marks heading into the 2009 season.
‘‘I kind of feel like this is a almost a first-year venture because when I got here, being blessed with Jason and J.R. and Sean was probably more than I could have expected,’’ Leitao said as practice began.
In their absence, questions abound such as who will want to take the big shot? Who will call out teammates for careless mistakes? Will the Cavaliers ever start actually playing the kind of defense Leitao demands?
Such unanswered questions, Leitao said, explains why ‘‘there’s both optimism and pessimism in every coach’s office right about now.’’
The media picked Virginia to finish 12th — that’s last — in 2009.
‘‘That’s all the motivation we need,’’ said 6-foot-8 forward Mike Scott. ‘‘No one believes in us, so we just come out and work hard each day.’’
Virginia got a head start on finding some answers during a three-games-in-two-days August trip to Canada. Before heading out, the Cavaliers were allowed to hold 10 practices that helped the team get used to not having Singletary around and come together.
This week, Leitao announced that his only seniors, guard Mamadi Diane and center Tunji Soroye, and junior guard Calvin Baker will be the captains.
It’s a role all three have been preparing for since last year.
‘‘We do have a lot of young, good players, and the transition from high school to college is tough, so I make sure I talk to them as much as I can, trying to get them to stay positive,’’ said Baker, a transfer from William & Mary who was placed on scholarship after a solid 2008 season.
‘‘As a freshman, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. I just want to make sure their downs don’t stay as long and their highs do.’’
For Diane, whose career has been marked by sterling performances often followed by nearly invisible ones, the leading role could lift his game.
‘‘Consistency, that was one of the things,’’ he said in recalling summertime coversations he had with Leitao. ‘‘But the main thing we talked about was leadership more than anything and bringing that every day. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself.’’
The Cavaliers hope it will. Diane led Virginia in scoring six times last season, but his average of 11.8 points reflects his inconsistency.
Baker and redshirt freshman Sammy Zeglinski will start out sharing the point guard role, but if they struggle, Leitao may have to give some of those duties to freshman Sylven Landesburg, a 6-6 McDonald’s All-American.
The coach was hoping not to burden Landesburg too soon, and to let him work his way in at shooting guard with Diane and sophomore Jeff Jones.
Up front, Soroye returns after missing all of last season with knee and back issues and figures to give the Cavaliers an inside presence.
‘‘Last year, players would get down the middle of the lane and we didn’t have a shot blocker down there that could touch their shot,’’ Baker said. ‘‘With Tunji down there, he’s real aggressive, he’s strong, he’s experienced. His presence on the court will help us a lot.’’
The 6-11 Soroye also will serve as a mentor of sorts for freshman Assane Sene and John Brandenburg. Sene is 7 feet tall, Brandenburg 6-11.
The front court also will include Scott, a strong rebounder and inside player, streaky shooting Jamil Tucker and Jerome Meyinsse.
Leitao sees it as a roster chock full of talent, but needing live action to see who falls where and how roles work out moving ahead.
The players agree, but also think they have surprises in store.
‘‘Naturally, when someone picks you to be last, you want to prove them wrong. That’s the chip that we have on our shoulder,’’ Baker said.
‘‘We are out to prove a lot of people wrong.’’

AP-ES-11-14-08 1439EST

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Cavs looking at rebuilding

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Dave Leitao enters his fourth season as coach at Virginia feeling like he’s starting all over, building from the ground up.
And why not?
For his first three seasons, Leitao had Sean Singletary as his point guard, a virtual coach on the floor and reliable big-moment performer. He also had big man Jason Cain and shooting guard J.R. Reynolds for the first two years.
Now, as he looks around the gym, he sees plenty of talent, but just as many question marks heading into the 2009 season.
‘‘I kind of feel like this is a almost a first-year venture because when I got here, being blessed with Jason and J.R. and Sean was probably more than I could have expected,’’ Leitao said as practice began.
In their absence, questions abound such as who will want to take the big shot? Who will call out teammates for careless mistakes? Will the Cavaliers ever start actually playing the kind of defense Leitao demands?
Such unanswered questions, Leitao said, explains why ‘‘there’s both optimism and pessimism in every coach’s office right about now.’’
The media picked Virginia to finish 12th — that’s last — in 2009.
‘‘That’s all the motivation we need,’’ said 6-foot-8 forward Mike Scott. ‘‘No one believes in us, so we just come out and work hard each day.’’
Virginia got a head start on finding some answers during a three-games-in-two-days August trip to Canada. Before heading out, the Cavaliers were allowed to hold 10 practices that helped the team get used to not having Singletary around and come together.
This week, Leitao announced that his only seniors, guard Mamadi Diane and center Tunji Soroye, and junior guard Calvin Baker will be the captains.
It’s a role all three have been preparing for since last year.
‘‘We do have a lot of young, good players, and the transition from high school to college is tough, so I make sure I talk to them as much as I can, trying to get them to stay positive,’’ said Baker, a transfer from William & Mary who was placed on scholarship after a solid 2008 season.
‘‘As a freshman, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. I just want to make sure their downs don’t stay as long and their highs do.’’
For Diane, whose career has been marked by sterling performances often followed by nearly invisible ones, the leading role could lift his game.
‘‘Consistency, that was one of the things,’’ he said in recalling summertime coversations he had with Leitao. ‘‘But the main thing we talked about was leadership more than anything and bringing that every day. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself.’’
The Cavaliers hope it will. Diane led Virginia in scoring six times last season, but his average of 11.8 points reflects his inconsistency.
Baker and redshirt freshman Sammy Zeglinski will start out sharing the point guard role, but if they struggle, Leitao may have to give some of those duties to freshman Sylven Landesburg, a 6-6 McDonald’s All-American.
The coach was hoping not to burden Landesburg too soon, and to let him work his way in at shooting guard with Diane and sophomore Jeff Jones.
Up front, Soroye returns after missing all of last season with knee and back issues and figures to give the Cavaliers an inside presence.
‘‘Last year, players would get down the middle of the lane and we didn’t have a shot blocker down there that could touch their shot,’’ Baker said. ‘‘With Tunji down there, he’s real aggressive, he’s strong, he’s experienced. His presence on the court will help us a lot.’’
The 6-11 Soroye also will serve as a mentor of sorts for freshman Assane Sene and John Brandenburg. Sene is 7 feet tall, Brandenburg 6-11.
The front court also will include Scott, a strong rebounder and inside player, streaky shooting Jamil Tucker and Jerome Meyinsse.
Leitao sees it as a roster chock full of talent, but needing live action to see who falls where and how roles work out moving ahead.
The players agree, but also think they have surprises in store.
‘‘Naturally, when someone picks you to be last, you want to prove them wrong. That’s the chip that we have on our shoulder,’’ Baker said.
‘‘We are out to prove a lot of people wrong.’’

AP-ES-11-14-08 1439EST

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