Key Losses: F/C Elton Brown (12.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg), F Jason Clark (6.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg), F Devin Smith (16.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Potomac, MD/DeMatha Catholic
Palanga, Lithuania/Blue Ridge School (Va.)
Greenwood Village, CO/Cherry Creek
Dave Leitao inherits a class that was not highly rated. But given the holes in the frontcourt, all three players will get long looks. At 250 pounds, Mikalauskas appears most likely to contribute immediately. Diane was an All-Met selection in Washington, D.C. Warren averaged just 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a senior and is considered a project.
To order your 2005 Athlon Sports annual and receive $1 off plus free shipping courtesy of SI.com, click here.
At his introductory press conference, Dave Leitao didn't offer one-liners or tell funny stories about his childhood. Leitao sat ramrod straight, projecting an aura of seriousness and intensity.
The contrast with Leitao's predecessor, Pete Gillen, couldn't have been starker. Gillen, who resigned under pressure after the '04-05 season, was known for his comedic shtick, but as the Cavaliers struggled in recent years, Virginia fans found him less and less amusing.
Enter Leitao, who represents a clear change in direction in Charlottesville. In his three-year stint at DePaul, Leitao's teams were known for toughness, discipline and tenacity -- in other words, the very things Gillen's teams often lacked.
Leitao is not promising a quick fix, and, given the team he has inherited, that's a good idea. But he has promised the Cavaliers will play harder than they have, especially on defense.
"I'd like to think that my teams have always been very consistent on the defensive end," Leitao says. "You know if you played against us, anything you got you had to earn."
Virginia will need to lay it on the line, because the Cavaliers won't win on talent alone. Though most of the backcourt returns, the frontcourt is woefully inexperienced.
Elton Brown was a player Virginia fans loved to complain about. But for all his shortcomings -- he struggled on the defensive end and sometimes pouted when things didn't go his way -- Brown was one of the best low-post scorers in the ACC. Small forward Devin Smith was also adept at putting the ball in the basket.
Where will Virginia turn now for frontcourt scoring? It's anyone's guess. No returning forward or center averaged more than 4.2 points per game last season. Gary Forbes averaged 9.4 points but spent as much time at shooting guard as small forward.
"There isn't a guy in that group, who, from an experience standpoint, has been able to be consistent," Leitao says.
The leading candidate to start at center is Tunji Soroye, a 6-foot-11 sophomore known as a shot-blocker. In the mix at power forward are juniors Donte Minter, who showed promise as a scorer two years ago but was slowed by injuries last season and Jason Cain, who started seven games last year. Laurynas Mikalauskas, a freshman from Lithuania, could also press for playing time.
At small forward, the options are Forbes, who brought energy off the bench last season and sophomore Adrian Joseph, considered the team's most athletic player.
Sean Singletary might be the best returning point guard in the ACC. Part of the reason is four underclassmen -- Chris Paul of Wake Forest, Raymond Felton of North Carolina, Jarrett Jack of Georgia Tech and John Gilchrist of Maryland -- opted to enter the NBA Draft.
Even if those players were returning, Singletary would be a player to be reckoned with. It wasn't so much Singletary's numbers last year that caught the eye -- he averaged 10.5 points, 3.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds. It was more the way he played, with fearlessness and nonstop energy. By the end of the year, he had emerged as the team's clear leader.
"He has a chance to be among the best in the country," Leitao says.
If Leitao can get more consistency out of shooting guard J.R. Reynolds, Virginia's backcourt could be one of the best in the ACC. Reynolds' career has been a roller coaster. At times he's barely seemed a part of the offense. But in last year's ACC tournament win over Miami, he erupted for 32 points.
T.J. Bannister is a capable backup at point guard. Forbes can slide down to shooting guard, giving Leitao some versatility.
A new arena is rising across the street from Leitao's office in University Hall. It will be ready for the 2006-07 season.
If only Leitao's construction project could be completed as quickly. The Cavaliers have a long way to go, even in a conference weakened by the departures of so many star players.
"We've got some days ahead that will challenge us," he says. "As long as I see the guys buying in, giving consistency of effort, I'll be pleased."