CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — More than five months after Virginia won its first basketball national championship, the school hosted a celebration Friday night, raising a banner to the rafters of John Paul Jones Arena as thousands of boosters and fans showered the players and coaches that made it happen with cheers and adoration.
Coach Tony Bennett said the event was timed so that former members of the program and coaches could enjoy it. A more traditional celebration at the beginning of the next season, he said, would have prevented any former players still competing from attending, and made it difficult for coaches still coaching to enjoy.
Among the players in attendance were De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, all of whom left with eligibility remaining for the NBA. Jerome and Guy met with the media before the celebration and agreed that the reality of their accomplishment has still not set in, with Jerome surmising “I don’t think it ever will.”
Bennett, though, hoped the celebration, filled with video highlights and the presentation of championship rings, would help.
The Cavaliers won their final three games after trailing in the final seconds, and Bennett said when he finally watched the telecasts of the games, he realized that while his mind was racing with strategic thoughts in the moments as they unfolded, watching from his couch highlighted how difficult it was for spectators.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is close,’” he said, sitting upright in his seat for effect. ”‘What’s going to happen? Did we win?’”
Guy, the last of the three drafted this year, said his goal when he came to Virginia was to accomplish everything he could.
“I’m very excited to be here,” he added before the celebration, “and celebrate this one last time.”