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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

Tony Bennett: Joe Harris not expected to undergo offseason surgery on broken left hand

Virginia sophomore guard Joe Harris likely will not need any sort of offseason surgical procedure to complete the healing on his broken left hand, Coach Tony Bennett said Monday night.

Harris, who played the final month of the season with a fracture in his non-shooting hand, had said a procedure might be necessary once the 2011-12 campaign was finished. The Cavaliers lost to Florida, 71-45, Friday in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament.

But Bennett said the plan for now is for Harris to rest the hand for the next couple of weeks.

“He’ll have to take a couple weeks where he doesn’t do anything, just lets it really rest, and then I think he’ll be okay,” Bennett said in a telephone interview. “I don’t believe he’ll need further surgery. I think he’s healing, and it should be okay. Now he just has to rest it and not aggravate it. That’s the plan.”

As for freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon, who missed the final four games of the season after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left foot March 7, the recovery process remains far less clear.

“It’s a little varied,” Bennett said. “I think a lot will be determined just by how he progresses. I don’t know the exact timetable of how long he’s got to be off it [the foot]. But he goes back and he gets a picture just kind of to see if the healing is taking place and all the things that are required. That will determine how soon he can come back or what he can do. That certainly was a big loss, and that’s why he wanted to get the surgery, so he could get back as soon as possible.”

Brogdon injured the foot Feb. 17, a day before Virginia’s 71-44 win over Maryland. He played in pain for three games before he could go no further. Brogdon said in late February he’d had a history of foot issues dating back to high school, and Bennett acknowledged Monday the injury “definitely wasn’t an acute thing.”

“It was something that was chronic, and I think over time the issue had to be addressed,” Bennett said. “Certainly, the surgery he had was to fix the broken bone, and it was a significant procedure, so now it’s just the recovery phase and how long it takes for him to get back to full strength.”

During the telephone interview, Bennett discussed each of his returning players and some areas in which he’d like to see them develop in the offseason. Here’s what he had to say …

On Jontel Evans , who will be the only senior on the roster next season: “You make your jumps physically with your game. Definitely you can improve your junior and senior year with the mechanics of your game – shooting, finishing, all those things. But I think the biggest jump from his junior year to his senior year, in Jontel’s case, he has to keep working to improve in all areas, but the biggest thing has to be in just to become mentally sounder, become more of a leader, be a steadying factor on the team.

“I saw that jump with Mike [Scott] this year, and even in Sammy [Zeglinski]. Especially in Jontel’s case, being the lone senior, that will be significant, his approach to the game, the feel and understanding of it, and being that leader, will be a great challenge for him and something that he can really embrace and help the team out. … His improvement is more fine-tuning and mental as much as physical and with his game. That’s where I think his jump will come from next year.”

On rising junior Akil Mitchell and rising sophomore Darion Atkins , who collectively will bear significant roles in trying to replace the interior production of Mike Scott next season: “It’s a big offseason, specifically for Darion and Akil, but really for all of our guys. … Both of them really need to continue to attack the weight room and improve their physical strength. Especially for Darion, he needs to get as strong as he can. And they need to continue to develop their offensive skills.”

On Atkins and fellow rising sophomore Paul Jesperson : “Every game was important down the stretch, and every possession mattered because we were in so many tight games. And I think at times they played afraid to make mistakes. That’s normal for freshmen, but I think the minutes they had were invaluable. …

“I think that helps a guy like Paul adjust quicker to next year than had he redshirted a whole year. And the minutes Darion got, all those things are so valuable for being more ready for their second year as opposed to had they not played. In terms of being ready sooner, I think this was very important for them in the mix in important settings and having to be counted on in pressure settings and situations. Those are important things. The comfort and confidence has to really step up.”

On Jesperson in particular: “When he was comfortable out there, his feel was good. You can see that he’s just got to get more consistent with his shot and continue to work on ball handling and strength and quickness areas. But he has a natural feel. With the departure of Sammy and all that, he’s going be in an important role.”

And here’s one last quote from Bennett on the toughness Harris displayed while playing with a broken hand the final month of the season: “He showed his ability to battle and be tough-minded. He’s great that way. In that Florida game, we broke the press and they threw it to him and he reached up with his left hand to catch it and kind of bobbled it, and then he tried to grab it with his right hand and it went out of bounds. It was just one of those things where you could see the frustration. There wasn’t a whole lot he could do.

“He had to play with some limitations, but he was willing to – he’s a tough nut. He’s going to give you everything he has, and whatever it takes to help the team. He was like, As long as I can play, I’m playing. He’d do anything to play. I don’t think his toughness was in question, but if it was, all it did was just reaffirm that he’s tough-minded.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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