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Virginia suspends Sylven Landesberg, who may leave the school

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 2010; D10

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Virginia guard Sylven Landesberg missed Saturday's 74-68 loss to Maryland, will not play in the ACC tournament -- and might have played his final game for the Cavaliers.

Landesberg was suspended for the season for "failure to live up to his academic obligations," the university announced in a statement. Even before the season, there had been speculation about whether Landesberg will enter the NBA draft following his sophomore year.

Landesberg is "definitely considering" a jump to the professional ranks, said a source with direct knowledge of the situation who did not want to be identified because a decision has not been reached. The source added that Landesberg could also opt to play in Europe or Israel.

Of more immediate concern to Virginia is how Coach Tony Bennett's decision affects the current team. Landesberg, the team's undisputed star, entered Saturday leading the Cavaliers in scoring (17.3 points per game), assists (2.9 per game) and minutes (32.1 per game). Bennett said that Landesberg failed to meet his standards -- not university standards.

"That was a hard decision," Bennett said after the game. "We know the value he has to the team. He's a good kid. . . . But there are some expectations and some standards that have to be adhered to. Hard decision . . . but I hope this helps. It was something that was not easy to do considering the circumstances, but there are, again, expectations and there are consequences to those."

Landesberg was not on the bench Saturday. Players learned the news from Bennett around 10 a.m. -- about 3 1/2 hours before the game. Bennett did not elaborate, telling the team that there were expectations Landesberg failed to meet.

"Coach Bennett wants to run this program his way," said senior captain Jerome Meyinsse, who scored 17 points in his final game at John Paul Jones Arena. "When he first got here, he told us his standards and everything. He said, 'If you don't abide by these, I'm not going to yell and scream, but I'll have to punish you.' And I think that's what happened."

It was too soon for players to speculate whether Landesberg will return to Virginia. Some have not even spoken to Landesberg, considering they found out upon arriving at John Paul Jones Arena. Junior forward Will Sherrill said he spoke to Landesberg on Friday evening and found out that Landesberg might be in academic trouble.

Bennett's first season has now included two academic suspensions (Landesberg and Jamil Tucker) and another instance when he did not bring senior captain Calvin Baker on a trip to Wake Forest while Baker was frustrated about playing time. Tucker was later dismissed from the team.

"Coach Bennett expects us to put as much effort into academics as we put into basketball," Sherrill said. "Obviously, I don't think the situation here was up to his liking, and really, it wasn't up to the University of Virginia's standards. And he knows what the University of Virginia expects from its student-athletes, and he's going to try to uphold that."

With that, a clear message has been sent to Virginia's current and "future" players, as Bennett twice referred to in the statement, that no one is above Bennett's rules. Not even the best player on the team.

"We're really trying to establish this kind of program with the right kind of things -- for the present, for the future," Bennett said. "And we're really trying to build it. And there's something when you come to a school like the University of Virginia, there's some opportunities and expectations that when they're not met, action's taken. And we want our program, the young men to understand, when we say things, we mean them."

Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.

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