CHARLOTTESVILLE — For every 40 minutes that he has played this year, Virginia 7-footer Jay Huff has averaged more than 25 points.
Scoring was never the problem for Huff, whose defensive shortcomings kept him from playing more than 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017-2018.
Huff, a redshirt sophomore from Durham, North Carolina, has played in 15 of 18 games this year for third-ranked UVa (17-1, 5-1 ACC) and his contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.
Huff had 12 points in just over 13 minutes Tuesday night as the Cavaliers rolled over Wake Forest 68-45.
During one stretch, Huff had eight points in a 65-second span, including a 3-pointer and a three-point play.
“He shows some great flashes offensively,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “He’s such a threat. He can stretch you from [3-point range] but he can also put it on the floor.
“When he’s on the floor, we do a couple of different things offensively. He’s doing a good job and he’s been practicing hard.”
His breakout season, relatively speaking, followed a summer of rehabilitation following surgery. Huff suffered a torn labrum in his right (shooting) shoulder on the night prior to Virginia’s NCAA Tournament game with Maryland-Baltimore County.
Following surgery, it was four months before Huff could go through his normal training routine.
“I was annoyed that it happened at all,” Huff said. “I’d seen my dad go through some shoulder surgery with a sling and everything. I think God put me through it for a reason and it worked out all right.”
Huff played for his father, Mike, at Voyager Academy in the Durham area and it was hard not to be a fan of the hometown school, Duke.
Mike Huff continues to teach at Voyager Academy but has taken time off from coaching in order to watch the Cavaliers play.
“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “Duke is right here in our back yard. N.C. State will be around the corner next week and UNC is coming up.
“We make it to pretty much all of the [UVa] home games. We got to go to the Bahamas and we’ve seen most of the games in person. If we’re not there, we’re watching on TV.”
It was a little strange when Mike and his wife, Kathy, were sitting behind the bench last Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It was about as close to a Duke-UNC environment as probably any game I’ve ever seen there,” Mike Huff said. “Jay grew up watching games at Cameron and he was at Indianapolis when Duke won the 2010 national championship. So, there’s always kind of been a Duke thing in the family.
“We got rid of all the Duke gear when he went to Virginia. It still feels a little weird to go into Cameron and cheer for somebody else. I know coach [Mike Krzyzewski], I have a lot of affection for their staff. We still cheer for them when they’re not playing Virginia.”
As late as this year, Huff did not play against the three best non-conference teams on UVa’s early schedule — Wisconsin, Maryland and South Carolina. However, he has played in each of the Cavaliers’ six ACC games.
“I did get impatient at times,” Huff said of his career to this point. “There were times when I was like, ‘I could have played.’ There were times when I was like, ‘Oh, man, I could have played at a smaller school,’ but the thought never crossed my mind to transfer.”