When he was a kid, Joe Harris would watch as much of the ACC Tournament on television as he possibly could. He always rooted for Duke. His favorite players were Shane Battier and Jay Williams.
“Fans probably won’t like that a lot,” said Harris, smiling. “If I had grown up in Virginia, I probably would have been a big Virginia fan, but I wasn’t until I signed here.”
On Friday, Harris and many of his teammates will be living their childhood dreams by playing in the ACC Tournament.
Harris, for one, can’t wait.
“I’m fortunate enough to be able to play in it now,” said the UVa senior, “which is really exciting.”
Harris, the son of a basketball coach, was a hoops junkie growing up in Chelan, Wash.
“I watched the ACC Tournament, the Big East Tournament, all the conference tournaments...it’s a special time of year,” Harris said. “I think everyone gets really excited around this time in March. It’s a fun time to tune in and check out all the conference games.
“Even now, watching all the smaller conference tournaments and seeing all the excitement with the players and the schools — everybody has an opportunity to go to the Big Dance. It’s just a different atmosphere.”
Harris’ mother, Alice, knows all about her son’s basketball fanaticism.
"He would watch ESPN when he was 4 years old and just remember every little thing," she said. "He loved that stuff so much.”
Virginia sophomore Anthony Gill grew up 10 minutes away from the Greensboro Coliseum in High Point, N.C., but, funny enough, never made it to an ACC Tournament.
“In middle school, throughout the day, we would take breaks to watch the ACC Tournament — that was always fun,” Gill said. “I was actually a Virginia Tech fan growing up, but then once they offered me [a scholarship] I stopped being a fan of them. I guess I went there and actually got to see the campus and everything and I didn’t really like it too much.”
Virginia senior Akil Mitchell, a Charlotte native, grew up glued to the TV.
“Every year in class, we would skip the last couple minutes,” Mitchell said. “Even my teachers would turn it on, especially if it was Duke or North Carolina or a big game like that.
“I guess that’s how we’re bred and raised in North Carolina.”
Mitchell loved watching former Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul in action.
“He was a dog,” Mitchell said. “He was so nice.”
Like Gill, Mitchell says he never made it to the tournament as a fan.
“I just never had the chance,” he said. “We were always in school and it’s not like I knew anybody [to call for tickets], and I didn’t have the money to drive up or anything.”
Gill says it will be nice to be playing so close to home.
“It feels good to know that I’ll have a lot of support there and a lot of family and friends,” he said. “A lot of people love me there for who I am and not just as a basketball player.”
Unlike Harris, Gill and Mitchell, Virginia sophomore Justin Anderson says he didn't watch much basketball as a kid.
“My family didn’t have cable most of the time, so me and my brother would just be outside playing,” he said. “We were trying to live the dream of becoming the next [college] basketball players.”
Bennett’s father, former Green Bay, Wisconsin and Washington State coach Dick Bennett, was in attendance at Virginia’s practice on Tuesday. …Malcolm Brogdon on his recent All-ACC recognition: “I think that’s nice, but [we] didn’t come to get [individual] accolades or recognition. We came to get recognition as a whole team.”...Anderson said he didn’t find out that he had been voted ACC Sixth Man of the Year on Monday until checking his Twitter when he woke up. “I was totally unaware of the award,” he said. “I thought that was an NBA thing.”...Teven Jones missed Tuesday’s media session due to a dental procedure. He’s expected to be available for Friday’s game against the Maryland-Florida State winner.