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Winning goes with Brogdon from GAC to Virginia

ATLANTA -- Malcolm Brogdon lost just six games while leading Greater Atlanta Christian to back-to-back Class AA state titles.

By this point in his first season at Virginia, the Cavaliers were expected to have already dropped at least that many.

But Virginia is one of the feel-good stories of college basketball and Brogdon is very much a part of the success as the Cavaliers' mature-beyond-his-years sixth-man.

"It's rare that you can find a young player with his composure," coach Tony Bennett said of his steady freshman.

With GAC coach Eddie Martin amid a contingent of about 30 family members and friends, Brogdon's homecoming Thursday night in a 70-38 stomping of Georgia Tech at Philips Arena didn't contain many personal highlights as he finished with three points, three rebounds, one assist and no turnovers in 18 minutes.

But winning has always been the 6-foot-5 guard's major motivation.

Brogdon had called his return to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech "exciting." But he then quickly added, "I can't get caught up in going home because we have to take care of business."

Virginia did just that, improving to 15-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC. The Cavaliers' start is their best since the 1983 season and the team's No. 15 ranking in the Associated Press poll is the highest since February of 2002.

Defense is the key. Virginia came into the Georgia Tech game second in the nation in scoring defense at 51.1 points per game and held the Yellow Jackets (8-10, 1-3) to 13 points less than that despite losing top inside defender Assane Sene to an ankle injury late in the first half.

Mike Scott scored 18 points and Joe Harris added 16 to lead the Cavaliers. Kammeon Holsey had 12 points for Georgia Tech, which shot just 29.2 percent. It was the Yellow Jackets' lowest scoring total since 1982.

Virginia, which was 16-15 last season, stamped itself as a team to watch this season with a victory over Michigan on Nov. 29 and that was also when Brogdon signaled that he was definitely ready for big-time college basketball.

Brogdon had 16 points in the nationally televised 70-58 victory, going 3-for-4 on 3-point attempts. He played 24 minutes and had five rebounds.

"That game showed everyone just how good a team we were," Brogdon said. "I had some good looks and I was able to hit the shots. As the season has gone along, I have gained confidence with each game. It felt great to have a good game and help the team get a big win."

The Michigan victory was part of a 12-game winning streak that ended a week ago with the 61-58 loss at Duke. The Cavaliers had two chances to force overtime, but both 3-point attempts missed.

Brogdon came into the Georgia Tech game averaging 6.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 20.7 minutes per game and he was hitting 82.9 percent of his free throws. But he was 1-for-5 from the floor against the Yellow Jackets and 1-for-2 from the foul line.

The Cavaliers use a three-guard offense and Brogdon is the first option off the bench at any of the spots.

"I wasn't sure what to expect coming into the season," Brogdon said. "There are a lot of great veteran players on this team. I wanted to take advantage of any opportunities that I had and so far I have gotten a chance to help the team."

Playing at the top level of college basketball is a challenge for any freshman, though.

"It's a little more difficult than I expected," Brogdon said of the transition from high school. "With basketball and your classes, it is like two full-time jobs. I have had some ups and downs, but my teammates and coaches have helped me through it."

Virginia takes great pride in its defense under Bennett and that is where Brogdon has had to make the biggest adjustment on the court.

"There is a lot to learn and a lot to remember in our defensive system," he said. "It makes us a tough defensive team, but it takes a while to learn all the details. I've put a lot of time into my defense so I can feel comfortable in the system."

Brogdon did it all for GAC, leading the Spartans to consecutive Class AA state titles and winning Mr. Basketball honors from the Georgia Sportswriters Association as a senior.

Brogdon averaged 20.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals as a junior for the Spartans and then pumped up those numbers to 25.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals in his final season after the graduation of Trent Wiedeman, now at the College of Charleston.

When the Cavaliers came recruiting, it was love at first sight for Brogdon.

Brogdon's first official recruiting visit was to Virginia and he committed to the Cavaliers before making any of his other trips.

"It was always my first choice," said Brogdon, who was also heavily recruited by Georgia, Clemson, Vanderbilt and others. "I thought it was a perfect fit for me."

A big part of that was Bennett, now in his third season with the Cavaliers after a successful stint at Washington State.

"We connected right from the start," Brogdon said.

Bennett, of course, felt the same way. This is just the start of what should be a productive four-year relationship.