Andrey Semenov was part of the first class of players recruited to James Madison by basketball coach Matt Brady in 2008.
Fast forward to the eve of the 2013 season, and Semenov -- a product of the nearby Blue Ridge School -- is going into his sixth season with Brady's JMU program. And Semenov will be only experienced upperclassman the Dukes put on the floor on Friday when they open the season against No. 24 Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena.
"We scheduled this game to test our team," Brady said this week. "To see where we are. It's a barometer game."
The Dukes are coming off a CAA championship season last year, and the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994. But the nucleus of that senior-laden team has moved on -- and sophomore guard Andre Nation was suspended for JMU's first 15 games in late September -- leaving Brady with the second-youngest roster in the country entering the season.
Last Sunday, the Dukes needed overtime -- and a 28-point performance from Semenov -- to beat Division-II Philadelphia University in an exhibition game in Harrisonburg.
"I don't know if we're going to see everything that we're going to become on Friday night. It's going to be a difficult task," Brady said of Friday's opener at UVa. "But we are a young team that has a lot to learn. And we've learned a lot in the last two Sundays."
The Cavaliers enter Friday's game with the program's highest expectations in recent memory. With the top five scorers back from last year's 23-win team, UVA will tip off the season in the preseason Associated Press and coaches polls for the first time since 2001.
And Brady -- who lives outside of Charlottesville in nearby Crozet -- knows Friday's game will be a stiff test for his team.
"It's a great opportunity to play a great program," he said. "And in my opinion it's one of the best teams that's been in Charlottesville in maybe two decades. I mean, I know this team really well. In fact, we recruited -- I recruited -- Akil Mitchell really hard. So I know their personnel. This is a great team."
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