Tony Bennett was able to watch firsthand the work his center, Virginia sophomore Mike Tobey, was able to put in this summer.
Tobey was a member of the U.S. team that went 9-0 and won the gold medal at this summer's FIBA U19 World Championship in the Czech Republic. And Bennett was one of the assistants on that team.
Now Bennett and Tobey are back in Charlottesville, getting ready for the upcoming UVa basketball season.
"I think I reminded him in practice one time. I told him, "Take off your gold medal. You can't play with it on,"" Bennett says of Tobey. "I thought he wasn't giving the effort he needed to, so I kind of used that. Since I was with him, I figure he's free game."
"That was a great experience, for me to play against the best competition in the world, in my age group," Tobey said of his time with Team USA. "So all positives from that. And I'm really looking forward to going into the season with that behind my belt."
Despite playing the fewest minutes on the team -- he only appeared in eight of nine games in the tournament -- Tobey ended up fifth on Team USA with 38 rebounds. He also scored 38 points off the bench.
But it was in practice where Tobey learned his most valuable lesson this summer.
"The competitiveness," he said. "Everyone on the team -- even on our team, the US team -- the best players in the country, and every day they're going to practice, practicing as hard as they can. So if they do it, I need to do it to."
"He saw a side of talent and competition in daily doses that you just don't usually have the opportunity, unless you're playing probably at the NBA level, with some of the guys that he went against," said Bennett.
The 6-11 Tobey also added about 25 pounds to his frame for his sophomore season at UVa. Tobey played in 30 games as a freshman last year, averaging 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds.
And his veteran teammates say Tobey came back from Europe this summer more confident -- and more vocal.
"For him to go overseas and have that experience of playing on that team, was huge for him from a confidence standpoint," said senior guard Joe Harris. "He came back and he was talking more, with much more confidence in himself as a player. And being more of a leader also."
"He looks a lot better. He's still got a few things to learn defensively, but he's taken leaps and bounds as far as where he was last year," said senior forward Akil Mitchell. "I think he's got a huge ceiling, and I'm still going to get after him every day and keep pushing him."
So will Tobey's head coach.
"Probably three times, after a practice or a sit-down, I'll say, "Remind me again, Mike. Tell me again what it is you learned this summer,"" said Bennett.
"That's invaluable, the experience that he had."
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