Just five months removed from a magical NCAA Tournament run, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter returned to Charlottesville for Virginia’s “A Night with the National Champions.”
The former UVa stars are looking ahead to their respective professional careers starting in the coming weeks, but on Friday, they took a moment to look back at last season, their college careers and turning pro.
Guy, Hunter and Jerome left college early to enter the NBA Draft, and Virginia coach Tony Bennett played a pivotal role in helping them during the process. He encouraged them to consider turning pro should the decision be in their best interest.
“When you have a coach that believes in you, it’s very, very easy to make life-altering decisions,” Guy said.
After testing the waters and hearing back from talent scouts, Guy made the leap to the NBA. His coach backed his decision entirely.
“He just said he couldn’t be happier for me,” Guy said. “He knew this was gonna happen when he recruited all of us. He saw something in a very scrawny white kid back in the day.”
The slender Guy then quipped, “As you can see now, I’m very filled out.”
Guy and Jerome were both at ease when speaking to the media early Friday evening as they prepared to enjoy the evening. The celebration featured more of the same as the two, along with Hunter, told stories from their high school days and time on Grounds.
With the NBA season not starting for more than a month, the players are going through team workouts in preparation for their first professional seasons. Guy is a member of the Sacramento Kings, while Jerome is with the Phoenix Suns. De’Andre Hunter was taken fourth overall in the NBA Draft and is a member of the Atlanta Hawks.
While ACC basketball helped prepare the former Cavaliers for NBA competition, the biggest adjustment has been the additional free time at the next level. In college, team practices, classes and games keep student-athletes occupied constantly. The professional level offers more flexibility.
“I start my day at 7:30 and get two workouts and a lift in, and I’m still done by 1 o’clock,” Jerome said. “I have nothing to do after that.”
Previously, Guy, Hunter and Jerome all attended the NBA’s mandatory Rookie Transition Program in August. During the four-day camp, the players aren’t allowed to touch a ball or lift. The program features classes in topics such as financial literacy to help prepare the NBA’s new players for life at the next level.
“We spent the entire week together doing Kyle, Ty and De’Andre things like playing tag,” Guy said. “We were locked in there for a week, so, gotta get a workout in somehow.”
Jerome joked that the four days might’ve been the longest of his life. He said the information was useful, but that everyone was ready to move around once the four days ended.
The trio also has a group text where they share thoughts on a weekly basis. Additionally, the former teammates send each other videos through social media direct messages. According to Guy, he’s the only one who sends anything.
“Sometimes I laugh,” Hunter said with a wry smile.
While the media session prior to the banner celebration was playful in nature, there were also serious moments as the players and Bennett looked back on their national championship season. Bennett struggled when determining the top moments to share during the banner-raising celebration.
“I came up with a bunch of memories, and then all the sudden, ‘Bang!’ a bunch of more memories came back that I didn’t even think about,” Bennett said. “There’s so many things that happened along the way that made me just pause.”
It was a memorable season for the players, coaches and UVa fans. Virginia posted a remarkable NCAA Tournament run, winning the final four games of the tournament by single digits with two overtime triumphs. The program reached the highest level in college basketball just one season after becoming the first No. 1 men’s seed to fall to a No. 16 seed.
Friday was a night for remembering a historic season.
Moving forward, three of UVa’s biggest stars start the next chapters of their lives with their first NBA seasons. If the Rookie Transition Program is any indication, the three Cavaliers won’t let the next level change who they are.