Virginia senior center Jack Salt earned high-praise from New Zealand national team head coach Paul Henare.
Following the Tall Blacks’ win over China earlier this month in FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers, Henare pointed out the job that the UVA center did in Chinese big man Zhelin Wang.
“This Chinese team, they build a lot of what they do around Wang and we spent a good couple of days preparing for him and to coming up with a plan to counter what he brings,” said Henare. “He’s a great a player. He’s a genuine big that can move well, he’s got touch around the rim and for us to hold him to one-for-three from the field. That was a huge key.
“To have a guy like Jack Salt to come in and have his first international (games) in five years and be a really good contributor. Our game plan at the start with was to leave him one on one with Wang and he made him work for everything and that was a good statement for him to make.”
Salt finished the game with two points and two rebounds but his defensive effort was a key for New Zealand, neutralizing Wang, who was a 2016 NBA Draft pick for Memphis Grizzlies.
The UVA center acquitted himself well in the two-game World Cup qualifying window. In addition to his performance against China, Salt finished with nine points and seven rebounds in a 124-65 win over Hong Kong last Thursday. He added two steals and two blocks in 16:55 of action, starting in that game as well.
He even was a part of FIBA’s Play of the Day for the Asia qualifiers. The UVA big man was on the receiving end of an alley-oop from Reuben Te Rangi to give New Zealand a 70-41 lead on Hong Kong in the third quarter in the game.
New Zealand is now 5-1 in 2019 World Cup qualifying events. The next qualifying window for the Tall Blacks is in September when they face Syria on September 13th and Lebanon on September 17th.
Salt is now in Charlottesville practicing with UVA ahead of his senior campaign and he’s playing with confidence according to associate head coach Jason Williford.
“Jack has had a really good summer thus far,” said Williford to WINA’s Luke Neer. “He’s come back, he was with the New Zealand national team. He’s come back with a pep in his step and playing with a lot of confidence.”
The 6-10, 250-pound Salt has started 68 straight games at center for the Cavaliers. He averaged 3.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2017-18. Salt anchored UVA’s top-ranked defense, which limited opponents to 54 points per game.