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VIRGINIA MEN’S BASKETBALL

An offseason of diligence and hard work helped Armaan Franklin regain his form

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Franklin

Virginia guard Armaan Franklin has hit at least one 3-pointer in seven of the Cavaliers’ eight games this season.

His move from Indiana to Virginia came with high expectations.

Not only did the Cavaliers’ fan base crave for guard Armaan Franklin to be equal to or better than the 3-point shooter he was for the Hoosiers, but Franklin wanted to significantly impact his new team, too.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself last year,” he said, “and ultimately, it kind of psyched me out when some of those games didn’t go my way.”

As a result, his 3-point shooting rate fell from 42.4% as a sophomore in 2020-21 with Indiana to 29.6% last winter as a junior in his first campaign with the Hoos.

He had some meaningful performances, like a 14-point effort when he was 4-of-6 from deep in a victory against Providence. Franklin tallied a 22-point outburst in a home win over Miami also, but he said he could never capture the consistency he sought a season ago.

The lows were a 0-for-6 showing from 3 in a loss at James Madison to go along with a 1-of-7 disappointment from beyond the arc in a home loss to Clemson and then there were games against Iowa, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina in which Franklin didn’t knock down any triples.

“I know how bad I felt after last year,” Franklin, whose 3-point rate has risen this season to 40.5% ahead of the No. 2 Cavaliers’ (8-0) 2 p.m. showdown with No. 5 Houston (10-1) on Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena.

“I felt like I didn’t do enough to help my team,” Franklin said, “so that stuck with me in the offseason and I just really got after it. I improved on my mental aspect of the game and skills of the game as well, so I had to fine-tune some things to be able to get back to who I feel like I can be.”

He said he spoke with family members and close friends about how to return to form and even exceed that. Franklin said he studied video clips of every shot — he attempted 357 from the field and 179 from 3 — that he took last season, to check on everything from his fundamentals to his body language after a miss.

“Now, I try to stay positive when things don’t go my way,” he said, “because I’ve got to be ready for the next shot.”

Franklin said his confidence began to come back during a week-long stay in Florida, where he worked out with UVa alum and current pro Justin Anderson, who since his days as a Cavalier has played for the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.

Anderson had asked UVa coach Tony Bennett if he could be of help to anyone on Bennett’s current team, according to Franklin, and that’s when Bennett pointed Anderson in Franklin’s direction.

So, Anderson and Franklin connected, and Franklin joined Anderson this past summer. Franklin said the group of players Anderson works out with includes former first-round NBA Draft picks Marvin Bagley III, now of the Detroit Pistons, and Collin Sexton, now of the Utah Jazz.

“You see them walk in the gym and you’re like, ‘That’s such and such,’” Franklin said, “but when you’re on the court it’s like, ‘he’s on my team’ or ‘I’m going against him,’ and you’ve got to hold your own and try to compete with them. It was fun and I liked the challenge.

“And I just learned a lot, being around Justin and some of the guys he works with. You take pieces from their games and it really builds confidence when you work with guys like that and hold your own, so it’s translating to playing in college now.”

Franklin’s 26 points lifted UVa to a win over nationally-ranked Baylor in Las Vegas last month and his 21 points led the Hoos to victory in their opener against North Carolina Central.

He’s steadied himself from deep as well, recording at least one 3-pointer in seven of the Cavaliers’ eight games and multiple 3s in five contests.

“He just put his head down, didn’t say a whole lot and got after it,” Bennett said.

Added senior guard Kihei Clark about Franklin: “He seems more comfortable on the court, less thinking and just playing his game.”

Franklin said he does feel like he’s playing more freely on offense this season and at the same time, understands Bennett’s defense better.

“He’s been in the lab, working every day,” freshman guard Isaac McKneely, who watched most of UVa’s games last season in advance of beginning his college career this season, said. “I can just tell such a difference from last year to this year. And in practice it shows. In games, it shows. He’s had a couple huge games. He’s going to continue to get buckets. And his defense has improved a lot, too. He’s just a much better player this year. I’m just glad I get to play alongside him.”

Franklin said he’s happy to do his part for the Cavaliers and is enjoying not only the jump he feels he’s made since last year, but the one the team has as well.

“We’re just playing as a cohesive group,” he said. “We don’t really care who the leading scorer is or who is doing this or that. We just want to win, and everyone is playing their role. We know we have to take it another step once we go into the [ACC] season, but I think we’ve done a good job of being in close games and being poised, not getting rattled and showing maturity when we play.”

He said another reason he believes UVa has played well through the first month of the schedule is the chemistry the Hoos have since the core of the group has played together for more than a year. If guard Reece Beekman’s hamstring allows him to play against Houston, the Cavaliers will have the same starting five that they did when they faced the Cougars at their place last season.

Franklin said his teammates know where he likes to catch the ball and take shots from, which is anywhere on the perimeter.

“And anytime I come off a screen,” Franklin said, “I know Ben [Vander Plas] is going to be popping out to the 3, and I know Jayden [Gardner] likes to get to the mid-range, so finding my bigs like that and knowing where they like to catch the ball because Kadin [Shedrick] likes to catch it near the glass, so he can get easy layups and dunks. Knowing where your teammates like the ball, that helps a lot.”

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