Media in attendance at ACC Operation Basketball on Wednesday picked the Virginia basketball team to finish third in this season’s conference standings. Duke and North Carolina landed in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.
The media placed the Cavaliers in the top four in each of the last four seasons. In that time span, UVA captured two ACC Regular Season Championships and one ACC Tournament title as well.
The Hoos will be chasing those types of accomplishments this season with an interesting blend of players on the roster. They feature three returning starters in London Perrantes, Devon Hall, and Isaiah Wilkins along with Marial Shayok and Jack Salt that have started games at times as well. They also must incorporate six newcomers with transfer Austin Nichols, redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite, and four freshmen looking for their first UVA playing time.
“If you’re going to have one guy who is experienced when you have a lot of newcomers, you better have a point guard and a player like London,” Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said. ”London’s greatest strength, he had it when he came in from day one, is his feel. His mind for the game is exceptional.”
UVA opens the season on Nov. 11 at UNC Greensboro. That game is scheduled to be broadcast via ESPN3.
Perrantes Picks Up Preseason Recognition
Senior point guard London Perrantes, who represented the Hoos at the ACC Operation Basketball event, returned to Charlottesville with some good news too. The media named him as one of five players on the Preseason All-ACC Team. Perrantes received 36 votes to join Duke’s Grayson Allen (87), Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame (70), North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (45), and NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr. (34) on the first team. Perrantes also netted five Preseason Player of the Year votes, which tied with Berry. Allen took the preseason POY honor with 70 votes, though.
Perrantes, of course, helped Virginia snare 89 wins over the past three seasons. In that time, he logged 441 assists and 146 3-pointers, which puts him in position to climb the program record books in both categories early this season. He ranks seventh all-time in assists already and needs 53 to move past Othell Wilson for fifth place. He needs just 13 triples to tie Adrian Joseph for 10th on that list.
The California native also increased his scoring average each season, growing from 5.5 to 6.4 to 11.0 over the three seasons. As a junior, he led the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage at 48.8% to help boost those points per game numbers. With the departure of Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill in particular, some observers have suggested Perrantes will need to shoulder even more scoring as a senior.
Coach Bennett, however, suggested that Perrantes is at his best – scoring or otherwise – when he isn’t pushed to become too aggressive.
”I’ve made a mistake I think a couple of times with London saying ‘You’ve got to be aggressive’, ‘You gotta – we need you to shoot this many shots,’” Bennett said. ”It’s taken him out of his greatest strength, his feel for the game. I always encourage him to improve, to be a little more assertive, and every year he’s gotten more aggressive and taken a few more shots. I think he understands the situation. But if I try to make him someone he’s not, I think it takes him out of his game and his strengths. He’s smart enough to figure out where he has to look to be assertive but he’s also smart enough to say ‘What does the team need?’ ‘Who needs to touch the ball?’ ‘What do we need defensively?’ If I try to make him a clone of what Malcolm Brogdon was last year, I think it’s a mistake. I think his greatest attribute is his understanding of what needs to be done. … His feel is at the highest level, one of the best I’ve coached. I respect that.”
Hall Ready For Expanded Role With Virginia Basketball
While listed as a junior, Devon Hall’s redshirt year means he enters his fourth year of college basketball along with Perrantes, Darius Thompson, and Austin Nichols. Hall already began graduate school work after receiving his undergrad degree in May.
Hall started 20 games last season and averaged just 4.4 points per game with many experienced options around him on the floor. At times, he handled point guard duties to allow both Brogdon and Perrantes to focus on scoring as the lead guard threats on the team. Hall also began to settle in as one of the team’s better perimeter defenders late in the campaign.
Hall said at UVA’s Media Day that he is prepared for an expanded role this season.
“Last year I deferred a little bit more to older guys knowing that Malcolm, AG, and London were the core group of our scoring,” Hall said. ”I was on the court to do other things and no issue with that and being able to embrace that role, but I have a little bit more of a scoring role and an aggressive mindset. Leading the team on offense and defense.”
The Virginia Beach native flashed moments of offensive firepower through his first two seasons of playing time. Among his best attributes? A quick first step that can get him to the paint for plays at the rim or into decison-making positions. A point guard at Cape Henry Collegiate that averaged 13.7 points and 8.0 assists as a senior, Hall showcased that skill frequently in those days. He said it takes a while to find similar spots once you make the jump to the college level, but he’s settled in at UVA.
”Absolutely. When you first come into college, it’s just a whole different ball game,” Hall said. ”You’re playing with stronger, faster, quicker, more athletic guys. You’ve got to realize where your game can fit in and sometimes you push a little bit too much or you don’t do enough, you’re not aggressive so it’s finding a happy medium that’s really important.”