London Perrantes’ Final Ride

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London Perrantes played in 108 wins at UVA.
London Perrantes played and won in four NCAA Tournaments. ~ Mike Ingalls

London Perrantes headed for the tunnel in Orlando and lifted a hand to wave at fans cheering the final chapter of his Virginia career. As he exited, an era exited with him.

Perrantes didn’t finish with a magic moment like many fans – and teammates – had hoped. The Cavaliers bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the round of 32 in a lopsided loss to Florida. Perrantes himself posted more turnovers than assists, 4 to 3, and only 6 points on 2-of-12 shooting. He didn’t go on a stat search to try to pad those numbers late. “I’m not the person to just try and go get mine to go out on a high note. … I came in with the team. I’m going out with the team. It’s not a one-man thing,” he said later.

It was about as unceremonious and frustrating of an ending as one could imagine for the end of an illustrious career. No chance for a big shot at a big moment late in the game. Few orchestrated assists to keep the offense humming. No 3-pointers. Just a long, slow farewell in a game well out of hand.

Unfitting because of all that came before it.

Perrantes crossed the country to play for UVA. That fulfilled the dream of playing in the ACC, but even Perrantes probably didn’t realize the dream situation awaiting him in Charlottesville. He walked into a situation tailored to his strengths, his style, and his demeanor.

The Californian possessed the ability to run a team, to get the offense in rhythm, and to put the ball in the right hands in the right spots at the right times. He didn’t need to take the most shots or be the vocal leader or play in a blazing fast tempo. Around him, there were players that could thrive with him distributing. Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon, and Mike Tobey all eventually played in the NBA. Darion Atkins, Akil Mitchell, and Anthony Gill all became pros too.

Overseeing it all: Tony Bennett. A former point guard himself, Bennett arrived in Charlottesville a few years prior with the goal of reviving a long-sleeping program that had a lot of the pieces to be successful. Steadily, he grew the foundation and the team reached the postseason the two years prior to Perrantes’ arrival, once in the NCAA and once in the NIT. The Cavaliers seemed poised to make the next step thanks to both talent and trajectory.

Then Tennessee happened. After that 35-loss, Bennett turned to Perrantes and inserted him into the starting lineup for what turned out to be the rest of his career. The rise followed. The Wahoos climbed from outside the polls all the way to the top of the ACC, the top 10, and the No. 1 seed line in the NCAA Tournament. They spent the next three years near those same levels with 23 more more wins, a permanent spot in the top 25 rankings, and a five seed or better in each tournament.

Statistically, Perrantes blended in with a talented surrounding cast but never wowed with his numbers other than assist-to-turnover ratio and the important one: wins. He ended up playing in the fourth most wins in program history, while amassing 569 assists against only 211 turnovers. He made 211 3-pointers, while shooting 37% or better from that range in three of four years.

Perrantes leaves UVA as second all-time in 3-point percentage (40.9%), fourth in assists, sixth in 3-pointers made, and 33rd in points. There’s nothing eye-popping in there and that likely will make jersey retirement a complicated conversation.

Still, Perrantes did something much more important than stats or honor worthy, though he did pick up All-ACC second team recognition and some other accolades as a senior.

Perrantes became the embodiment of the new era of Virginia basketball. Others – Brogdon, Harris, and Mitchell to get the the list started – can make that claim too, but as the breakthrough point guard recruit for Bennett and a starter for four consecutive years, Perrantes represents the transition for UVA basketball from the wilderness of also rans to the oasis of contenders.

Unselfish, team-first mantra. Skill development over the course of a career. Defensive willingness. Competitive fire and wherewithal day in and day out. Punch the clock and work hard attitude. And more. Those became the Virginia brand during the climb for Bennett’s program. Perrantes carried them all.

So when the senior walked off the floor at the Amway Center after the Gator romp and gave that quick wave of appreciation, it didn’t fit the contender status night in and night out that Perrantes and Virginia fans had grown to appreciate. An era closed with a game that didn’t make sense as a farewell.

Yet, the spirit of what Perrantes represented won’t exit too. Thanks to Cali cool and others like him, as well as Tony Bennett the architect behind it all, that spirit remains at Virginia. The challenge becomes to stay out of the wilderness with that spirit being carried by others.

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