By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Tony Bennett’s quest to land a point guard in the Class of 2013 ended on the last day of June, or so many people outside John Paul Jones Arena believed.
Devon Hall, from Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach, committed June 30 to the Cavaliers, triggering jubilation among fans who had seen Bennett miss on other point-guard targets. But Bennett, a former NBA point guard, wasn’t finished.
In early September, UVa added a second lead guard, London Perrantes, to its 2013-14 recruiting class. Hall and Perrantes, a senior at Crespi Carmelite High in Encino, Calif., signed letters of intent with Virginia in November.
“You can never have enough point guards, as we’re finding out,” Bennett said with a smile last month during a stretch in which the Wahoos were without their top three players at that position: senior Jontel Evans, sophomore Malcolm Brogdon and freshman Teven Jones.
Jones made his college debut Nov. 17, and Evans, who missed five games with a foot injury, is rounding into form, so the `Hoos, who have won five games in a row, are no longer as thin at the point. But Evans will be out of eligibility after this season, and Brogdon remains sidelined after undergoing major foot surgery in March. Moreover, UVa’s coaches came into this season unsure how Jones would fare at this level.
And so the decision to sign two point guards in the class, Bennett said, was not a difficult one.
“When Devon committed, we called London and said, `We’ve added a point guard and might not be going in your direction,’ ” Bennett recalled. “But when I watched London play, I saw that they could play together. They’re different kinds of guards. I think you can be effective when you play two or three point-guard types, and Devon has the size to guard bigger players, but he’s a ball-handler.”
Hall, whose brother, Mark, redshirted this season as a freshman linebacker on the UVa football team, stands 6-5. Perrantes is 6-1.
“After we evaluated Devon a little more and London a little more,” associate head coach Ritchie McKay said, “we realized, `Hey, they can play together.’ They do complement each other.”
Perrantes picked UVa over such schools as Arizona State, Illinois, Southern California and Washington State. Hall also had scholarship offers from Maryland, Marquette, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Georgia and Memphis, among others.
“After we got Devon, we were excited,” Bennett said, “and then when we saw London play, we said, `He’d really be a good addition.’ We feel like we want to have more depth at that spot, rather than less.”
McKay led the Cavaliers’ recruitment of Perrantes, who early in the process expressed serious interest in playing on the East Coast.
“He said that just for some reason he got in his mind that that’s where the best basketball was played,” McKay said. “No disrespect to California, but I think he loved the ACC and the opportunity that he had here.”
Asked what he likes about Perrantes, McKay said, “Everything. He’s a true point guard. He knows how to play. He can defend in our system relatively quickly. He can score when his team needs offense, and he can distribute. Our guys will love playing with him. He’s all about the team. He comes from a very, very well-coached program. He’s going to be good.”
Hall had reclassified to the Class of 2014 after the 2010-11 school year, in part because he was young for his grade. But Hall, whose coach at Cape Henry Collegiate is his father, decided during a visit to JPJ in late June to return to his original class, which would allow him to enroll at UVa in 2013.
After the June 30 commitment, Bennett said, the coaching staff let Hall and his parents, Mark and Leslie, know the Cavaliers were likely to add another guard in the Class of 2013. The Halls’ reaction “told me we got a good one,” Bennett said.
When Perrantes and his family visited UVa in the late summer, Hall and his parents, Mark and Leslie, were in town for the Sept. 1 football season-opener at Scott Stadium. The Halls turned out to be terrific recruiters.
“They were phenomenal,” McKay recalled.
In their conversations with Perrantes and his parents, Bennett said, the Halls “were like, `You gotta do this. This is a great opportunity.’ And I remember London’s folks and London saying, `Here’s this guy who’s a point guard, and he could have easily been a little standoffish,’ and [the Halls] embraced him and his family. They said, `You gotta choose Virginia.’ And I think [the Perrantes family] felt so welcome that it made their decision even easier. So I take my hat off to the Halls in that regard.”
Perrantes and his parents probably had “some apprehension until they came here on the visit,” McKay said. “Once they got here they saw that Devon was all about Virginia, and he wanted the best people and players around him. I think that made it easier for London, because London wants the same. He’s a high-character guy that’s confident.”
Bennett is not averse to playing more than one point guard at a time. Before coming to UVa, he spent six seasons at Washington State, the final three as head coach. During his tenure with the Cougars, Bennett said, he “played three guys that could all be considered in some ways a point guard” – 6-2, Derrick Low, 6-6 Kyle Weaver and 6-1 Taylor Rochestie.
Washington State finished 26-8 in 2006-07 and 26-9 a year later.
With Brogdon, Jones, Perrantes and Hall, as well as combo guard Taylor Barnette, the `Hoos should have no shortage of ball-handlers in 2013-14.
“So at times, you could have three point-guard types on the floor next year,” Bennett said. “Throughout their careers that could happen.”
NON-CONFERENCE TEST: The `Hoos will play two more games before breaking for final exams. The first is Wednesday night, when UVa (6-2) hosts Tennessee (4-2) at 7 o’clock at John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia is also home Saturday at 4 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State (0-4). After that game, the Cavaliers won’t play again until Dec. 19, when Morgan State visits JPJ.
UVa is 7-4 all-time against Tennessee. The teams haven’t met since March 18, 2007, where the Volunteers won 77-74 at Columbus, Ohio, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.