March 15, 2017
By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ORLANDO, Fla. — Nearly four years have passed since they moved into a University of Virginia dormitory together, one young man from Los Angeles, about a 15-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, and the other from Virginia Beach, 20 minutes from the Atlantic.
At some point in the next three weeks, their basketball careers will diverge. The Californian, London Perrantes, is in his final college season. The Virginian, Devon Hall, is a redshirt junior who’ll be back at UVA in 2017-18. But their friendship will long endure after Perrantes leaves Charlottesville.
“This’ll go way beyond basketball,” Hall said.
At 12:40 p.m. Thursday, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, No. 5 seed Virginia (22-10) meets No. 12 seed UNC Wilmington (29-5) in an East Region game at Amway Center in Orlando.
After going to bed Sunday night, Perrantes told reporters the next afternoon, “I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep for a while, [with] my mind racing, just thinking about” the final stretch of his college career.
“I’m not saying that it’s close,” Perrantes said. “It may be a couple weeks from now. It may be the next game … I’m trying to push it out of my mind as best as I can. I’m just trying to cherish the moments with the team and the coaches.”
He’s closest to Hall. Perrantes has visited Hall’s home in Virginia Beach and is also tight with Devon’s brother, Mark, a former UVA football player. Hall has been to Perrantes’ home in L.A. They’ve lived together throughout their four years at UVA.
“It’s been a blessing,” Hall said. “This is my brother, and I’m going to miss him so much.”
Never mind that they grew up on opposite coasts, some 2,700 miles apart.
“Right now we just look at each other like family, like brothers,” Perrantes said. “We’re with each other 24/7 whenever we’re in Charlottesville.”
That they ended up together at UVA was something of a surprise. The 6-5 Hall, who starred at Cape Henry Collegiate, committed to the Cavaliers first, in June 2012. He was expected to be the only guard in Virginia’s 2013-14 recruiting class, and the coaching staff stopped pursuing Perrantes.
After re-evaluating the team’s personnel, however, the staff’s thinking changed.
“We realized we needed another guard,” assistant coach Jason Williford recalled this week, “and so we said, `Let’s get back in there with London.’ ”
A standout point guard at Crespi Carmelite High in Encino, Calif., the 6-2 Perrantes took an official visit to UVA about a month after Hall committed. His visit coincided with the Cavaliers’ 2012 football opener, for which Hall and his parents, Mark and Leslie, had traveled to Charlottesville. The Halls encouraged Perrantes to become a Wahoo, and he committed in early September 2012.
Hall, one of the team’s best rebounders, often plays power forward when head coach Tony Bennett uses a four-guard lineup. Coming out of high school, though, he was considered a point guard, as was Perrantes.
There could have been friction between the two players, but there’s been harmony from day one.
“There was never a pride thing,” Hall recalled. “It was never, `I’m going to hate this guy because he’s coming in at the same position.’ It’s never been like that, and it’ll never be like that. I’ve always wanted to play with good players, and so if he’s going to come in and try to help us out, then we can play together.”
Also, Perrantes noted, “Devon was obviously bigger than I was, more athletic, coming in, and we kind of played basketball differently. So there was never any time where we thought that it was [a rivalry]. Obviously we knew that we were competing for minutes, but at the end of the day we’re still on the same team and wanted to do whatever we could to help the team win.”
It helped that they formed an unbreakable bond off the court.
“I think over time, the friendship became bigger than the whole competition [for playing time],” Williford said. “It was like, `If we’re both playing, that’s great. If you’re playing, I’m happy for you, and I’m going to keep working till I can get out there.’ London was Devon’s biggest cheerleader, and I think Devon was London’s biggest cheerleader.
“It doesn’t always work that way.”
As a freshman in 2013-14, Perrantes became the Cavaliers’ starting point guard and helped them capture the ACC tournament title for the first time since 1976. Hall’s college career started less auspiciously. He redshirted in 2013-14 and had only a minor role the next season, when he averaged 1.8 points and had 18 assists in 23 games.
In 2015-16, however, Hall started 20 games, including all seven UVA played in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, for a team that reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995.
“It was really just good to see him out on the court,” Perrantes said, “after all the hard work he’s been putting in on his own and with the coaching staff, especially during his redshirt year. It was good to see him rewarded for it, and it was obviously good to be able to finally play with him on the court.”
Williford said: “Last year was a big year for Devon. Him being able to carve out minutes and be out there on the floor was huge.”
Hall has distinguished himself in the classroom, too. In 2016, he earned his bachelor’s degree in media studies, becoming the first player to graduate in three years during Bennett’s tenure as the Cavaliers’ head coach.
“He likes to get stuff done a lot quicker than I do,” Perrantes said, smiling.
Hall is taking graduate courses in the Curry School of Education this academic year and hopes to be admitted to the one-year master’s program offered by UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce in 2017-18.
Perrantes and Hall are among the three players who have started all 32 games this season for the `Hoos, who are making their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. (Redshirt sophomore center Jack Salt is the other).
Perrantes leads the team in scoring, assists, 3-pointers made, and free-throw percentage. Hall is second in scoring, second in rebounding, third in assists, and third in 3-pointers made.
To play alongside Perrantes has been “a blessing,” Hall said. “He knows the game real well, and I’ve always prided myself on being a high-IQ player, so we just learn from each other. He was on the court before I was, so he knew a little bit more, he had a little bit more game experience. So I just learned from him, and we try to learn from each other each and every day.”
Perrantes embodies California cool, and his personality was not one Hall routinely encountered in the 7-5-7.
“Just the way he talked, the way he spoke and the way he carried himself, everything was so relaxed,” Hall said, smiling.
Even so, Perrantes said, the two are not so different.
“Devon is super laidback, too,” Perrantes said. “He’s cool. We kind of meshed.”
Both will soon begin new chapters of their lives. Perrantes will leave Charlottesville to pursue a pro career. Hall will have to find a new roommate.
“It’s going to be real different,” Hall said, “but we’ll always be in close contact.”