Aug. 16, 2016
VALENCIA, Spain-- Among the University of Virginia men's basketball players sampling the sights, sounds and cuisine of this country, there is one college graduate, and he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
That would be Devon Hall, who in May walked the Lawn with his brother, Mark, a member of Virginia's football team.
"It was amazing," Devon said of graduation day at the University. "We were walking, and we saw our parents right beside each other, and it was amazing."
Devon, who enrolled at UVA in 2013, graduated this summer with a bachelor's degree in media studies. Mark, who enrolled in 2012, received his bachelor's in anthropology. Both will take graduate courses in the Curry School of Education this coming year, and then Devon hopes to be admitted for 2017-18 to the one-year master's program offered by UVA's McIntire School of Commerce.
While Mark, a defensive end, is sweating through training camp in Charlottesville, Devon is enjoying the sunshine in Spain, where the Wahoos already have visited Madrid, Toledo, Albacete and Valencia and spent a leisurely afternoon at El Perelló on the Mediterranean Sea.
"I talked to him [Saturday], and I talked to my mom," Devon said. "He's a little jealous. My mom is a little jealous, too. She said she was vicariously living through me."
A graduate of Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach, Devon did not arrive at UVA with any college credits. But by taking full course loads and summer school classes at Virginia, plus doing some online work, he started piling up credits. By the start of the 2015-16 academic year, Hall realized he could complete work on his bachelor's degree in three years.
"I just had the opportunity to finish earlier, and I took it," Hall said Sunday evening in Valencia, the third city where the Cavaliers have stayed during their 10-day tour of Spain.
"I'm always getting my work done whenever I can, and I was able to get my work done earlier."
Hall, who turned 21 last month, is the first player to graduate from UVA in three years during Tony Bennett's tenure as head coach.
"It's impressive," assistant coach Jason Williford said of Hall's feat. "He's a smart kid. Quite honestly, I think he did that partly because he wasn't sure how his [UVA basketball] career was going early. And so by graduating he had the opportunity, if he chose, to maybe look at other places.
"But he realized, I think, how important he was to the program. His turn came, and it's a credit to him, because in today's society for most kids it's about instant gratification. They want it early. But it's a process, and he's trusted the process."
Hall said: "This is where I want to be. I wanted to get my degree from UVA, and I just happened to be able to do it at a fast pace."
A 6-5, 209-pound guard, Hall redshirted in 2013-14 and had only a minor role in 2014-15, when he averaged 1.8 points and had 18 assists in 23 games.
As a redshirt sophomore, however, Hall cracked the rotation and ending up starting 20 games, including all seven in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, for a team that reached the Elite Eight.
The 2016-17 Cavaliers include only one scholarship player who's in his final season of eligibility -- point guard London Perrantes -- but Hall has been in the program just as long as his close friend. (Two other redshirt juniors, Austin Nichols and Darius Thompson, transferred to UVA from Memphis and Tennessee, respectively.)
"Along with London, Devon has to lead," Williford said, "with his work ethic, as far as practices go, what he does in the weight room, and just being vocal. He's done a good job with that so far on this trip, talking to the young guys, being another coach on the floor, kind of taking those guys under his wing and giving instructions."
Hall said: "That's my job, that's my obligation as a fourth-year [in school] and a third-year on the court, to be able to lead these young guys and teach them the ins and outs and have them follow me as a leader on and off the court."
Increased leadership, though, is not all Hall will be expected to provide this season. "We need him to step up production-wise, too," Williford said.
He totaled 74 assists -- third-most on the team -- and 33 turnovers and shot 37.5 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from 3-point range and 76.5 percent from the line. Like Thompson and Marial Shayok, Hall did not have to put up impressive statistics for the `Hoos to succeed in 2015-16, but this season may be different.
"From a production standpoint, we'd love to see all of his numbers improve," WIlliford said, "but both him and Marial have got to sort of tag-team that defensive role that Malcolm was able to do as one guy. We need both of them to be able to do that on the perimeter, and then make good decisions, and be a little more consistent in their productivity."
Hall, who scored in double figures only four times last season, knows he can't be content to be solely a supporting player in 2016-17.
"Absolutely," he said. "I had a meeting with Coach Bennett, and I told him I plan on being much more aggressive than I was last year and making more plays and doing as much as I can for the team and having as much production as possible.
"I know I have a big role, and I'm ready to step into it."
The 2015-16 season ended for Hall, and the rest of the Cavaliers, on a crushing note. In the NCAA quarterfinals, Syracuse staged a stunning second-half comeback to defeat UVA 68-62 in Chicago.
After the Orange rallied to take a 64-58 lead, Hall missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2:33 left. Then, with Virginia trailing 65-62, Hall missed an open 3-point attempt with about 12 seconds remaining.
"That's something you learn from," Hall said. "If I get in those situations again, I want be able to learn from [the Syracuse loss] and knock those shots down. You don't make every shot, sometimes you miss, but it's important to be able to grow and learn and mature."
He's learned plenty on his first trip to Europe.
"Amazing," Hall said of Spain, where life, at least in August, proceeds at a much slower pace than in the United States.
"It's different. I've learned to adapt to different cultures."
Hall was one of the UVA players who rode a zip-line across the Tagus River in Toledo. "That was fun," he said. His favorite part of the trip so far, though, was one of the tours the team took in Madrid.
"The Royal Palace, I think, is probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen, all the architecture and the paintings," Hall said.
Spain is thousands of miles from his hometown of Virginia Beach, but Hall is eager to expand his worldview. In the summer of 2014, he was one of the UVA players who flew to Los Angeles to see where Perrantes lives.
Earlier this summer, Hall and Perrantes trained with former UVA star Justin Anderson in Las Vegas.
"I'm not trading it," Hall, with a smile, said of his basketball career. "I'm not trading it for anything."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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