Nov. 12, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- As the season opener approaches for the University of Virginia men's basketball team, London Perrantes has been counting down the days on Twitter: One more week ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
For Perrantes and the rest of the Cavaliers, a long offseason of waiting ends Friday night. At 7 o'clock, No. 6 Virginia hosts Morgan State at John Paul Jones Arena.
"We can't wait to get out and play against somebody else," Perrantes, a 6-2 junior from Los Angeles, said after practice Tuesday.
"We've been playing against ourselves for a long time, and we had the closed scrimmages [against VCU and Vanderbilt). I think for us the biggest thing is, playing against somebody else means we get to play against something other than the Pack-Line [defense], which I definitely think will help our offense work a lot better."
He smiled. "But realistically, it's just about being able to get it all started, get closer to our goals, get started on that journey again, and it's going to be exciting."
The Wahoos, in their seventh season under head coach Tony Bennett, hope that journey takes them on an extended postseason run. In 2013-14, Virginia won 30 games, swept the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and reached the NCAA tourney's Sweet Sixteen.
In 2014-15, the `Hoos hit the 30-victory mark again and repeated as ACC regular-season champions. But they bowed out in the NCAA tournament's round of 32, much to their disappointment.
"We definitely underachieved from our standpoint," Perrantes said. "But we did a lot of good things, too. Another 30-win season was definitely huge for us. But we still feel like we have a lot more to give. We had a lot left in the tank, I felt like, at the end of the year, and we just don't want to have that feeling again.
"We've been working on our games, all of us individually, and I feel like we all can give a lot more this time and bring more to the table."
With half of his college career still ahead of him, Perrantes has already started as many games -- 65 -- as some players do in four years. He would not have predicted that upon arriving at UVA in June 2013.
After graduating from Crespi Carmelite High School, Perrantes said, "I just thought I was going to come in here and play some spot minutes [as a freshman]." Instead, Perrantes started 33 games in 2013-14. He started all 32 in which he played last season.
"It's weird," he said, "just going back and thinking about how many games I've played in two years. But it's definitely good from an experience standpoint, and I think it'll definitely help us."
Perrantes has taken extraordinary care of the ball in his two seasons at as Virginia's point guard. He has more than three times as many assists (288) as turnovers (89).
In his third season, the Virginia coaching staff wants Perrantes to expand his game. He's part of an experienced group of perimeter players that includes fifth-year senior Malcolm Brogdon, sophomore Marial Shayok and redshirt sophomores Devon Hall and Darius Thompson, a transfer from Tennessee who sat out last season.
"We need the same London we've had as far as taking care of the ball and assist-to-turnover [ratio]," assistant coach Jason Williford said. "We probably need him to be an improved defender on ball, just being a pest. I think he can be better in that area. And then we need him to shoot the ball and make 3s, be aggressive offensively. And I think he's improved. He's looking to do that. We need him to do that."
As a freshman, Perrantes averaged 5.5 points and shot a superb 43.7 percent from 3-point range. He raised his scoring average to 6.4 points per game in 2014-15, but his accuracy from beyond the arc plummeted to 31.6 percent.
"He was unbelievable [as a freshman]," Williford said, "and now I think he's somewhere in the middle between what we saw his first year and what he ended up shooting percentage-wise last year."
Perrantes has often been content to set up his teammates. "But I think Coach has challenged him to be a little aggressive and to hunt for his shot," Williford said, "and I hope we see that."
Bennett said: "You're not going to change someone completely, but I think we want London to look for his shot a bit more. I think that'll help us. He doesn't have to go outside of himself and become someone he's not, but I think he has the ability to knock down shots. We've seen that."
Indeed, Perrantes made at least two treys in six games last season. His most memorable performance came against ACC rival Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Perrantes went 5 for 9 from beyond the arc and finished with a career-high 26 points in the Cavaliers' 89-80 double-overtime victory.
Perrantes missed much of the preseason last year with nagging injuries "that kept me off the floor, kept me from doing anything, really," he said. "I was in a boot for almost eight weeks. Not being able to get reps up in the offseason definitely hurt me, hurt my confidence," and that contributed to his inconsistency from long range.
This fall, he's been able to practice regularly, and his shots have been dropping more often. "I'm just happy that I'm healthy," Perrantes said, "and I feel like that will definitely help me this year."
So, in all likelihood, will the addition of the 6-4 Thompson, who was second in assists in 2013-14 on a Tennessee team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Thompson's ability to direct the offense will allow Perrantes to periodically slide to shooting guard.
"I'm just happy to get out there and be able to play and do whatever I can to help us win," Perrantes said, "whether that's at the 1 or the 2."
He sat out the 2014-15 opener -- UVA won 79-51 at JMU -- as punishment for an offseason violation of team rules. Perrantes later missed Virginia's 70-34 victory at Wake Forest while recovering from a concussion, another experience he has no desire to repeat.
"Just being able to be healthy and be out there with the team is definitely going to be fun [Friday night]," Perrantes said. "I'm glad I'm out there for the first one this year."
This Virginia team has a chance to be special, Perrantes said, not only because of its talent and experience, but because of its depth.
"We're playing a lot of guys," Perrantes said. "We're going to be able to play defense for the whole game, and we're going to have a lot of energy, because we're going to have a lot of people being able to play. And I feel like that will also help us in the long run, so we're not putting too many minutes on myself and Malcolm and [Anthony Gill].
"We have other people that can go out there and play, and we won't slack off. We'll still be able to play the way we want to, even with the people that aren't the starters. I feel like that'll definitely help us in the long run, towards that tournament time where we play teams that are going to wear us down, and we'll have some fresh legs."
TICKET INFORMATION: A limited number of seats are available for UVA's home games against Morgan State, Lehigh (Nov. 25) and Oakland (Dec. 30).
For information, visit VirginiaSports.com/tickets, call (800) 542-8821, or stop by the ticket office in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Spring Football NotebookFootball4/20/18As part of the inaugural Wahoowa Weekend, spring football concludes for the Cavaliers with an open practice April 28 at Scott Stadium.Thompson Ready To Lead From FrontWomen's Basketball4/18/18The mood was celebratory Wednesday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena, where Tina Thompson was introduced as UVA's women's basketball coach.Walsh Ready to Lead 'Hoos in PostseasonMen's Golf4/18/18Healthy again after battling back problems for much of 2017, Thomas Walsh enters this weekend's ACC tournament in good form.
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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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