Nine games into the 2017-18 Virginia Basketball season, the Hoos have amassed an 8-1 record with their lone blemish coming on the road to No. 18 (now No. 11) West Virginia. The No. 16 Cavaliers have shown their defensive chops early (no surprise there), sitting atop the rankings on KenPom all season.
Offensively, Coach Bennett and the Hoos have gotten consistent performance from an oft underrated source: fifth year guard Devon Hall.
Hall is averaging 12.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 27.3 minutes played per game, while turning the ball over just eight times. He’s shooting 52% from the field, 43% from three, and 92% (23-for-25) from the line on the season.
While that’s impressive, his performance in the last four games - vs. Rhode Island, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Monmouth, and @ West Virginia - has been even better as he’s put up 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game. In that same span, Hall has shot 55% from the field and 47% from three while averaging 30.8 minutes per game. Not too shabby.
Although Kyle Guy will (rightfully) garner a lot of attention, teams would be unwise to overlook Hall. He’s improved across almost all facets of his game from last season from points (8.4 last season) to shooting (40.8%) to threes (37.2%) to free throw shooting (77.6%).
Free throw shooting has been the most dramatic improvement for Devon, jumping up over 14 percentage points from last season to this. More importantly, however, is that Hall is getting to the line more. Over the course of the 2016-17 season, Hall took just 67 free throws, or just under two per game. This year, he’s taking 2.8 per game - and making them.
According to head coach Tony Bennett, Hall “...worked like a madman on his finishing” in the offseason, and it is paying off.
#UVA coach Tony Bennett on Devon Hall: "He's worked like a mad man on his finishing. ... I watch him. He works on the shots he's trying to get in games."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) December 12, 2017
Instead of avoiding contact and making shots more difficult for himself as he did many times last season, Hall is more deliberate in his takes to the basket. Additionally, he’s finally playing in his true role on the court as a ball handler/guard after a season where he frequently found himself playing the post where the Hoos lacked depth.
Hall has waited his turn, and he’s finally having his moment. He’s the consummate teammate, doing whatever has been asked of him by his coaches and teammates, whether that’s redshirting, waiting his turn behind point guard London Perrantes, or playing any position on the court.
Before the season began, Coach Bennett spoke on Hall’s dedication to the program and how he’s worked hard over the course of his time at Virginia.
He just talked about waiting and honoring the process, as we talk about all the time, and how worth it it was to keep improving. And though it didn’t happen right away, it wasn’t instant gratification, he just kept working, working. Been part of some pretty special teams. And he’s gotten better and better, and now he’s in his fifth year. Yeah, I think he’s looked good in practice. No one works as hard as Devon. He goes after his game. Reminds me of Malcolm [Brogdon] in some ways, the way he’s driven and how he works. And again, hopefully you add a few things. You’re a little better, a little more assertive. But you know who you are as a player.
His game has been much more assertive, much more sound, and the Hoos are better for it this season. Today with media, he had another way of describing Hall’s growth, saying, “He’s a great example of getting better. He’s, what do you call it? A crock pot? A slow cooker. He gets better every year.
Other News and Notes
- Bennett talked about the diversity in the team’s “third option” saying, “...at different times it’s been different guys,” and that, “...you don’t want to live and die when Kyle [Guy] is hot or scoring.”
- Speaking of Guy, he also wants Kyle to stay aggressive, despite increased attention on him.
- Don’t worry, Jay Huff is still here. Bennett talked about working to improve Huff’s comfort on both ends of the court, and that matchups and his “ability defensively and physically” have been the biggest factors in playing time. He also said Huff is “...a good player, and he’s going to continue to improve.”
- During the exam break, Bennett wants to work the Hoos on defense (shocker) as they prepare for three-point shooting Davidson, along with learning from the unforced errors against West Virginia and limiting them going forward. On Davidson, Bennett said they are “...a heck of a team” and a, “...good opportunity for our defense to see where we are at.”
- On top of that, Bennett says it’s important to let his guys pay attention to exams and recovering physically. “It’s no joke here,” Bennett said. “I’ve said that before. This is a load here on these guys with exams and training.”
- You can catch more Bennett comments on today’s College Hoops Today with Jon Rothstein podcast. He starts at the 7:45 mark and talks about 90s R&B. You don’t want to miss it.
- Bennett also met with television media today at JPJ. You can see his full comments below.