Somehow, Saturday is the final home game for Virginia’s starting point guard - and lone scholarship senior - London Perrantes. This is a day we all knew was inevitable, but I still feel wholly unprepared for this moment. In a time where one-and-dones garner the majority of the attention within college basketball, Virginia fans have had a reliable, four-year starter in Perrantes. His impact on the University of Virginia basketball program has been immense over the last four years as the unflappable point guard who has played 133 games in a Virginia uniform.
Perrantes was a bit of an afterthought for Virginia, committing to Tony Bennett and the Hoos on September 3, 2012. Devon Hall, the only other member of Virginia’s 2013 recruiting class, committed just over two months prior, leaving many wondering how the duo would be utilized and how the playing time would be split. Perrantes, who played his high school ball at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, California, was a 6-foot-1, 155 pound point guard who got moderate attention throughout the recruiting process. Scout and Rivals listed Perrantes as a three star recruit, while ESPN had him as a four star recruit just inside their Top 100 at 96.
Hall ended up red shirting his first season in Charlottesville, leaving Perrantes as the lone first year. In just his third game as a Cavalier, London got the nod to start. He would go on to start 33 of 37 games his first season, and then started every game he’s played in since. London has missed just four games over the course of his career - one for a suspension, one for a concussion/broken nose, and two for his appendectomy. His 129 career starts give him the most starts ever for a Virginia Cavalier in their career, topping greats such as Ralph Sampson, Bryant Stith, Joe Harris, and Malcolm Brogdon (all with 128). A win Saturday would make career victory number 106 for London, which would leave him four wins back of former teammate Brogdon and five wins from the all-time Virginia record. Not too shabby for an unheralded kid from Encino.
What stood out immediately from the recruitment process to today is that London plays his game, and his game is a perfect fit for Virginia. He’s deliberate and heady with a high basketball IQ and a feel for the game that has allowed him to succeed immensely. He was frequently described by Coach Bennett as a guy who “lets the game come to him” and “never gets sped up”. Although he struggled out the gate shooting, going just 7-for-26 (27%) in the non-conference (13 games), he lit up the ACC, shooting 51% in conference play his first year.
Oh, and ball handling? He finished his first year with a 3.50 assist-to-turnover ratio, good for sixth in the nation and third in the ACC (first in the ACC with 4.47 assist-to-turnover ratio if you just look at conference play). He was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game. Perrantes was instrumental in Virginia’s conference play success that saw them clinch the regular season title with a Senior Night win over Syracuse and Virginia’s first ACC tournament title in 38 years. Perrantes told VirginiaSports.com’s Jeff White recently that the win over Syracuse was his favorite in his time at UVA, saying, “Being able to win that regular-season title in front of the home crowd and being able to cut the nets down in front of the home crowd was just huge for me. [It hadn't] been done in such a long time. It was huge for the program. It was huge for the city."
As a second year, London improved on his average point total, bumping up slightly to 6.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game. Perrantes notched his career high in points in his sophomore season, scoring 26 points in a double overtime win over Miami as he battled Angel Rodriguez for point guard supremacy. He also recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists at Syracuse in one of the weirdest games of the season that saw Virginia overcome an early 11 point deficit to defeat the Orange for their second straight ACC regular season title.
Perrantes earned a spot on the All-ACC Honorable Mention team for his efforts.
In his third year, Perrantes really turned up the gas. He finished the season shooting 48.8% from three for the season and scored 11 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game. London scored in double digits in 18 of the 35 games he played in, and was once again named to the All-ACC Honorable Mention team. His biggest shot of the season may have been the game winner over Cal in overtime, but he had several notable performances including 19 points in the win over the eventual National Champions Villanova and a career-high seven made threes against Virginia Tech.
This year, his role has evolved. He is the leader of the team and focal point for opposing defenders. He’s had to be a scorer, which he’s doing as he leads the Cavaliers with 12.4 points per game. With the departure of Brogdon, Gill, and Tobey, Perrantes assumed a full leadership role, with a style in stark contrast to that of “Humble Moses”. While Brogdon was the stoic leader who showed little emotion, Perrantes has always been the guy who is easy to read. He shows elation, frustration, enthusiasm, and disappointment, but is an incredible ‘lead by example’ player as he will battle for loose balls, take the big shot, and handle the media with poise - even during his brutal shooting slump this season. Perrantes has experience under his belt with three straight appearances in the NCAA tournament (Sweet 16, Round of 32, Elite Eight) under his belt and another coming down the pipe in a couple weeks, something Coach Bennett and the young Wahoos can lean on.
Even with few moments of adversity over his career - he has always rebounded. Following a loss at Duke in his second year, Perrantes told the media that he was “in his feelings” (still a great song title). According to teammate Justin Anderson, Perrantes wasn’t himself after the game saying: “One person that took it extremely hard after the game was London. From right after the game to tip off, London was just really quiet. He was locked in on one hand, but on the other hand, you could still see the frustration from that last game. I said, ‘Man, could you talk to me? I’m not used to you not talking this much.’ He said, ‘I’ll talk to you after we get this win.’ Sure enough, he went out there and played really well offensively and led our team.”
Such was the case with his performance in Virginia’s second matchup with UNC this season. The Hoos were manhandled by the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill by 24 points, their worst loss since the Tennessee debacle in 2013. Only two current Virginia players, Devon Hall and London Perrantes, had experienced that kind of lopsided defeat before (unless you count Darius, who was playing for Tennessee). Perrantes took the loss personally and responded on both ends of the court as he held Justin Jackson (who had 18 first half points in the first matchup) to just seven points while hitting three huge second half three-pointers to secure the win in the second meeting between the two teams (separated by just nine days).
“I was looking forward to playing against him and against North Carolina, especially after how the first game went.” Perrantes said after Monday’s game. “That was probably the most frustrated I’ve ever been just from a defensive standpoint — I feel like he could get whatever he wanted in the first game, especially in the first half.”
London has a lot of incredible moments over his career as a Wahoo, but his performance Monday was arguably his best all-around. Always known for his abilities offensively - whether passing or scoring - London has sneakily become a solid defender under Coach Bennett.
“When Coach told me I was going to guard him [Monday], I was just — I was ready. I wanted to be there, I thought that I could do it, believed in myself. Team believed in me. I just knew if we were going to win the game, I had to do what I had to do.”
Virginia’s cool, calm, and collected point guard has terrorized opposing teams for four years now, and opposing coaches - like Hall of Famers Roy Williams (UNC) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) - have certainly noticed.
“He's a heck of a kid , a heck of a competitor, and I really enjoy watching him play when he is playing somebody else,” said Roy Williams “I don't enjoy watching him play when he's playing us.”
Coach K also had high praise for London saying, “Perrantes is one of the best players in the country. He’s the guy that makes them go. He’s just an outstanding leader and player.”
Despite being a Cali guy at heart, Perrantes’s time on the east coast has won him over, even if he had reservations at the beginning. “I didn't really know what was going to happen when I came out here for these next four years of my life going into college, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, something that I live and die for, this program. I did so much with this program, with the coaches and the players around me.” London told Jeff White. “I love this program to death, for sure.”
Now, as Perrantes prepares for his final game in Charlottesville, he doesn’t know if he’s fully ready. “John Paul Jones Arena is an amazing atmosphere for the home team. I think it has helped us with a lot of wins we’ve gotten here. I hope they come out one more time for me and for the team,” he said when asked about his upcoming final home game. “I don’t know if I’m looking forward to this game yet because it went by way too fast. JPJ is home now.”
London’s teammates don’t know if they’re ready yet, either. Following Monday’s win over UNC, a reporter asked Devon Hall what the journey has meant to him, having been alongside Perrantes through the whole process.
“It’s been a blessing.” Hall said of his teammate. “He’s been my roommate since day one...this is my brother and I’m going to miss him so much.”
Next to him at the table, Perrantes scoffed with a smile. “Don’t get soft,” he told Hall, then addressed the room, “He’s going to get sentimental.”
“There’s a difference between being honest and soft!” Hall retorted with a laugh, saying, “It’s been a crazy ride, it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m going to miss him.”
Third year Isaiah Wilkins echoed Hall’s sentiments. “First, he’s a great dude off the court. I think that’s more important than what he does with basketball. He’s a crazy leader, obviously takes big shots...it’s hard to put into words what he means to this team. He’s a brother for life, that’s what this program does,” Wilkins stated, adding, “...and I like his hair.”
So come Saturday at noon, ready or not, London Perrantes and that hair will take the court at JPJ one last time with one more shot at revenge as the Hoos host the same Pitt squad that upset them in overtime back on January 4, 2017. I can already tell it’s going to be a little dusty in JPJ...nobody will blame Hall and the Hoos if they get a little sentimental.